By Deaf Empowerment Society of Kenya (DESK)
Sexual and gender-based Violence (SGBV) is a global problem without national, economic, religious, geographic or cultural borders. Violence against women mostly occurs in their direct social environment, affecting their physical and mental health.
The negative effects of violent abuse extends to children, families and the wider community, restricting a woman’s right to be involved in social life. Attitudinal and communication barriers drive deaf women to the margins of society, denying them access to education, SRHR services, and consideration as equal citizens.
There is increasing evidence to suggest deaf women are disproportionately vulnerable to sexual abuse. It is a significant, but neglected issue. Deaf Empowerment Society of Kenya (DESK) are an AmplifyChange Strengthening grantee who, after graduating from an Opportunity grant, have first-hand experience supporting numerous deaf victims of abuse.
While the issue remains hidden from society and the authorities, it is an area of growing concern. Incidents of rape are thought to be up to three times higher against disabled persons. In Kenya, 15-20% of disabled women have experienced violence and deaf women are particularly vulnerable. In addition to the lack of support for victims, perpetrators of the crimes are rarely brought to justice. One project beneficiary reported that:
“Rape and sexual abuse for women like me is an everyday occurrence. When we are raped, we don’t know where to go or who to report it to. There is always the fear that something worse could happen to you.”
“When a deaf person comes to the police station, she is often ignored by police officers in this station because of communication barriers”.
The objective of DESK’s project is to investigate the social, cultural and institutional context of sexual and gender based violence against deaf women and girls in Kenya. There Is very little research in this area. Recent studies in the field have focused on the subject from the perspective of the victims.
While DESK’s project builds upon existing studies, it also draws significant distinctions. The study is innovative because it will not duplicate work which focuses solely on the experiences of victims of abuse, but investigates wider contextual factors that allow it to happen. The evidence generated will form a basis of advocacy interventions to improve attitudes, policies, and practices to prevent further incidents of SGBV.
The research methods combine quantitative and qualitative approaches to explore the context around the sexual abuse of deaf women, as well as perceptions and attitudes. Focus groups for the study are men, women and girls of mixed ages from rural and urban demographics; experts, including policy makers, local NGOs, and women activists; service providers such as doctors, psychologists, area chiefs, lawyers, and police.
Watch a video report on the results from DESK’s project here.
Read more in the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD) and Share-Net publication, Everybody Matters.