Training of law enforcers to stem rising gender-based cyber violence kicks off in Kenya

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An African Development Bank-supported training for the Kenya Police and Judiciary in handling gender-based cyber violence kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 25, 2016.

About 55 high-ranking police officers attached to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and public prosecutors from across the country are undergoing the four-day training, which seeks to stem cybercrime in the face of rising incidences of gender-based online violence in Kenya. The course is part of a capacity building programme launched on March 8, 2016 during the International Women’s Day celebrations. It was inaugurated by the AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender, Geraldine Fraser Moleketi; the AfDB Regional Director for East Africa, Gabriel Negatu; Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru; Facebook Public Policy Manager, Akua Gyekye; and ICT Authority Director of Partnerships, Eunice Kariuki.

The training, which ends April 29, 2016, will see participants receive certificates for undertaking the thorough exercise that is expected to empower police and judiciary to capture cyber criminals as well as prevent cybercrime. It also involves digital forensics, which will increase their analytical and technical capabilities, enabling them to deter and prosecute offenders. The use of technology and social media is a great part of the course, boosting knowledge and awareness on how law enforcement agents can act against perpetrators of cyber-based gender violence.

The exercise is the first phase of a larger approach to empower more police officials and prosecutors across the country and the East African region to effectively handle cybercrime, as well as assess cyber violence trends. It is expected to attract research on the prevalence of cybercrime, and interrogate existing laws and provisions for protecting women and girls in cases of technology-related violence.

Online violence against women and girls is rampant in Kenya as in many parts of Africa. However it is not adequately addressed due to a glaring skills gap that demonstrates the ill-preparedness of the police to handle cases of technology-based violence. This finding is based on a baseline survey conducted by the African Development Bank that explores how Kenyans perceive gender-based cyber violence. The research culminated in a Policy Brief that aims to identify practical strategies for addressing the problem in Kenya.

Statistics indicate that one in three women will have experienced a form of violence in her lifetime. The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) shows that 41 % of women aged between 15-49 years have experienced violence. While cyber violence was not captured as a form of violence under the indicators of the KDHS, the crime, if not taken into account, could significantly increase this staggering number, according to a report by the UN.

Gender-based cyber-attacks have resulted in death, health challenges and court cases. Women across the board have been affected, ranging from senior government officials, politicians, media, entertainment personalities, and students, among others.

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