Brute husbands in Malindi savagely battered their wives, bringing the total number of victims between March and April to 58, our analyzed data shows.

Nineteen Malindi girls, our record further reveals, were defiled by their fathers or relatives between the same period. Victims are aged 12 to 16. Police booked all abuses.

But these are few cases as much of them are hidden.

MUHURI discussed the abuses during a recent training on sexual gender-based violence (SGBV), which occurred in Mnarani, Kilifi.

Norwegian Embassy in Kenya funded the training that improved participants’ understanding of SGBV, its detection, prevention, and response.

The session revealed rising cases of violence against women and girls. Fathers, relatives, and motorbike taxi drivers are culprits.

Coronavirus restrictions surged some cruelties. The pandemic has limited movements, trapping spouses with abusive partners.

In Malindi, woman and girls are more abused and vulnerable than men, even though there have been instances where boys got sodomized by close relatives.

The pandemic has worsened the social and economic strains, drying up the financial coffers for many families. Because their parents can no longer earn, some Malindi girls engaged in transactional sex with riders. Such a group, many underaged, needed sanitary towels, food, accommodation, or money, which their parents could not offer.

Other escaped from home because that’s where harm is – but ended up confined with riders, who likewise, preyed on them, MUHURI Kilifi Field Officer, Afye Swaleh, said.

“Because of the coronavirus lockdown, working mothers often leave their daughters with their unemployed fathers who abuse them,” Swaleh said.

Norwegian Embassy in Kenya-funded training on SGBV underway at Mnarani, Kilifi. Photo: Afye Swaleh.

In July, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered an investigation into rising reports of violence against women and girls because of coronavirus restrictions.

“We must always remember that the family is a projection of the state. If the family is under attack, the state is under attack. If the family is weak, the country is weak,” Uhuru said.

“Therefore … I order the National Crime Research Centre to probe the escalating cases of gender-based violence (and) the worrying trend of cases where the girl child has been disempowered.”

A national helpline supported by the department of gender affairs reported 1,108 calls in the month of June compared to 86 in February.

But Swaleh said Kilifi hotline – +254800720307, launched in May at least to curtail SGBV – is not as effective as they imagined. Calls to the line are unanswered or remedy delayed, she said.

“Many women and girls are also not aware the number exists because the county did not conduct an awareness campaign before or after its launch,” Swaleh said.

Swaleh asked the county and national government distribute free sanitary towels to girls.

“The girls were getting them at schools, which are closed, and are now at the mercy of Boda Boda riders,” she said.

Meanwhile, police in Mombasa arrested a man accused of defiling her daughter for three years. The man separated with his wife three years ago. The wife left him with three daughters aged 12, 10, and six.

The man stands accused of defiling the eldest.

MUHURI Gender and Children Officer, Topister Juma, said there is a need for more rescue centres in Mombasa with counsellors to help the victims overcome the trauma.

“In most of these cases, the victims are naturally intimidated and hold back, especially because the perpetrator is someone, they had trusted all their lives,” Juma said.

Hotline, rescue homes to curtail surge of domestic violence in Covid-19 lockdown