NAIROBI, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- The holding of the UN International Conference on Population and Development in Nairobi last week has intensified the push to end violence against women especially in a country like Kenya, where nearly half of the women generation have been victims of some form of gender violence.
Simon Mordue, ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Kenya, told Xinhua that the search for an end to gender-based violence has been boosted following the holding of the Nairobi conference, which attracted nearly 9,000 delegates from 160 countries worldwide.
"The determination of Kenya to pursue the process of eradicating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to zero by 2022 is commendable. The other main target which is important is zero gender-based violence. If you look at figures, at least 45 percent of Kenyan women have experienced physical violence and 15 percent say they have experienced sexual violence. We have to try to get these to zero as much as we can," Mordue said.
The Nairobi talks prioritized action required to empower women to access education and health, including the right to sexual and reproductive health, in order to achieve balanced economic growth.
The UN estimates that violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations around the world.
Domestic violence against women, for instance, leads to higher economic impacts, including the loss of income from work absenteeism, which costs an average of 2 percent of the national wealth in losses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the public health impact of women undergoing FGM remains high in countries such as Kenya because of the need for counseling, inability to give birth normally or the risk of dying during childbirth due to the medical complications likely to arise during childbirth.
"To the best of my knowledge, FGM is illegal in Kenya. It was made illegal. There is a determination to see the practice of FGM eradicated by 2022. The situation in Kenya today is that FGM is illegal," Mordue said.
"The first target of the Nairobi conference is to have zero preventable deaths. In Kenya, in every 100,000 births, there are 488 deaths. In comparison, in France for example, there are eight deaths. I think the more we can do to help women access safe birth practices are important. I think there are good health facilities in Kenya, which is why the conference in Nairobi was important," he added.
The conference called on countries to make partnerships to end maternal deaths, push for steps to plug gaps in meeting the needs for family planning and ending gender-based violence against women and girls by 2030.
"On our side, we strongly support the importance the President Uhuru Kenyatta has attached to the efforts to eradicate this practice. The discussion at the conference and the work the Kenyan government is doing is important. Our objectives should be quite clear. Our objective should be to eliminate all child marriages," said Mordue.
Mordue said figures show 45 percent of Kenyan women who got pregnant did so unknowingly and may have avoided getting pregnant if they had sexual health education and access to contraceptives. He said the key challenge for Kenya remains sexual education. "There is the need for education on sexual health," he said.
The UN Fund for Population (UNFPA) estimates at 264 billion U.S. dollars may be required to meet the unmet needs for family planning, zero gender-based violence and zero maternal deaths.
Mordue said although there were progressive laws in Kenya that seek to promote the fight against gender violence, there was a weak system in place to implement them.
Besides, the Nairobi population conference courted controversy from the Kenyan church leaders who suspected the conference's main agenda was to promote abortion and contraceptive use.
Evelyn Regner, European Union Parliamentarian and the Chair of its Gender Committee, told Xinhua that this opposition by the church to the contraceptives, birth control methods and preventive vaccinations is not a good story for women.
"Too many women die because of the lack of prevention. There is a need to talk to the hardliners, not just the Church Bishops, but also everybody from the government. It is important that Kenya is the organizer of this conference together with Denmark have a say," Regner added.
She said even though there were good laws in Kenya, those laws were not applied because of the gender biases, including the people still running the system.
The European parliamentarian said the EU was supporting all organizations in the field dealing with FGM, community leaders and also supported dialogue that would lead to the stoppage of FGM.
"This is the job of the government, together with the religious groups, the church and together with non-governmental organizations. I think with community dialogue should go on. We also need to take women on board," Regner added.