Violence against women and girls is perhaps the most widespread and socially tolerated of human rights violations, cutting across borders, race, class, ethnicity and religion. Gender-based violence (GBV) is a particularly disturbing phenomenon which exists in all regions of the world. Kenya is not an exception to this form of brutality which negatively affects women and girls in particular. The term refers to any harmful act that is perpetrated against one person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females.
GBV in Kenya, as elsewhere in the world, is a complex issue that has as its root the structural inequalities between men and women that result in the persistence of power differentials between the sexes. Women’s subordinate status to men in many societies, coupled with a general acceptance of interpersonal violence as a means of resolving conflict, renders women and girls disproportionately vulnerable to violence from all levels of society.
The impact of GBV is devastating. The individual women and girls who are victims of such violence often experience life-long emotional distress, mental health problems and poor reproductive health, as well as being at higher risk of acquiring HIV and intensive long-term users of health services. In addition, the cost to women, their children, families and communities is a significant obstacle to reducing poverty, achieving gender equality and ensuring access to quality education. This, in conjunction with the mental and physical health implications of gender-based violence, impacts on a state or region’s ability to develop and construct a stable, productive society.