I sure hope that this is clearer....

Love, Stella

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.

Comment on this Post


Hi Stella,

Hope you got my first response. I have ongoing trouble with Worldpulse email systems! The second draft is great and I would only make the following recommendations:

Paragraph 1..crops up, not in.

Paragraph 2..What happened to Nancy's story? I'd put that back in and end the paragraph with your depression sentence.

Combine paragraphs3&4. You don't want to have 1 sentence paragraph but several sentences about the same thing, in the case of Para. 3&4 domestic violence.

Combine paragraphs 4&5 Paragraph 6..."The girls cannot return to their homes..."

Paragraph 7: Explain a bit more about wife/widow inheritance i.e. "wife or widow inheritance is a tradition whereby a woman who loses her husband is "intherited" by his family. Since she is (do you mean that she is the community's property or that she is "community property which means anyone can have her. Or do you mean that she is the property of his family?) Clarify this sentence a bit, then the part about the brother.

Paragraph 8..perfect:)

I would reverse the order of Pp. 9 & 10. You are moving to the first person here. Maybe start with "As I grew up I saw women in my family denied a fulfilling marriage-life. Worse, I have an uncle who batters his wife and blames her for it. Two months ago, my cousin was found beaten to death. Yet, wife beating is considered acceptable. It is a "sign of love"--a fools love! Religion and tradition uge me and all women to "respect" and "submit" to my husband. The police and local administrations dismiss beatinga as a "private matter". I can't let this happen to me.

Pp. 11 goes back to nancy. I'd combine it with the story re Nancy in paragraph 2. Excellent explanation re her husband!

Combine Pp. 13 & 14.

Pp. 15 re preventing escalation...are you saying thast a woman is told to prevent escalation with a polite answer or are you talking globally that polite answere turn away anger?

Pp. 16, I'd explain what CREAW stands for first.

Pp. 17...since you are going to provide a few solutions, I'd lead with a question. something like."So what can be done to decrease the suffering of battered women? Then follow with the combined Pp. 17, 18 and 19.

It;'s a compelling story, Stells. great work! Francie

Stell, Don't think I can add much to Francie's thorough editorial feedback. I strongly second all of her recommendations and see them as right on.

In the end, after all the rearranging, the story should reflect what Francie's heavy lifting is already attempting to do -- make the piece flow. You grab the reader with your compelling story about Nancy in the beginning, then bring in your opinion soon thereafter, then make sure your opinion and color carry them through to your solutions-based ending.

After your revise, take a step back and look at your piece and ask yourself - does it pull the reader through and keep them wanting to read more until the end? And just as important, does it "strongly" get my point across about stronger laws or efforts needed to elevate the status of women?

If those two questions can be answered with a resounding "yes" then I think you've accomplished all that can be with this piece.

  • Leslie

I think it is a great draft and seeing the feedback from Francie and Leslie is amazing and will make it an excellent final piece. I really would have nothing else to add to their commentary. I can say that as your reader, I was definitely pulled into the piece immediately and compelled to read on...

I have feelings that are somewhat unexplainable as I read these postings. I often find myself transported to unfamiliar landscapes within my own levels of awareness and understanding. I am honored to support you and all the correspondents in efforts to raise the voices, influence thought, and eradicate unacceptable practices within all societies.

You are an incredible light on the horizon.

In Kindness,