Husband battery: A new Kenyan phenomenon?

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(Catherine Karong’o) – Contrary to a popular opinion that only women face Gender Based Violence, men in Kenya are now coming out in large numbers to report that they too have been facing violence at home, in Central and Nairobi provinces.

The number has sharply increased in the last three years from 300,000 in 2009 to 460,000 in 2011 according to a survey by the Maendeleo ya Wanaume Organisation.

“The issue of men being battered started long ago… only that they have been silent when facing abuse because of fear of ridicule,” the organisation’s founder Nderitu Njoka said in an interview with Capital News.

He said men also suffer physical and emotional abuse.

“This is an issue of supremacy and women wanting to dominate and take advantage of men,” he said.

Njoka blames the government for paying too much attention to women’s issues at the expense of men, through initiatives like the Women’s Enterprise Fund.

“When the government came in and divided the family into categories of men, women and children, this brought up a big problem when it comes to the cordial relationship in the family,” he said.

“Let us not fight a losing battle when we group women alone and start empowering them alone leaving men aside. Let us bring the society and family together and that is the only way we will have a solution to stop gender violence.”

He opposed the view that men are battered because of failing to provide and drinking too much alcohol, saying their survey revealed that only 25 percent of men are irresponsible.

“They are not facing abuse because they drink excessively but because of supremacy battles,” he said.

“We are talking of a very small percentage of men who are not providing and they are not supposed to be beaten because that is not the solution. If battering can be a solution, I am sure that women will be in trouble,” he added.

However, Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson Rukia Subow maintained that men should be responsible if they wanted their children and wives to respect them.

“I am not advocating for women to batter men but what I am saying is that sometimes you are pushed to take action and show this man that it is wrong. We are against violence against any gender but sometimes you are pushed to the wall,” Subow told Capital News.

She however expressed reservations on the figure given by the Maendeleo Ya Wanaume Organisation of men being battered.

“He needs to prove it that this number of men is battered,” she said.

She however said that gender violence against women had gone up by three percent as of last year.

“It is two sides of a coin… it happens every now and then but the issue is that some women don’t report this violence against them,” she said.

Speaking elsewhere, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has urged men to stop drug and alcohol abuse and become more responsible to their families.

Odinga, who spoke in Kibera during the commissioning of the Mchanganyiko social centre for a women’s group in Kibera, said the increase in cases of husband battery was a result of alcohol and drug abuse.


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