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Women activists raise concerns over upsurge in gender-based violence

Women activists drawn from various civil organizations groups on Wednesday petitioned the government to take action over the upsurge in sexual and gender-based violence in Garissa County.
Addressing the press after presenting their petition to Garissa Deputy County Commissioner (DCC) Benard Ole Kipury, the activists urged the government to constitute a special committee that will look at the function of the Maslaha (Somali traditional system of dispute resolution mechanism) with the view of abolishing it.
They said that the system has been abused by elders who arbitrate serious crimes including sexual and gender-based violence cases.
Maslaha is an all-time traditional mechanism of conflict resolutions amongst Somali communities. It has however been used in arbitration of sexual offences that activists argue many times favours the culprits.
“Streamline the functioning of the Maslaha system to be in compliance with the Constitution of Kenya and applicable laws governing sexual offences by developing an act to ensure that its well managed and not abused as an alternative justice system,” read the petition in part handed over to Garissa Deputy County Commissioner Bernard Ole Kipury.
The activists also want the state to fully implement the Sexual Offences Act, 2006, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2011 and the Presidential Directive on ending FGM by 2022.
They appealed to the government to develop and implement community sensitization programmes on sexual and gender-based violence to raise awareness in the community through regular local chief barazas.
They called for the establishment and equipping of seven rescue centers, one in each of the seven sub counties in Garissa to house and protect survivors of sexual gender-based violence.
The petition was drafted by officials of the Pastoral Girl Initiative (PGI), Inua girls group, Silver Lining Kenya among other organizations.
“Involve and listen to the voices of girls and young women in policy formulation and implementation processes,” added the petition.
The civil society groups also want the state to identify and develop strategies that protect and support the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Ole Kipury on his part acknowledged that Maslaha has been an impediment to successful prosecution of sexual violence offences in the county.
The DCC said they have been in collaboration with the judiciary to hasten cases involving minors and sexual offences.
“Guardians or parents of victims who are mostly not privileged can be compromised hence prosecuting such cases might be a problem. We will however do all within our means to ensure victims get justice,” Ole Kipury said.
The petition is part of 16 days activism which commenced on November 25.

By Jacob Songok

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