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Safeguarding Dignity of Sexual Violence Survivors in Kenya

Imagine you had to report a case of rape or domestic abuse to the police out in the open, under a tree. This was the case at a Kenyan police station in Nakuru, until Trócaire provided a new structure, and now survivors can seek justice with dignity and privacy.

Elmi Shaffi (left) and Eithne Brennan (right) officially launching the Child Protection and Gender Unit at Kaptembwo Police Station, Nakuru. Photo: Trócaire Elmi Shaffi (left) and Eithne Brennan (right) officially launching the Child Protection and Gender Unit at Kaptembwo Police Station, Nakuru. Photo: Trócaire

The Gender Desk at Kaptembwo Police Station in Nakuru Town was operating under a tree in the station compound for a long time. But now, the new office structure for this crucial unit will improve service delivery and facilitate survivors’ access to justice.

Globally, 1 in every 3 women face some form of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in their lifetime. In Kenya, data from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey shows that 45% of women and girls face a form of gender based violence annually. According to statistics from the Nakuru County Provincial General Hospital, 2300) cases of sexual and gender-based violence recorded between March and September 2019, showed 90% of the victims being female.

Last month, on International Human Rights day, Trócaire, with support from Irish Aid, and in collaboration with the national and county government, the police service and civil society partners, launched an improved Child Protection and Gender Unit at Kaptembwo Police Station in Nakuru town in Kenya. The event was very timely not only as it marked International Human Rights Day but it was also held on the final day of the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.

Under the slogan, “Act Now! Stop SGBV! Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”, the event also sought to sensitise the community and stakeholders on working collaboratively to end gender-based violence cases.

The newly launched unit, which is the second of its kind in Nakuru County, with one already located at the Nakuru Central Police Station, will be manned by police officers trained on gender and child protection to carry out the following roles:

  • Protecting the dignity of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence by ensuring confidentiality, respect and safety during reporting of cases.
  • Facilitating professional documentation and investigation of Sexual and Gender Based Violence cases, collection and preservation of evidence to support access to justice while ensuring protection/survivor safety.
  • Facilitating a SGBV reporting process so that complainants may report to the police without fear and ensuring that complaints are processed expediently and efficiently.
  • Provide survivors with referrals to the health, psychosocial and legal support and other SGBV related services.
  • Collect data on local SGBV trends and use these for effective interventions and to advocate for the reduction in the number of SGBV cases.

Response Services given under a Tree

To date, gender desk officers at Kaptembwo Police Station had been operating underneath a tree. “We would face bad weather, and the only available structure was the station itself which was congested,” explained Sergeant Nancy Ayuma, one of the Gender Officers at the Police Station. This was against all the established operating procedures for handling of GBV cases including: confidentiality, safe space and means for data collection.

“We wanted a place to receive the cases so that there is confidentiality and dignity for survivors as well as eradicating stigma brought about from people knowing you have been violated,” said Caroline Ng’ang’a, Women’s Empowerment Programme Manager for Trócaire in Kenya. She further added that “lack of a space/structure to allow confidentiality led to some survivors not coming to report for fear of repercussions from their perpetrators”.

This unacceptable and very challenging situation led to the decision by Trócaire to support the establishment of a permanent structure to house the child protection and gender unit in Kaptembwo police station.

Ending Gender-based Violence

At the launch event, Eithne Brennan, Country Director for Trócaire in Kenya, highlighted that SGBV has no borders, and it is still a persistent problem because people are not treating each other properly and are not being held accountable for their behavior.

“It is my hope that this new structure, established by Trócaire through support from Irish Aid, will help to reduce violence against women, men and children in Nakuru. Protecting children isn’t just the job of the police but a job for everyone as we build a society where our children feel safe” said Eithne.

Elmi Shaffi, Deputy County Commissioner for Nakuru West, thanked Trócaire and its partners for the work they have done so far in combatting SGBV through their projects and in close collaboration with the county government. “You have trained many of our departmental officers and promoted women’s rights. We need to finish violence against women, girls and children completely,” he pronounced.

Moving forward, Trócaire and its partners will work with the National Police Service and actors present during the launch to operationalise the unit by ensuring that adequately trained Gender Police Officers are posted in the unit. Furthermore, Trócaire will support the development of a mechanism for professionally documenting cases, collecting data, keying it into a system and analysing it to inform programming.

In addition, they shall help to review the referral pathway to ensure that the new unit is well connected with service providers and that survivors will have a seamless experience. Lastly, trained paralegals and community health volunteers will be placed at the unit to facilitate legal advice and linkages to services.

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