The COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world by storm stretching many health systems and exposing the gaps in the resilience of these health systems. Kenya recorded its first confirmed case on 12 March 2020 and has since recorded 126,710 confirmed cases and a total of 2,092 fatalities as at 25 March 2021. Kenya’s pandemic response has been delayed and fragmented and the communication and information around it has been piece‑meal and opaque. However, in the past year the State has made some strides in its response to the pandemic and has progressively implemented a series of preventive measures such as a dusk to dawn curfew, cessation of movement restrictions, prohibition of social gatherings and religious engagements as well as other safety measures.
Pandemics and their responses do not affect different communities in the same way and marginalised communities can be negatively impacted both by a pandemic and the measures put in place to respond to it. Despite efforts by the government to respond to the pandemic, there has inevitably been a shift in focus and a reallocation of resources away from other healthcare services such as those to secure sexual and reproductive health towards the control of the spread of the virus. This has led to a range of adverse outcomes with respect to the provision and protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) such as: reduced access to family planning services; increased gender-based violence; economic stress leading to transactional sex and exploitation; and higher rate of maternal mortality to name a few.
This research paper shall conduct an analysis on the impact of the Pandemic response on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in Kenya by considering the legal and policy framework guiding the pandemic response vis a vis the documented experience of communities of women and girls seeking to access sexual and reproductive health services. This shall be framed within the lens of the obligation of the State to protect marginalised communities and unpack whether the actions taken have met the threshold and if they have, has the resultant impact been for the benefit of women and girls. The hypothesis to be explored is that pandemics and their responses do not impact different communities in the same way and thus gendering a response is critical in ensuring that specific populations can be protected; particularly those already operating within the margins of society.