Woman showing the STOP sign: Pexels

According to Sida, gender-based violence is any harm or suffering that is perpetrated against a woman or girl, man or boy and that has negative impact on the physical, sexual or psychological health, development or identity of the person. The cause of the violence founded in gender-based inequities and discrimination. In her speech, listed as number 35 in American Rhetoric’s Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century, she said, ‘If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.’ At a time, she was facing both internal administration pressure and external Chinese pressure to soften her remarks because she was a woman and if it sounded otherwise, she was not being a woman.

Gender based violence is a violation of human rights. It is one of the most extreme expression of gender in equality. This assumes different forms; physical, psychological, sexual and economic violence. Physical violence most prevalent form is domestic violence which is the unlawful physical force leading to bodily harm while sexual mainly entails sexual assault including rape and genital mutilation. Physiological abuse is the most overlooked and underrated form of violence. It serves a broad range of emotional and psychological violations such as verbal abuse, coercing, manipulation and gaslighting. Most of the times, more than one type of abuse can be inflicted on one person. If a victim is being physically abused, chances were they were being physiologically abused.

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1 in 3 women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence and 1 in 2 women has experienced sexual harassment. Previous research showed a spike in gender-based violence in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. During the COVID-19 pandemic, sexual and gender-based violence cases are on the rise since this disaster has severely interrupted with the ‘normal’ as populations know it.
During disasters, nations are forced to choose between managing the disaster or protecting its most vulnerable, (women and kids) since the health workers might not efficiently screen for gender-based violence. Families are forced to stay together for longer hours and has left women and girls exposed to their abusers who double up as intimate partners, relatives and even guardians. School and colleges closures have been effected as a control measure. This has in return left women and girls open to coercion, exploitation, physical and sexual abuse.
Violence may worsen during this quarantine season due to the increased economic stressors. The negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy has seen some people lose their jobs. Some families have separated as a result of the measures taken by different nations where family members are locked out in different places. This might leave women and children badly exposed. The genesis of violence can be traced from way before disasters like COVID-19, but the significant impact of the disaster cannot be ignored.

Gender based violence is a violation of human rights. It is one of the most extreme expression of gender in equality.

Sylvia Omondi

There is already an alarming surge in domestic violence. In china the reported cases almost doubled after a lockdown was effected on some the cities. Some countries have reported an increase in the helpline calls i.e. Malaysia, Lebanon, France, Argentina, Cyprus and Singapore. Italy has however reported a drop in calls implying that the lockdown has prevented women and girls from seeking help.
In Kenya, since the country began its response to the first Corona Virus response, cases of sexual gender based and domestic violence have increased significantly. According to the National Council on Administration of Justice, established that in most reported cases the perpetrators were close relatives, guardians and or persons living with the victims.
There is no recommended manual on how to overcome gender-based violence because no one is ever prepared to be abused. Most cases of domestic violence end up unreported due to the institutional violence where victims of violence are hushed, ignored and most times stigmatized against. Therefore, to encourage women and girls to speak up without giving them the safe space to do so, is infinitely impossible. We need to break out of the violence culture where we make those who report ashamed or punished for speaking up against any form of violence.

Girl running from oppressors: Habiba 2020

Some cultures have overly embraced physical violence by justifying this as a form of correction. The community gatekeepers such as pastors, teachers and counsellors need to stand on the frontline against any form of violence. This way, women and girls undergoing abuse will not shy away from speaking up or walking out of these situations.
There is need to cultivate a culture where violence is violence. If you find yourself in an abusive marriage, relationship or even situation, there are helplines provided by the Ministry of Public Service and Gender. There are also rescue centers where one can run to in cases where there are no relatives, friends or anyone to the rescue. The only way to overcome gender based violence is recognizing violence when you see it, experience or affected by it.

Sylvia is a lover of life and a mum. Her son gives her drive and inspiration to keep on. An avid writer, she's sure to take you in a whole new world. Check out queenbantu.co.ke for more inspiration.

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