Afternoon, evening hours most dangerous for teenage girls in Kenya

Sex predators mainly pounce on teenage girls during afternoon and evening hours when they are up and about running household errands or commuting from school, a newly published survey by the Labour and Social Protection ministry shows.

The 2019 Sexual Violence Against Children survey indicates that eight out of 10 first incidences of sexual violence against females happened in the afternoon or evening.

The survey found that 49.4 percent of the first incidents occurred in the afternoon followed by evening at 40 percent.

The study also established that about 53.7 percent of the childhood sexual violence experienced by females happened away from their homes while 31.9 and 16.1 percent happened in perpetrators and respondent’s homes, respectively.

More than three quarters of the girls who were found to have experienced sexual violence had faced it multiple times before they turned 18 years. Besides, it also indicated that one in five females experienced sexual violence before the age of 13.

Forms of sexual violence as described in the survey include unwanted sexual touching or unwanted attempted, pressured and physically forced sex.

Among females who experienced sexual violence, 6.8 percent experienced unwanted sexual touching,7.5 percent faced attempted sex, while 4.3 percent and an equal number faced pressured sex and physically forced sex in childhood.

It was also reported that females at 15.6 percent were twice more likely to experience sexual violence than males at 6.4 percent.

While 41.3 percent of respondents who experienced a form of sexual violence disclosed it to a relative, friend or neighbour, only 12.5 percent sought help and only 10 percent received the help they required.

About half of females (56 percent) who sought help did so from doctors, nurses, or other healthcare workers, said the report.

“Among females who did not seek services for sexual violence, the most common reason for not seeking services was that they did not think it was a problem or did not need or want services (53.6 percent), followed by factors characterised by fear (20.9 percent), including fear of getting in trouble, being dependent on the perpetrator, or fear of being abandoned,” the report stated.

It also noted that females aged between 13 and 17 brought up in violent homes were three times more likely to have experienced sexual and physical forms of violence a year before the survey was carried out.

The study also found that males below 18 years were also more than twice likely to experience physical or sexual violence at home during the same period too.

“…the violence children experience in homes was found to be high where children are exposed to physical violence, emotional violence, violent discipline by their parents, caregivers or other adult relatives,” said Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Cabinet Secretary, Simon Chelugui.

“Children who witness or experience violence might learn that violence is appropriate for conflict resolution or is acceptable in intimate interpersonal settings.”

The survey found that 49.4 percent of the first incidents occurred in the afternoon followed by evening at 40 percent.

The survey found that 49.4 percent of the first incidents occurred in the afternoon followed by evening at 40 percent. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Physical and emotional forms of violence were also found to be prevalent in homes. About half, 34.6 and 22.4 percent, of females and males, respectively, aged 13 to 17 years had witnessed physical violence at home.

The survey also found that among 13 to 17 year olds, about one third of females and males experienced emotional violence by a peer through technology in the past 12 months.

This points out the dangers brought by digital platforms like the social media platforms. Most children using technologies such as mobile phones and those with accounts on social sites and remain unsupervised are more likely to face online bullying too.

Emotional violence among females was worse as 12.3 percent of those aged 13 to 17 years had experienced it from a parent, caregiver or adult relative in the past 12 months.

The survey found that females and males who had experienced sexual, emotional and physical abuse were significantly more likely to experience mental distress than those who were not exposed to these forms of violence.

The females aged 13 to 17 years and who had experienced this form of violence were also found to be suicidal, a strong indicator of the dangers and effects of any form of violence on children. Other effects include binge drinking, symptoms or STI diagnoses especially for those who were raped.

Experts now fear that with the current Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced schools shut, violence on children as economic pressures continue to weigh down on families is likely to increase.

“Covid-19 and the containment measures are exacerbating the situation. Families are under stress, facing uncertain futures and juggling many issues. Violence against children can become an outlet to frustrations and children are also more at risk from online predators,” UNICEF Kenya, Representative, Maniza Zaman.

“In addition, UNICEF is concerned that children who are not in school can be exposed to an increased risk of violence, including maltreatment, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.”

They are calling for the implementation of interventions that will ensure homes and communities remain safe havens for children.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends implementation and enforcement of laws that for instance ban violent discipline, norms and values change, establishment of safe environments and availing of parental support to young mothers and fathers.

It also recommends income and economic strengthening, provision of emergency care services for victims and education and life skills for all children.

Sex attacks have exacerbated a crisis of teenage pregnancies in Kenya. For example, the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) estimates that between January and May 2020, Nairobi led with 11,795 teen pregnancies. This is slightly higher than last year’s figures in the same period when 1,410 cases were reported.

Kakamega is a close second with 6,686 cases compared to 8,109 cases last year. Machakos, that has been the focus of the latest public outcry on teen pregnancy ranks number 14 with 3,966 cases registered this year compared to 4,710 cases last year. From all the counties, the total numbers reported for the period January-May 2020 are 151,433 compared to 175,488 for the same period in 2019.

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