Sexual and gender-based violence remain a major challenge that the world is facing today. Sexual offences have adverse effects that derails social and economic development of an individual and that of a country. A report indicates that as a country we use close to 46 billion Kenyan shillings annually in addressing SGBV. With these figures, it surely shows that there is a high prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya.
With the commemoration of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, our #CoffeeBarTuesday discussion focused on what we can do as young people in prevention, response and documentation of cases of sexual and gender-based violence – more so on prevention. With young people also being part of the conversation will help in decreasing cases that usually involve their peers.
The conversation touched on what the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence stands for and its main objective which is to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until 10 December which is a Human Rights Day.
It’s good to note that the majority of young people are not even aware of this commemoration and some think it’s a women thing – shows where to concentrate. It also shows there’s a lot that needs to be done in creating awareness amongst the young people. With better understanding of sexual and gender-based violence, its types and forms, it was easy to have a candid conversation on our roles as young people. Sexual violence can affect you mentally, emotionally, physically and psychologically.
Majority of young people believe that sexual and gender-based violence is mainly for the old generation and that’s why they keep off or rarely engaged on SGBV conversations.
“I can’t be raped by someone I call my wife or girlfriend, where does she even start? Furthermore, I can’t rape her since she’s mine, its my conjugal rights.” Participant said
Out of 10 young men, only 2 believe that they can be raped by their partner. The other 8 believe that there’s no way someone you have been married to can rape you since its their conjugal right. This clearly shows why intimate partner violence is underreported and there’s a need for communities to understand consent is crucial whether you’re in a relationship or not.
One thing that stood out during the conversations is young people understanding that having sex with an underage is an offence that is punishable by law. Majority were not aware that having sex with a 17-year-old whether she consented or not is also considered as an offence. We shared that under the Sexual offences Act, having sex with anyone below the age of 18 is a crime.
With our set up, we dwelled more on sexual and gender-based violence forms such as rape, defilement, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, incest and female genital mutilation/cutting. An active bystander action is something that young people don’t involve themselves with. We emphasized on being an active bystander where you should be able to raise an alarm in case you witness someone being violated. That one action will be able to save that person who was about to be violated.
The issue of consent is something that also created a wide discussion with questions such as should I ask for consent from my wife or girlfriend? Why should I be arrested for having a relationship with a 16-year-old and they consented to it? Should we be arrested for having sexual relationship if we are cousins and we are all adults and consented? It was made clear that the law states that lack of consent qualifies one to have raped the other since there was no agreement. The Sexual Offences Act also defines incest as an act which causes penetration with a person who is to their knowledge, a relative.
“Why should I be arrested for having sex with a minor and what happens if she actually came to me? Nowadays its hard to know if someone is of age by looking at their body, people are having a good diet out here.” Participant said
At the end we all agreed that we have a role to play in ending sexual and gender-based violence. Some of key roles that we can play in ending sexual and gender based violence were :- continue creating more awareness on sexual violence among young people, not to be perpetrators, pushing the justice system to be accountable and follow the rule of law, engaging both women and men in these matters, raising your voice when someone is being violated such as someone having a relationship with a minor, not to a bystander of intimate partner violence and to always be careful since everyone is a potential perpetrator as well as a survivor. See you on Tuesday!