What you need to know:
- Even where a man does not necessarily lay a hand on his woman partner, he could verbally insult her and erode her sense of self.
- Victims of intimate partner violence often have to keep the fact that they are being harmed at home deeply secret, weathering abuse in silence.
During the conversation on Intimate Partner Violence at the Generation Equality Forum, a high-level global get-together about advancing and actualising equality and equity for women, the Kenyan government unveiled a roadmap to ending gender-based violence by 2026.
This was part of a series of commitments involving input by multiple stakeholders, prompted in part by a 92 per cent increase in reported cases of gender-based violence in the course of the past year.
Statistics show the abusers in cases of intimate partner violence are often men, and the abused are most often women. This is further enabled by social, religious, cultural and legal frameworks that position men as capable of channeling anger by meting out punishment on women and assuming the role of gatekeepers of order in the home, community and society.
There are many types of intimate partner violence. Even where a man does not necessarily lay a hand on his woman partner, he could verbally insult her and erode her sense of self (psychological abuse); nonconsensually follow and force proximity on her with implied threats (stalking); deny her access to resources (financial abuse); deny her access to contraception (reproductive abuse); rape or coerce her into sex (sexual abuse).
Women are further urged to understand that men have an unchangeable violent nature, which burdens their victims with the expectation of forgiveness and tolerance. Further, women have limited options for survival away from men who beat them.
Erosion of social status
Data shows most women who leave men face increased risk upon exit. Most have to contend with a significant decrease in living circumstances, erosion of social status and added stigma after exiting even a violent union. Beyond this, victims of intimate partner violence often have to keep the fact that they are being harmed at home deeply secret, weathering abuse in silence for fear of being ridiculed on top of being in pain and without options.
The statistically proven strategies for pushing back against this kind of abuse involve a deep dive into why human societies are formed the way they are and exploring possibilities for change.
The most common reason for returning to abusive unions is the lack of somewhere else to go. The state and other stakeholders must come together to create economic support mechanisms and protective environments for survivors.
The second and equally important path is to challenge the harmful or negative gender roles in our societies. This can be done by engaging religious leaders, teachers and academics, therapists, social workers, journalists, influencers and others in honest and interactive conversations about safe and healthy relationships.
This, coupled with training the police and Judiciary on the importance of following up reported cases, and liaising with county personnel to investigate unreported cases, may help Kenya eradicate gender-based violence at the accelerated timelines suggested.
The writer is a policy analyst; [email protected]