MUHURI and Mombasa county government on May 1 released a hotline – 0725272390 – for reporting domestic and gender-based violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fifteen days later, Mombasa county gender-based violence technical working group, which MUHURI is a member, launched toll-free lines — 0800720587 for calls and 21094 for SMS — to report abuses.

MUHURI later boosted the interventions to curtail assault by giving out a phone for reporting.

At least 62 Mombasa and Kilifi women have suffered intimate partner abuses, some serious, since April. The wounded sought medical help at public hospitals, easing up data collection.

But there are high levels of under-reported cases.

Many victims are yet to make official complaints because they fear reprisal attacks or due to restriction in movement, imposed by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The hotlines are the safest way for victims to report abuses without alerting perpetrators. Once a call is made, doctors will trace the wounded and offer treatment, while police are expected to arrest the abusers.

The county government, working closely with MUHURI and other stakeholders, has also established two rescue centres in Mombasa for the assaulted. A counsellor and a social worker are at hand to assist the rescued.

The rescue demand from battered women is growing high. Ten women made distress calls to MUHURI’s Gender and Children Officer, Topister Juma, on May 1, hours after she and the county unveiled the centres.

15 million domestic violence cases

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on April 28 warned of a calamitous future in domestic violence due to coronavirus lockdowns.

UNFPA predicted at least 15 million more cases of intimate partner abuses around the world this year.

On April 6, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also warned of a “horrifying global surge” in violence committed at homes.

Governments worldwide are stepping up strict measures to curb the spread of the deadly virus, which has killed over 239,000 and sickened at least 3.3 million, as of May 2.

Countries are on lockdowns; restrictions in movements have become more stringent. Men and women are trapped with abusive partners.

Kenya’s National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) reports “significant spike” in sexual offences.

Women are the greatest victims. Perpetrators are spouses, close relatives, guardians or persons living with the victims.

“These offences constitute 35.8 per cent of the criminal matters reported during that period,” Chief Justice David Maraga said in April. He is also NCAJ’s chairman.

In Kenya, the statistics of victims of domestic violence appears fragmented. The government is yet to release official data.

But local authorities allude to a surge.

P3 forms, a Kenya police medical report document, which acts as evidence that a violent act occurred and is, therefore, referred to as an exhibit in court, are said to be scarce. Lack of this form complicates court cases, and perpetrators can get off the hook.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the launch of toll-free lines by Mombasa county gender-based violence technical working group.

Topister Juma hands over MUHURI-donated phone, which has the hotline, to Mombasa County Deputy Governor William Kingi. Photo: Courtesy.