Painful tradeoffs: intimate-partner violence and sexual and reproductive health rights in Kenya

Painful tradeoffs: intimate-partner violence and sexual and reproductive health rights in Kenya

Preventing gender based violence in Kenya

Intimate-partner violence involves multiple violations of sexual and reproductive rights, with devastating impacts on the health and wellbeing of those affected. This paper from the Institute of Development Studies details the results of an action-research collaboration between a Kenyan gender-based violence rehabilitation NGO and a research programme. The authors contextualise rights in the lives of women affected by intimate-partner violence, to understand how they are articulated and constrained in each of these dimensions. The research finds that physical and sexual abuse within relationships often leads to repeated exposure to sexual and reproductive health risks, and abused women lack knowledge about these impacts, experience feelings of hopelessness about their health, and are unable to access the health services they need.

The authors show how economic factors lead many women to subordinate their sexual and reproductive rights to their material needs and those of their children. There are limitations to the recognition of rights in both social attitudes and in the national legal framework. Social networks and justice institutions sometimes support individuals in exercising their rights and sometimes obstruct them. Legal reform, and strengthened services and referral systems are needed if the barriers to women’s rights are to be overcome. Measures to facilitate access to sexual and reproductive health services and to address forms of vulnerability in ongoing abusive relationships are needed to help those affected to end the violence and mitigate its impacts. The authors offer various recommendations to the government of Kenya including that relevant ministries should take action to strengthen standards and improve coordination between services for women affected by violence. They also recommend that there is need for violence prevention interventions that work with men by using a gender perspective to change attitudes and behaviour.

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