Address gender violence meted out on men, boys


Men who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence rarely report abuse.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Gender-based violence (GBV) is an insistent violation of human rights and is a crime against all genders.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2014, for instance, domestic violence increases every day, with nine per cent of ever-married men experiencing physical violence, four per cent of sexual violence and 11 per cent of some form of violence from their partners.

Men, including the LGBTIQ+ community, continue to suffer GBV but rarely are they believed, limiting their reporting rate.

GBV can be portrayed in any form—physical, emotional, social, economic or sexual. Anybody can be a candidate for GBV. In cases where GBV is male to male, the survivor battles with the risk of being considered a willing homosexual participant. 

Consequently, due to social and cultural norms associated with masculinity, GBV against men is stigmatised. Diversity factors such as sexual orientation, gender identity and expression may influence to what extent a person is at risk.

Men have been sexually abused in prisons, homes and streets but many times the issues go unreported. Targeted killings of men, including the LGBTIQ+ because of their gendered role, should be recognised as a form of GBV, similar to sexual violence against women and girls. But the expectation of men being stronger than women makes it difficult to recognise intimate partner violence against them. 

Often feel powerless

GBV has a huge long-lasting impact. Men often feel powerless if they can’t provide for their families, they feel that they have lost the respect of their communities and partners and even themselves. This often leads to domestic violence, depression, abandonment of families and other tragic consequences.

Reasons for underreporting of GBV against men include reframing sexual abuse as torture, criminalisation due to same-sex acts being illegal, homophobic backlash, social prejudice, non-recognition of females as perpetrators of intimate-partner violence (IPV), shame and stigma.

Kenya has no shelters for abused men and very few for women to accommodate men or, if they do, only a very small percentage is catered for. But there are legal and policy frameworks to address GBV. The Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, provides for a range of rights and freedoms tied to the protection against GBV. There is also the Sexual Offences Act, of 2003, and the National Framework for the Response and Prevention of Gender-Based Violence.

We need to empower men to regain their dignity, but not through violence. To combat and address GBV against men in all their diversities, we must acknowledge it. This doesn’t mean that we oppose that of girls and women or even detract from its seriousness and magnitude. GBV is a crisis; its causes and consequences must be continuously addressed.

Male GBV survivors require a multi-sectoral and survivor-centred response with access to medical, psychosocial and counselling services which respond to trauma, including mental and sexual and reproductive health services. There is also a need for safe spaces and intervention against GBV against men and the LGBTIQ+ community. We also need to promote gender equality through the reconstruction of a non-violent identity of men, the adoption of healthy masculine behaviours and men’s empowerment to be positive and supportive partners.

Society ought to nurture a community of men who understand that it is okay for them to be vulnerable, to ask for help, to be weak and report violence against them. We need to build a culture of reporting GBV and ensuring that victims get their rights and are accorded the necessary support.

Ms Kathia is a communications consultant and sexual and reproductive health and rights expert. [email protected].