By Siddharth Chatterjee at the virtual UN in Kenya Town Hall Meeting

  • It is an honor join you all today to discuss this pertinent issue of gender-based violence, the global pandemic that, as we know continues to affect 1 in 3 of the world’s women. In light of COVID-19, GBV is a shadow pandemic which has been exacerbated and continues to disproportionately affect women and girls.
  • The Kenya National Council on Administration of Justice (NCAJ) has reported a significant spike in sexual offences in many parts of the country during COVID-19 pandemic, constituting 35 per cent of all criminal incidences reported.  The NCAJ noted that ‘in some instances perpetrators are close relatives, guardians and or persons living with the victims.
  • Statistics from hotlines have also shown an increase in GBV cases, for instance, during the month of May 2020, a total of 753 GBV related cases were reported through the 1195 Hotline.  Out of these cases, 504 cases (67%) affected females while 249 cases (33%) male.
  •  These statistics are likely to only reveal the tip of an iceberg as GBV remains very underreported due to various reasons including stigma, lack of access to reporting services and misconceptions around GBV which is often considered a ‘domestic matter’ as opposed to a public concern and a human rights violation, with grave and psychological, physiological and societal implications. In Kenya, the annual cost of GBV has been estimated to be approx. Kshs 46 billion (National Gender & Equality Commission 2016).   
  • This impact cuts across women in rural and urban settings, those in formal and informal employment including staff working for the UN.

We know that UN staff members can be affected by GBV as victims, they may be perpetrators, or family members of those impacted directly by GBV.

And I Emphasize the UN’s zero tolerance to GBV committed by and among UN staff members.

  • All agencies should enforce zero tolerance on all forms of GBV and ensure an end to impunity.
  • This calls for increased opportunities for confidential reporting, support innovation of creative ways of reporting, and enhanced safety for women and girls.
  • All leaders should align to a zero-tolerance by strengthening victim-centred prevention and response efforts, and fostering a safe and inclusive working environment across the UN system.

That the call for zero tolerance is derived from the values and norms of UN Charter which governs the actions of the UN. The Charter re-affirms fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and equal rights of men and women. The Charter requires the UN to establish conditions under which justice, and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained. Gender based violence is an act of gender-based discrimination and a violation of human rights under international law.

The UN’s Zero tolerance to GBV is guided by the following normative frameworks:

 1.       The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) articulates comprehensive state obligations to address all forms of discrimination against women:  including to modify social and cultural norms and eradicate gender stereotypes and prejudice.

2.        Further, the CEDAW Committee has in General Recommendations 12, 19 and 35expressed clearly that GBV is a form of gender-based discrimination and that the obligation to ensure equality and non-discrimination includes putting in place measures to prevent GBV, protect victims, prosecute and  punish perpetrators and provide adequate remedy to all survivors of GBV.

3.        The Beijing Platform for Action further articulates as part of the 12 critical areas the elimination, prevention and response to all forms of violence against all women as well as  the need to strengthen efforts to realize the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health for women and girls, including their sexual and reproductive health.

4.      In terms of national laws, Kenya has a strong legal frameworks on GBV including :

  • The Constitution of Kenya 2010 which secures fundamental human rights prohibits all forms of violence whether from public or private sources;
  • The  Sexual Offences Act; Provides for protection on a range of sexual offices including; defilement to attempted defilement, rape to attempted rape, gang rape, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation among others.
  • The Protection against Domestic Violence Act; Provides for the protection and relief of members of a family from various forms of domestic violence such as physical,  economic, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, and makes provision for provision of protection orders.
  • Other laws include : the Victim Protection Act; which safeguards the rights of victims of violence when seeking redress , the  Employment Act which includes protections against work place sexual harassment, among others.

The development of the Duty of Care Guidance Note for UNCT-Led by UN Women and the GBV technical Working Group, which provides clear guidance on how the UN will respond to cases of GBV, especially domestic abuse by UN staff. Highlight also that the GBV Working Group has developed a flier on GBV-with information on Dos and Dont’s, and where and how to access services, this will be made available to all.

I reiterate that this meeting is part of a series of sessions for staff including town Halls, Webinars and other engagements through Social Media.

The need for Enhanced and Sustained public campaign on GBV prevention and Response-Led by the UN in partnership with Government and other stakeholders, a process that looks inward at the UN systems and not just outward towards implementing partners. For example:

  • Development of a quick access code for women and girls, men and boys in “distress” This is currently under development-Identifying key partners from either the transport industry, pharmacies, tele-communication companies and social media platforms.
  • Training select first responders on how to interpret the “distress codes”

There are plans to conduct an anonymous survey on UN staff awareness on GBV will generate more knowledge and insights from UN staff on how the UN can support victims and hold perpetrators to account for GBV. Additionally, the RC has approached UN Habitat EXD to initiate discussions on the possibility of utilising the UN Habitat SpeakUp mobile application, currently informing UN Habitat staff on services available on sexual harassment, so that the application would be expanded to all UN staff in Kenya and also inform on GBV services available, while also catering for a new channel for anonymously reporting on GBV?

In conclusion:

  • The UN is taking a zero-tolerance stance in line with its duty of care to provide support to survivors of GBV to seek remedies, and  by taking all measures to hold staff members who are perpetrators accountable, including supporting any state department to investigate as needed.
  • We at the UN in Kenya must be a role model for the rest of the world.



Speech by
Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee
UN Resident Coordinator
Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator
UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations