President of Kenya pledges millions to tackle outbreak of gender-based violence
By Nita Bhalla
NAIROBI, May 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The President of Kenya on Friday pledged millions of dollars in public funds to help tackle an upsurge in gender-based violence during the pandemic, outlining plans to open shelters for women across the country and improve the police.
Uhuru Kenyatta said crime statistics showed cases of violence against women almost doubled between January and June 2020 compared to the previous year.
“The closures during the COVID-19 pandemic and the social and economic impacts of the pandemic have increased women’s exposure to physical, sexual and psychological violence, while limiting their access to protection and recovery services,” said Kenyatta said at a conference on gender equality. .
“This is now a crisis that we must address urgently. Ending gender-based violence remains at the heart of the development agenda,” he said, speaking via video link.
Kenya to invest $ 23 million by 2022 and an additional $ 50 million by 2026 to help tackle gender-based violence, pledging to establish shelters for victims across the country and strengthen police resources to deal with gender crimes, he said.
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Other commitments include the implementation of policies aimed at curbing sexual harassment in the workplace and the integration of medical, legal and psychosocial support to victims as part of the country’s universal health coverage regime.
Kenyatta’s pledge precedes the UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum in Paris in June, where countries are expected to make bold pledges to achieve gender parity.
Around the world, violence against women has increased during closures linked to the pandemic.
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Social and economic tensions – compounded by strict restrictions on movement – have not only made women and girls more prone to physical and sexual violence, but also more vulnerable to sexual exploitation – especially in developing countries like Kenya.
Women’s rights groups – who have long campaigned for measures such as increased funding and shelters for survivors – welcomed the commitments Kenyatta made, adding that they were ready to work with the government to implement them.
“We are very excited about the commitments made, they are quite bold and reflect all the critical demands of civil society,” said Judy Gitau, regional coordinator of Equality Now.
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Gitau said the funding was a big improvement, as the government’s previous allocation for gender-based violence was “tiny” at around Ksh 200 million ($ 1.86 million).
“But it’s up to us to make sure that these commitments are formulated as they should be… We have to follow up and make sure they are kept.”
($ 1 = 107.5000 Kenyan shillings) (Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who are struggling to survive freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)