Painful Tradeoffs: Intimate-partner violence and sexual and reproductive health rights in Kenya

Research output: Working paper


This paper focuses on intimate-partner
violence in Kenya and how it impacts on sexual and reproductive health and
rights. Drawing on evidence from more
than 1200 Kenyan women, the paper
makes a series of recommendations on
how policies, laws and services can be
strengthened to end violence and
mitigate its affects.
The paper is the result of an action research collaboration between a
Kenyan gender-based violence
rehabilitation NGO called Women’s
Rights Awareness Programme (WRAP)
and the Realising Rights research
programme. The research is based on
qualitative and descriptive quantitative
analysis of WRAP’s client records. The
paper shows how intimate-partner
violence involves multiple violations of
sexual and reproductive rights, with
devastating impacts on the health and
wellbeing of those affected.
The health impacts of intimate-partner
violence have been well documented
and include HIV and other sexually
transmitted infections, pregnancy
complications, and depression and
anxiety. However, there is a lack of
evidence about women’s experiences of and responses to intimate-partner
violence in particular contexts, and the
implications for health service provision. This paper addresses this gap by examining how Kenyan women
experience and conceptualise intimate-partner violence, how various definitions of rights shape their expectations and responses to violence, and the barriers they face in realising their rights.
Sexual and reproductive health (SRH)
and rights, as defined in several
international human rights covenants,
are central to individual physical and
mental wellbeing, and fundamental to
many development goals. However,
rights articulated in international human rights law are far from being a reality for many Kenyan women. This paper defines rights as ‘legitimate claims’, where legitimacy is based on three intersecting dimensions: social, legal and personal. By using this framework, it is possible to identify the types of constraints faced by individuals in realising their human rights in the context of intimate-partner violence.
The paper then presents the findings of the study, drawing on their analysis of WRAP’s client records to explore the
impacts of violence on sexual and
reproductive health and rights; insecurity of accommodation and vulnerability to abuse during pregnancy; women’s personal understanding of rights and
responsibilities vis-à-vis ; social and legal definitions of rights; and service delivery for survivors of violence.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBrighton
PublisherInstitute of Development Studies
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008

Publication series

NameIDS Working Paper


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