“I Had Nowhere to Go”: Violence Against Women and Girls During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Kenya

Authored by: Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu and Lydia Muthiani

Categories: Global Public Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies
Sub-Categories: Access to Justice and Rule of Law, COVID-19, Economic Participation, Economic Recovery, Human Development, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health
Country: Kenya
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2021
Citation: Nnoko-Mewanu, Juliana and Lydia Muthiani. "“I Had Nowhere to Go”: Violence Against Women and Girls During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Kenya." Human Rights Watch. September 2021.

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Executive Summary

Kenya has experienced increases in violence against women and girls, and men and boys to a lesser degree, during previous emergencies such as around elections and other periods of political upheaval, civil unrest, and other humanitarian situations. Human Rights Watch has documented widespread sexual violence against women and girls, as well as incidents of sexual violence against men and boys, following Kenya’s 2007–2008 and the 2017 general elections, and the government’s failure to prevent or protect against such abuse or to provide survivors with redress. Studies from other countries that have experienced health emergencies, including countries impacted by the Ebola crisis, show that cases of gender-based violence (GBV) increase during such periods. Kenyan authorities should have expected and planned for a similar uptick during the Covid-19 health emergency.

The report documents how hardship brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the government’s failure to ensure access to health, economic, and social support services amid restrictions in place to stop the spread of the virus, facilitated an increase in incidences of sexual and other forms of violence against women and girls and the challenges that survivors face in reporting abuse and seeking help from authorities and other service providers. It captures the Kenyan authorities’ failure to take measures to help prevent emergency-related sexual and GBV; to ensure survivors have access to comprehensive, quality, and timely medical treatment, psychosocial care, and protection services, and needed financial assistance; and to properly investigate and prosecute cases.