What you need to know:
- If you can find a way to save yourself and move to an undisclosed place, please do.
- A man who threatens your life for whatever reason is not man enough for you.
Listening to Lilian Ng’ang’a, former partner of Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, describe the alleged threats she had been receiving from him, I was left shaking with fury. I have walked that path and it is fear unknown.
My hunch is that Lilian is telling the truth. Every woman is a potential victim of domestic abuse. A threat to your life from an ex-boyfriend or husband is to be taken with all the seriousness it deserves. If a man says he will kill you, even in jest, mark my words, he will. Watch your step from that moment.
If you can find a way to save yourself and move to an undisclosed place, please do. If you are in a safe place already, secure your home and movements. The most important thing to do is let the authorities know about it. Crucially, catalogue the threats, time and date and keep your diary secure.
Do not have hang-ups on material things you leave behind. They mean little to your life. Save yourself and your children first. If you cannot afford to escape, ask for help from family and trusted friends. Don’t sign up to a return agreement; the first threat was enough to rile your partner up. A man who threatens your life for whatever reason is not man enough for you. Go and start a new happy life somewhere far away.
Kenyan powerful men in public life get away with domestic abuse because they believe they can. They use instruments of power to harass their partners and interfere with cases. If my memory serves me right, Dr Mutua is said to have used the police to force his ex-wife out of the matrimonial property. That is a red flag.
Misogyny and egotism
A former senator in the same Ukambani region did a similar thing. A judge in Mombasa turned off utilities in the house so he could live with his girlfriend. A PS recently attempted to evade justice over claims of domestic violence. The list goes on.
It is assumed that domestic abuse is a preserve of poor and dysfunctional families but nothing can be farther from the truth. It’s only that those men in positions of authority know which strings to pull to avoid prosecution. They turn to threats knowing a society that worships celebrities won’t believe their victims.
The women married to powerful men have the challenge of dealing with the double whammy of misogyny and egotism. Walking out on such men is akin to signing a death warrant. Hell hath no fury than a powerful man with a pricked ego.
When you choose to leave such a man, do it safely. Saying you plan for a mature separation is not a language most egotistical men understand. They care little for your concerns but of their ego. You have stirred the hornet’s nest; you just don’t know it. They will keep ruminating on why you left them for another man — even if there is no other man in the picture.
To them, you have diluted their machismo and humiliated them and you must pay for your ‘wickedness’. They don’t pause to ask themselves why you were unhappy in a mansion but now at peace in a slum. Because, dear sister, you were part of his rich collectables, not a human being with rights and aspirations of your own.
Since the brutal murder of Agnes Tirop, the Kenyan long-distance world champion, in another domestic violence incident, I read many toxic comments online from Kenyan men in support of abusive men.
Lilian’s press conference led to further barrage of vitriol towards her — from men. It is the prevalence of male toxicity that contributes to violence towards women. Without men dropping their machismo and understanding their part in domestic abuse, it will be very difficult to reduce such crimes, let alone eradicate them.
Dismissive attitude from men regarding domestic abuse regrettably feeds into the policy-making forums. I am not surprised that we have had speedy legislation on funding for fuel guzzlers and governors’ mansions (as they are more appealing to most of our male politicians) and slow response to funding for refuge centres and agencies that fight domestic abuse.
The government has been to conferences and made a lot of talk on domestic abuse but has not walked far enough to put measures in place to keep women safe. Without safe houses and rapid response mechanisms, women will continue to die at the hands of violent men because they have nowhere safe to run to.
The (patriarchal) society is still reluctant to believe women who claim to suffer domestic abuse. That is why we need to educate men too on domestic abuse issues and how to have healthy relationships as part of the measures to end domestic and sexual abuse. No woman should be threatened for leaving a toxic relationship. Neither should she die due to the government’s failures.
Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo