Meru County in Kenya became the first to adopt a county-level policy on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Approved in April 2019 and launched on June 26, 2019, the Meru County Policy on SGBV aims to close the gap between provisions in national legislation and the lived experience of SGBV survivors.
The adoption of the policy follows the Model Policy on SGBV for Counties, which provides guidance on minimum standards and critical elements needed to tailor the responses of local authorities to the specific SGBV challenges faced in different counties.
The county-level policy is particularly important for Meru given the high rates of SGBV, with surveys indicating that 66.7 per cent of women had experienced SGBV in the preceding 12 months.
The 2010 Kenyan Constitution provides that every person has the right to freedom and security and recognizes all international treaties ratified by Kenya – including the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. In 2014, Kenya also adopted the National Guidelines on the Management of Sexual Violence, providing a framework for the provision of services to SGBV survivors.
Notwithstanding these positive developments, SGBV remains prevalent. At the national level, 45 per cent of women in Kenya aged 15-49 have experienced either physical or sexual violence according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey.
What’s more, the introduction of two levels of Government by the 2010 Constitution - national and county – created different operational structures in both policy and legal frameworks.
To mitigate possible disconnections, Kenya has made major strides in developing frameworks that ensure the effective response, prevention and management of SGBV.
“It is important to identify the factors that lead to gender inequality, unequal power relations and gender discrimination, since these are the main contributors of gender-based violence. This policy is adopted at an opportune time, since it will allow for the development of a baseline on the overarching causes of gender-based violence,” stated Shiro Mogeni, IDLO Gender Specialist at the Kenya Country Office.
“IDLO applauds Meru County for the adoption of this policy, which is trying to do something very ambitious: tackle a phenomenon that is not limited to specific regions, socioeconomic, religious or ethnic groups, but is instead happening everywhere and is potentially a risk for everyone,” Mogeni continued.
The Kenyan National Gender Equality Commission (NGEC) disseminated the Model Policy on SGBV for Counties to county governments, including the County of Meru. The newly adopted policies at the county level will create an enabling environment for the implementation of national and international measures meant to curb SGBV.
“This policy was developed on the principle that SGBV represents not only a human rights violation, but also a hidden obstacle to economic and social development. Domestic violence not only entails private costs for the victims and their families, but also wider social and economic costs, which in the end slow down the rate of development of a community,” commented Linner Nkirote Kailanya, Meru County Executive Committee Member for Education, Technology, Gender and Social Development.
“This policy will give effect to the various 2010 constitutional principles that prohibit SGBV and promote the rights to freedom and security. It will also empower women, transforming them from victims of gender-based violence into key drivers of the county’s structural transformation.”
IDLO’s technical support to eradicating SGBV in Kenya
IDLO provided technical support to develop both the Model Policy on SGBV for Counties and the Meru County Policy. In addition, IDLO supported the State Department for Gender Affairs to establish an Inter-Agency Committee to work on the creation of state-owned Gender-Based Violence Recovery Centres in 5 hospitals across all 47 counties. These centres will provide free medical services to SGBV survivors, including psycho-social support, temporary shelter for survivors of SGBV, linkage with the police to strengthen the chain of evidence, and a comprehensive database of SGBV survivors.
Beyond support to survivors, IDLO played a major role in supporting the training of 50 female judges from the International Association of Women Judges in December 2018. The training sought to discuss the role and contributions of women justice professionals in adjudicating cases of SGBV. Through this training, women judges from Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Somalia, Zambia and Liberia shared experiences on SGBV cases and began the development of a regional network, which will facilitate the equitable solution of these disputes through peer-to-peer learning.
Through these contributions – from the adoption of SGBV policies to the provision of adequate services to SGBV survivors – IDLO is directly contributing to the ambitious target set by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.2 of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide.
Learn more about IDLO's work in Kenya