I sure hope that this is clearer....
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: A Conspiracy for Silence
I can tell when a woman is suffering in silence. It’s in her face. One is distant, or slowly detaching from friends and family. This is when trouble crops in. She is scared of telling, because deep within, she knows she will crawl back.
As depression sets in, she silently suffers. She feels trapped, blaming herself.
Kenya has no law which criminalises domestic violence, despite having ratified relevant international instruments which guarantee equality and respect for human dignity.
Domestic violence remains deeply entrenched through rites and traditions that are not only physically and psychologically harmful, but which also instil the perceptions that women are objects to be used and abused.
Bride price and wife inheritance are two such traditions, which contribute to increase in marital rape, and the overall poor economic status of women.
Bride price, widely acceptable, is paid in exchange for a wife. What was once a token of appreciation is increasingly being commercialized. Parents sell their daughters at exorbitant rates. In turn, the husband views the bride as a commodity! The girls cannot return to her home when all hell breaks lose! Her family will have used up the money or cattle that was paid.
Wife inheritance or widow inheritance: the widow, being a community’s property, is taken in by a brother of her late husband. This is irrespective of her feelings, or his HIV- AIDS status.
It cannot be denied that the adoption of the Sexual Offenses Act (2006) was a tremendous step forward in the fight for women’s rights in Kenya. But, its enforcement is flawed. Sadly, due to social stigma, fear of reprisal, ignorance of the law and personal rights, insensitive medical procedures and mismanagement of court cases (Ochich & Aukot, 2008) very few are officially reported or successfully tried in court.
Wife beating is acceptable. It’s a ‘sign of love’- a fools Love. Religion and tradition urges me to ‘respect’ and ‘submit to’ an abusive husband. The police or local administrations dismiss it as a ‘private affair’.
Also, as I grew up, I saw women in my family denied a fulfilling marriage-life. I cannot allow it to happen to me. An uncle batters his wife, but blamed her for it. Two months ago, a cousin was found beaten to death.
Nancy Wanjiru has suffered violence. One moment she cries on the shoulder of friend, pouring out what she’s been through. She gets plenty of advice, and finally decides on one. She will leave her partner, carrying the kids along. But it is only a matter of time. She will soon return to her lavish, yet abusive life.
Her husband is a wealthy influential member of society. But he is unfaithful to her, and beats her up when she probes about it. So what if he has another wife?
As a human service deliverer, burnout is inevitable. I resent chauvinist men. I see them as the source of all of women’s problems. Even the most educated of our men, expect total submission.
Watching as things fall apart can drive you crazy. At Mathari Hospital in Nairobi, I have seen depressed women erroneously termed insane.
So how do we prevent escalation of violence? A polite answer quietens anger. But should women be the ones to take the first step?
At CREAW, I experience a world where women come in, when all hope is gone. They find refuge and a listening ear. Victims come to find themselves, as they are empowered to make informed choices.
By speaking out, a woman paves way for couple counseling. But it is hard to get the men to come. Letters to demand their appearance, or suffer a law suit, has forced some to embrace counseling.
Engaging fathers and sons in the fight against Domestic violence is the way. They are the perpetrators, or will grow up to be. It is men who authored our traditions, which continue to entangle women’s lives.
Sensitizing all men from all sectors and communities (such as in Kibera- the largest Slum in Africa) on the Sexual offences Act is a step to the right direction- to see the Domestic Violence Bill of 2000 enacted.