OPINION: The right to live free from violence is a basic human right even as we battle COVID-19


OPINION: The right to live free from violence is a basic human right even as ...
FILE PHOTO: Women hold placards as they protest against gender-based violence, outside the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa, September 13, 2019. REUTERS/Marius Bosch

In Summary

  • June alone saw 1108 case calls to Gender Affairs, all heartbreaking cries for help.
  • Being confined at home, increased stress levels and more than the regular amount of fear and uncertainty in the air is showing to be a heavy catalyst for GBV, sexual assault and child abuse to take flight.
  • The vulnerable are left isolated with perpetrators and abusers and many are forced to relive and repeat these traumatic and formidable experiences and breathe, sleep and sit around them for increased amounts of time.

The right to live free from violence, to be inseparable from your right and need to keep your body to yourself, to walk unscathed from the fists of aggression plundering down on you, is a basic human right.

It goes for everyone and is in dire need of execution for those who are vulnerable and unable to avidly protect themselves.

To have one’s dignity stripped away at the hands of a violent brute who deems it fit is not only harrowing but horrifying.

COVID-19 has imposed injunctions that must be followed but with an after effect that looks as though it is taking on a human rights angle as well.

Gender based violence, sexual violence and child abuse has steadily increased across the country. Safe houses are massively overwhelmed and most have nowhere to go to escape the heavy trauma as they are restricted to movement in and outside their own homes.

Not many are left with many options as on the outside, lies a deadly virus, lying in wait. What do you succumb to? Starvation? Sickness? A savage scoundrel? Perhaps they all trickle down to us in a sadistic manner.

Economic strains make it difficult to put food on the table, this frustration can easily cause tensions within the home leaving the most vulnerable at risk to be on the receiving end of this effect. This frustration is also leading to exploitation and even kidnappings.

Teenage girls and underage children are now being forced to partake in transactional sex to avoid starvation.

Some are taken against their will by strangers, neighbors and close personal relatives to be physically abused, sexually assaulted and held captive for reasons unbeknownst to most who have any inklings of a word such as morality stands for.

This slippery slope then turns into an increased and sickly risk of various illnesses and injuries.

Not only through Covid-19 but STI’s, HIV, unplanned pregnancies, serious bodily harm and injuries, lasting and complicated physical, sexual, mental and reproductive health problems and a complete loss of sense of self and hope.

But, perhaps let’s not even take it that far. Perhaps you’re just an innocent five-year-old child who doesn’t understand any of this yet stands to bear the brunt of it all?

Unaware and innocent in your reproach to the world and unable to fathom why your guardian and provider, the one whose moral compass of life you look up to, is causing you such brutal and irreversible pain. Regularly too.

June alone saw 1108 case calls to Gender Affairs, all heartbreaking cries for help. Being confined at home, increased stress levels and more than the regular amount of fear and uncertainty in the air is showing to be a heavy catalyst for GBV, sexual assault and child abuse to take flight.

The vulnerable are left isolated with perpetrators and abusers and many are forced to relive and repeat these traumatic and formidable experiences and breathe, sleep and sit around them for increased amounts of time.

Some are held at gunpoint and physically assaulted and overpowered and thus forced to endure sexual violence. Not understanding that in one way or another it feels as though life is being stripped away, either way.

The increased risk of having unplanned underage pregnancies due to sexual assault is not only vile but simply soul crushing. How can a child take care of a child? Especially if that child’s own guardian and caretaker, struggles to take care of that child themselves?

In this pandemic climate it comes with the heaviness of complications and responsibility that victim simply cannot handle.

In various parts of the country, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriages have risen like monsters from the swamp and in their snarling teeth grasped young women and children in a vice.

Though, they stand as very difficult to surveil, especially in these times as most are being done in such hidden fashions. A devastating state of affairs for those who are trapped in a life
they are not ready or willing to uphold.

Though, there is some light at the end of this agonizing tunnel and a silver lining of hope in these heavy clouds of distress.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Kenya Red Cross Society have effectively and efficiently teamed up to administer clinical management and PPE’s to all their hubs countrywide.

UNICEF has teamed up with Kenya Dept. Of Children’s Services to provide case administration for children and concurrently, UN Women, together with the aforementioned have increased countrywide child and GBV abuse helplines that offer various types of psychosocial support and counseling.

It would be an extreme injustice to sit comfortably in this inevitability as the world has come to a sort of standstill in this pandemic and certainty only but a visiting stranger, nevertheless, these are groups that need protection.

A child is already defenseless, these acts of defilement and violence can not only scar them for life but post a risk of physical and reproductive health complications that may also impair them.

Big doe eyes, pleading, confused and painfully aware of an experience that they cannot wriggle away from, a promise of protection laughing in their abuse and reveling in it. A child will always deserve much better than that.

Efforts have been made to curb the spread of this violence and safe houses and private shelters have become the saving graces of many. Run by women’s right’s campaigners, activists and do-gooders, these safe spaces provide much needed shelter, love and support for victims.

They are mostly run by donations or from the personal pockets of managers. They provide a loving, caring and healing atmosphere to help victims recuperate and reclaiming their lives slowly.

Though, they are starting to become overwhelmed. Many suffer heavy trauma and may be unable to go back to their regular lives, at least not in the same way. Many have had a lot stripped from them that they may never back but hope still stays steady and strong.

FIDA-KENYA have provided a toll free helpline (0800-720-501) offers help and support where needed. It will always be a call worth making. These tumultuous tears cannot go unseen much
longer.

Aaaliyah Bashir is a writer and a journalism student at United States International University (USIU-Africa)

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