Will Women’s Bodies Stop Being Battlegrounds During Elections?
In every conflict around the world, women have borne the brunt of the violence. This is especially so when it comes to sexual violence. Women’s bodies have long been battlegrounds with rape being used as a weapon of war. In recent years, rape and other forms of sexual violence have been recognized internationally as crimes against humanity.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820 was unanimously adopted on 19 June 2008, and it condemns the use of sexual violence as a tool of war, and declares that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide”. Resolution 1820 reinforces United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and marked the first time that the UN explicitly linked sexual violence as a tactic of war with women, peace, and security issues.
About 900 cases of sexual violence are said to have occurred during the 2007/2008 Post-Election Violence. 10 years later, Kenya has unfortunately failed its women as sexual violence vicitms of PEV have yet to receive reparations from the Restorative Justice Fund and according to a report by Human Rights Watch, many of them are living without adequate medical treatment and psychosocial support.
It is exhausting having to constantly defend the humanity of women. It is exhausting to behave as though we are unaware of the devastating effects of sexual violence. We should know better by now. Granted, men also face sexual violence, but let us not pretend it is at the same scale, and even in men, majority of the perpetrators are other men. We should know by now that rape is not about sex but about power. If one simply wished to have sex, they could find a willing participant. Why go after an unwilling one? Why especially go after a vulnerable person? Because it’s about power and the use of power to humiliate and harm a person or a group of people especially during conflict.
Kenya has a long way to go when it comes to taking sexual violence seriously. There has been progress with legislation such as the Sexual Offences Act and the existence of a National Guidelines on Management of Sexual Violence in Kenya, but there is still a lot of stigma around sexual violence with victims being routinely ostracized and silenced even by those supposed to help them like medical personnel and police officers. This becomes more apparent during election cycles as women fear they and their children will be raped. This fear of sexual violence is also apparent when women aspirants face rape threats and are routinely verbally assaulted for daring to run for political posts.
We as citizens have a huge role to play when it comes to sexual violence, especially when it is electoral based. We should not tolerate sexual violence in shape or form and must push for perpetrators to be brought to justice. We also all need to educate ourselves on what actions should be taken in the case of sexual violence so as to not contaminate evidence and have a strong case against perpetrators. Other things to be aware of is the helpline by The Ministry of Pulic Service, Youth and Gender Affairs launched in June in collaboration with the National Police Service (NPS), United States Aid Agency (USAID) and Safaricom. The initiative, a brainchild of a gender based violence prevention network, Healthcare Assistance Kenya (HAK) , saw a hotline number – 1195 – unveiled to enable reporting cases of violence to the police.
We are making progress but we must move fast. Women’s bodies need to stop being battlegrounds for political conflicts. These stories must be told so we do not forget. The beginning of justice is in acknowledging violence and the refusal to have victims erased or silenced. This means speaking up for those who cannot, not speaking over those who are trying to speak for themselves and supporting their demands for justice.http://www.mwendengao.com/2017/08/08/will-womens-bodies-stop-being-battlegrounds-during-elections/Lifestyleelectoral gender based violence,Kenya,Post-election violence,sexual violence hotline,UN Resolution 1325,UN Resolution 1820