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Sexual violence a major challenge, says AG

30 June 2014, 10:07 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi – The Attorney General (AG), Githu Muigai has unveiled legal approach documents to help in educating the public on procedures to follow in reporting sexual and gender-based violence that is on rise in the country.

Muigai said sexual violence prevention and response remains a big challenge and the launch of the documents that touch on multi-sectoral standard operating procedures on sexual violence prevention and response, sex offender management programmes and training manuals in addition to a baseline study on sexual offences will remarkably help in the fight against the vice.

“Statistics from the National Police Service released in December 2013 indicate that while crime levels generally reduced by 8%, sexual offences registered a 22% increase,” said Muigai.

He said poor coordination of different service providers is a major challenge in dealing with sexual violence since victims’ cases are always not referred to other legal offices for justice to be delivered.

“Despite very progressive laws, cases of sexual violence are on rise and justice for victims of sexual violence remains illusionary. Many times victims access one service but are not referred to the other service providers or are unwilling to seek the other services ultimately leading to poor justice outcomes in their cases,” asserted Muigai.

“The multi-sectoral standard operating procedures on sexual violence prevention and response (Multi-sectoral SOPs) are aimed at enhancing coordination between and among service providers. With the SOPs, we seek to create seamless service provision for victims of sexual violence,” he assured.

The AG reiterated that the Task Force on Sexual Violence Act jointly partnered with key justice service providers to draft the multi-sectoral SOPs outlining the procedure in handling victims of sexual violence and the referral linkages with the other service providers.

“The SOPs cover 11 core service providers such as the National Police Services, Interior and National Government Coordination ministry, Health ministry, Government Chemist department, Public Prosecutions office, Judiciary, Probation and Aftercare, Prison services and civil society,” the AG said.

He also said educative material on how to respond to sexual abuse cases will be availed to the public nationwide to know where to seek justice services and service standards to expect from different government agencies.

“The Task Force jointly with key stakeholders has been carrying out public awareness campaigns aimed at educating the public on prevention of sexual violence at the very first instance. These prevention efforts have focused on school children and the general public,” explained Muigai.

However, the AG stated that there is need to approach sexual violence prevention more holistically especially by working with perpetrators to ensure that once they return to the society, they don’t commit further offences.

“The Sexual Offences Act provides for treatment, rehabilitation and supervision of sexual offenders once convicted. While the Act restricts such treatment, rehabilitation and supervision to dangerous sex offenders, available statistics indicate 78% of the convicted sex offenders are charged with abuse of children hence the need for sex offender management in Kenya,” said Muigai.

He said the SOPs key stakeholders have developed programmes for rehabilitation of sex offenders while in prison and a proposed model for supervision of sex offenders once they have served their prison sentences and freed to the community.

“Increasingly new forms of sexual offences not defined in the Act are being reported and new situations such as the sexual activity between minors are on rise. There is therefore need to constantly evaluate the legal and policy frameworks relating to sexual offences from evidence based perspective,” the AG said.

The Chairperson on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act, Lady Justice Effie Owuor said since the enactment of Act in 2006, her team and other key stakeholders have witnessed great achievement in its implementation.

“We have witnessed many convictions under the Act, forensic evidence has been used in prosecuting sexual offenders, courts have upheld in camera hearing to protect the dignity of victims and provisions relating to medical treatment of victims of sexual violence have been operationalised,” observed Owuor.

“Also, public awareness campaigns have been conducted and we have repealed Section 38 of the Act to create a conducive environment for reporting cases of sexual violence,” she added.

The Germany Deputy Ambassador to Kenya, Friedo Sielemann challenged the government to find a long-term solution to sexual and gender-based violence and assured that his country will strongly support Kenya in the fight against the inhuman abuses.

“Elimination of sexual and gender-based violence requires long-term solution and support from various partners. Perpetrators should face stiff penalties to win this battle. will continue to provide technical and financial support to eradicate the violence,” he said.

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