In Summary
  • By last year, 38 police officers from Meru County had been trained on GBV-related laws and efficient handling of such cases.
  • Experts say what would work are one-stop centres in all counties where survivors can be served in one day.

The police are responsible for enforcing the law, ensuring there is public order and that citizens are safe.

When you are robbed, carjacked, or even when your neighbour insults you, the first port of call should be the police station nearest to the scene of crime.

It is also here that those raped or who suffer domestic violence report the crimes.

Those who have been victims of these crimes will tell you that rape and domestic violence are traumatising and distressing.

There is shame and stigma attached to them too, so the way a victim of these treated is very important. They need empathy and privacy.

Four years ago, The Protection Against Domestic Violence Act, 2015 was enacted into law. It provides for the protection of victims of domestic violence.

REFORMS

The Inspector-General of Police is responsible for ensuring that all police officers are trained to sufficiently deal with “family-related matters or domestic violence”, besides making the reporting process accommodating for the victim.

The aim of this is to encourage complainants to report to the police without fear. This office is also supposed to ensure that complaints are processed quickly and efficiently.

Everyone agrees that it is a laudable bill, but are the stipulations contained therein being followed to the letter though?

Is it now easier, four years after the passage of this commendable bill, for Kenyans to confidently report domestic violence in our police stations and have their complaints addressed with empathy and efficiency?

Esther Kuria* will tell you “no".

Two weeks ago — it was a Wednesday — Esther, a 47-year-old mother of three, was battered by her husband of 17 years.

It was not the first time he had physically assaulted her, but this time round she decided to report the incident to the police.

MISTREATMENT

The following day, she took time off work in the afternoon and hired a taxi to South C, where she lives.

The police station where she went to report the matter is a walking distance from her house.

That day, there were three police officers at the front desk, two men and a woman. Esther was served by the policewoman. Behind her in line were three other people waiting to be served.

Here is how the conversation went:

“How many I help you?” the policewoman politely asked.

“My husband beat me…,” Esther said hesitantly in a low voice, aware of the strangers standing behind her, within earshot, listening to a story she would rather have told in private.

“Speak up …” the policewoman, who seemed not to have heard her prompted her, pen poised over the occurrence book open before her.

“I want to report my husband … he beat me,” she said a little louder, looking down in embarrassment.

“When did he beat you?” the officer asked.

“Yesterday evening,” Esther answered.

“Where did he beat you?” she asked again, writing in the book.

“Here and here,” Esther replied, touching the left side of her head and her left breast.

As she was saying this, the other two police officers glanced at her curiously and then quickly looked away.

“Where do you live?” the questioning continued.

“What is your phone number?”

“And your husband’s?”

MEDICAL REPORT

The police officer, having finished her questioning, wrote something and then tore out a section of a piece of paper and handed it to Esther.

The small piece of plain white paper read, “OB NO” and beneath it, the OB number and the time the report was made.

Worth noting is that there was no stamp to signify that this was a valid document, or even the police station that issued it. It was just a piece of paper with numbers.

Esther was then advised to get a medical report from a hospital, after which she would be given a P3 Form, the document to be produced in court should she decide to have her husband prosecuted.

Esther chose the Nairobi Women’s Hospital Gender Violence Recovery Centre, where it took her over three hours to get the medical report.

By then, it was 6pm, so she decided to take the report to the police station the following day.

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