Too ashamed to name
Stigma keeps men from coming out public about violence against them
Cases of women battering their husbands are not new in Nyeri County except that men are not going public due to shame.
Latest statistics indicate that Nairobi and Central Kenya are recording more and more cases of domestic abuse. However, experts note that for the vice to end, survivors must speak out otherwise the issue may quickly get out of hand.
Statistics released in 2011 shows that 460,000 men from Nairobi County and Central Kenya region were victims of domestic abuse which ranged from physical to mental and emotional abuse from their wives.
The survey, conducted between February and August 2011 found that out of these 310,000 men were denied conjugal rights; some were involved in forced domestic work like baby-sitting, kitchen work and even bathing children.
“It seems there is what we call cultural ignorance and most women want to dominate men. Our culture has been thrown to the dogs. I do not see this vice of men being battered by their wives ending soon,” John Githinji, a 60 year old village elder from Mahiga area in Othaya.
According Githinji, women have been empowered so much by the government on equality and gender issues.
Some men feel that Women Enterprise Fund seems to have empowered women in the family to be financially independent and has led to many marriages breaking up due to misunderstanding.
“We have seen many programmes and enterprise funds being initiated by the Government which has women empowered economically while men have been sidelined,” said Githinji who has been married for over 31 years. He added: “Women have ended up dominating everywhere while the desperate men have no option than to go to the drinking dens. The boy child has been forgotten from the word go.”
The same women have started their own businesses and no longer depend on the men.
Githinji who is a retired teacher says that most women now have their own money and have no respect for the husbands. Men have also abandoned responsibilities leaving feeding the family and paying school fees to women.
“Our Kikuyu culture is gone to the dogs. Men are no longer the head of the family. They are no longer giving orders to their wives. Women are now educated, rich and so do not need husbands near them as they claim that there is no need,” Githinji notes.
However, it is noted that most women feel that it is traditionally wrong and un-Biblical to beat their husbands but issues have forced them to do so as the men have abandoned their responsibilities.
“If the wife is angry over domestic matters, she should look for a counsellor or pack and go back to her parents’ home for a few days until her tempers cools,” says 48-year-old Josephine Wanjugu who has been married for 27 years.
Wanjugu notes that there is a danger ahead since the future generations are set to stay without family heads.
Mary Nduta, a mother of three children notes that it is the men who have dug their own grave since they normally come home drunk while the family sleeps hungry.
“This man did not leave money behind for food and then he comes in the evening very drunk while throwing abuses at us. What should stop me from raising my temper?” poses Nduta.
Other women said that most men have turned to drinking illicit brews with some go to an extent of selling kitchen utensils in order to get money for the cheap brews which cost as low as KSh20 per cup.
“Remember these utensils and other home properties were bought by women when men were busy in their drinking dens. The alcohol makes them neglect marital responsibilities and conjugal rights,” says Priscilla Nyawira, who is based Nyeri town. She adds: “They no longer perform their conjugal duties. Most of them are very lazy and spend most of the night under the bed. Others cannot even do menial jobs.”
At least four men in Central Kenya region revealed recently that they have been battered. Two of them are still recuperating at different hospital in Nyeri County. Two women have already been charged in court over the incidences.
“Society is rotting and it seems domestic violence will continue since men will go back to the old ways of battering their wives. Men are set to revenge hence the worrying situation in future,” says Thuku Gathirimu, a resident of Ngangarithi in Nyeri town. He notes: “I will not be surprised to hear a woman has been killed by a man over domestic issues.”
Pastor Elijah Mwangi notes that cases of men being beaten by their wives in the area have been on the rise. He urged the Government to intervene.
“It’s un-Biblical for a wife to beat her husband. These cases are now becoming so rampant and getting out of control,” says Mwangi.
According to Nderitu Njoka, chairman Maendeleo Ya Wanaume Organisation (MYWO) violence against men being blamed alcohol and poverty is more than meets the eye.
He says the Gender Directorate, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake and Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya among other groups should sit down and come up with a long lasting solution to domestic violence.
Most men feel that the law should be applied equally and the boy child should not be forgotten by society as the girl child is empowered.
However, the government of Kenya is working on a policy that will mitigate against domestic violence. The Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill, is already in the floor of the National Assembly, if passed it will help deal with cases of domestic violence against men, women, boys and girls in a domestic set up.
The Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill seeks to protect victims of domestic violence and provide protection for spouses and any children or dependants within the family unit.
The Bill recognises sexual violence within marriage, child marriage, FGM, incest, defilement, forced wife inheritance, interference from in-laws and sexual abuse as forms of domestic violence unlike previously when they were only associated with physical violence. Domestic violence will also include economic abuse, damage to property, emotional or psychological abuse, virginity testing and “widow cleansing”.
The Bill notes that a person shall be deemed to be in a domestic relationship with another person:
a)is married to that other person;
b)has previously been married to that other person;
c)is living in the same household with that person;
d)has been in a marriage with the other person which has been dissolved or declared null;
e)is a family member of that other person;
f)has a child with that other person;
The Bill does not provide any penalty for domestic violence. Writers of the bill feel that for the offences under the Bill to be taken more seriously the Bill should provide a minimum sentence for offences under the Bill and propose a minimum sentence of one year or KSH 200,000 or both.