Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is violence or any kind of attack on a person because of their gender. Anyone can experience gender-based violence but women and girls are reported to experience GBV the most, UN Women reports indicate.

GBV acts can harm a person physically, sexually, and psychologically. It is a sign of underlying gender inequality and challenges with balancing powers among partners.

Although it has been stated that women undergo GBV more frequently than men and boys, anyone can be affected. In this article, we have provided information on the types of GBV, and where a GBV survivor can receive free medical help and legal assistance.


Graphic: What you could do to help end violence against women

The Kenyan Constitution outlines that everyone has fundamental rights, including the right not to go through any form of violence. There are several laws that protect this right, including:

These laws list the different forms of GBV and the punishment for those found guilty of committing GBV.  You can read more about these acts in this article on the overview of the legal and policy framework of GBV in Kenya.

You can read more on:

There are actions or behaviors that can be categorized as GBV. You will also get to see the difference between different violations such as rape, defilement, incest, and other harmful practices.

Types of gender-based violence

There are at least five common types of GBV. These can affect persons of any gender, race, or age.

  1. Sexual violence - It is the most common form of GBV. It is any completed or attempted sexual act against a person’s will or against a person who is unable to give consent. It includes rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse (defilement, incest), forced sodomy/anal rape, sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, and sexual harassment.
  2. Physical violence: An act of physical violence that is not sexual in nature. It can include forms of violence or neglectful acts that cause physical pain or injury such as hitting, slapping, choking, burning, strangulation, throwing, biting, hair pulling, cutting or use of any weapons.
  3. Emotional and psychological violence: Infliction of mental or emotional pain or injury perpetrated in a non-physical manner usually by an intimate partner or a person in a position of power to frighten, intimidate, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, or blame through verbal abuse or humiliation, causing fear by intimidation and confinement.
  4. Social or economic violence: This includes violence perpetrated in a non-physical manner (usually by an intimate partner) or laws and policies that prevent access to income/earnings and social opportunities for advancement.
  5. Harmful traditional practices: Acts specific to cultures in which girls and women are severely undervalued, and considered second-class citizens with fewer rights. Practices can include Female Genital Mutilation, early marriage, forced marriage, denial of education and honor killing.

Understanding rape, defilement, and incest: 

Rape, defilement, and incest are all forms of sexual violence. 

Rape is the penetration with genital organs (vagina or penis) to another genital organ (vagina, penis, or anus) without their permission or expression of willingness.

Defilement is the penetration with genital organs (vagina or penis) to the genital organs (vagina, penis, or anus) of a person below the age of 18 years.

Incest is an act that causes penetration to genital organs (vagina or penis) between people who are related for instance father and daughter or cousins to cousins.

Any kind of GBV  negatively affects the survivor’s immediate sexual, physical, and mental health and raises their likelihood of developing other health issues.

All service providers engaged in response to GBV put the rights, needs, and wishes of the survivor first. At all the service points where GBV survivors receive support, their account of what happened is treated as the truth. Always keep it in mind that:

  • It is not a survivor’s mistake that leads to a GBV incident such as rape.
  • It is positive to talk to someone about the incident.
  • GBV response workers listen to a survivor and take what they say seriously
  • A survivor shall not be blamed for what happened to them.
  • A survivor is allowed to make decisions.
  • GBV workers help plan for a survivor’s safety.
  • When seeking help, your privacy shall be respected.
  • One shall be informed of all the available options for services, and the benefits and potential consequences of accessing them.

How to support a survivor of GBV. 

1. Listen to, believe and support survivors

When a survivor shares their story with you, it is important that you believe. This establishes trust and gives the survivor the confidence to open up to you. 

Avoid “victim-blaming” and the idea that the survivor should have avoided dangerous situations. 

For example; do not ask the survivor how they were dressed. Instead, use phrases such as:

‘I believe you, ‘What happened was not your fault and ‘How can I support you.

2. Treat any information shared with you with confidentiality. 

If you need guidance on how best to support the survivor, ask for their permission before consulting a specialist, or a friend. When consulting, avoid sharing information that might reveal the identity of the survivor. 

3. Share information about services that might be available to support the survivor. 

Do not pressure the survivor to take any action but instead respect their rights to make their own decisions. 

4. Ask what practical support you can provide

This includes providing them with a place to stay, accompanying them to the police station or to the hospital, helping them to find professional assistance (eg a counselor or GBV support center), or lending them your phone so they can contact someone that they trust. 

5. Follow up

Check-in on the survivor after they have shared their story with you. This will remind them that you care about them and that you believe them. 


What Services could help  a GBV survivor 

Experiencing any kind of gender-based violence affects a person’s well-being. There are various services and interventions available for survivors. These are meant to restore their dignity and support them in seeking justice. These may include but are not limited to:

The listed are important contacts for refugees, asylum seekers, foreigners and Kenyans seeking information or assistance on gender-based violence.

Kenya’s National GBV Hotline and Child Help line

1. The National Toll-Free Hotline for Gender-Based Violence (GBV): 1195. 

  • The national Gender Based Violence (GBV) hotline is linked to health facilities that provide treatment for survivors of sexual violence, legal aid, and rescue centers.  You will not be charged any airtime when calling this line.   

2. Child helpline: 116  

  • The Child helpline is a confidential reporting platform that is accessible to children and adults who have identified or witnessed violence against children. Attendants on the line offer one-on-one counseling and connect children with support services in their communities. 

Hotlines in Refugee Camps

AssistanceKakuma Refugee Campadaab Refugee Camp

International Rescue Committee (IRC)   


GBV hotline: 0702572024

International Rescue Committee (IRC)   


GBV hotline: 0708516530, Also on WhatsApp 

Psycho-social support (Counselling)

Danish Refugee Council 

Toll-Free phone:0800720414, Also available on WhatsApp 

International Rescue Committee (IRC)   

GBV hotline: 0708516530, Also on WhatsApp 


Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK)   

Toll-Free Line: 0800720262 

Telephone: 0703848641 


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