Paying family bills saves women from beatings - study

Women who meet up to half of household expenses from own earnings are unlikely to report domestic violence, says a new scientific study in Kenya.

The study involving 1,410 females and their partners also says in unions where the man is over 10 years older than the woman the latter is likely to experience violence.

The report published on January 11 found religion a key factor in domestic violence in Kenya. Catholics and other non-Christian faiths are more likely than Protestants to accept domestic violence as normal.

The study by local and US researchers says violence in unions in Kenya is still a major problem. However, womenwho use their own earnings to share in domestic expenses are unlikely to experience violence and have more decision making power at home. “Compared to women who met none of the household expenses with their earnings, those meeting a third to a half from own earnings also have more domestic power,” says the study.

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The study suggests, for domestic harmony it is not enough for a woman to have own financial independence but should share equally if not more in home expenditure.

“Blackmail,” says Ann Wangechi, a women rights activist and community health worker in Dandora, Nairobi.

“By meeting my personal budget I have already done my partner a favour. He should be thankful and blissfully pick up the family tabs,” she says.

The study by Jhpiego - an NGO operating in Kenya and affiliated to Johns Hopkins University, US; and the Medical University of South Carolina, US, appears in the journal Global Social Welfare.

Approved by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the study says age is a major determinant of violence in local unions.

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Accepting of violence

In most unions, 84 per cent, men are older than women. But where the man is 11 or more years older than the woman, the likelihood of violence is higher. The women in such a relationship, the study says have little decision-making power.

Older partners, both men and women, aged 32 to 35, were more accepting of violence than younger couples aged 18 to 28.

“We hypothesised that people already in marriage were more tolerant of domestic violence than the non-married,” says the study.

The study had involved 1,410 women attending antenatal clinics in 14 facilities in Eastern and Central Kenya.

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The women had been asked to invite their partners to the clinic, to discuss health matters and where possible be tested for HIV. In this study most of the women had low education, self or unemployed and almost two thirds could not afford to pay for a third of household expenses.

On the other hand, most of the men had higher education were older than their partners and had higher earnings.

Almost all the men, though at different levels felt some wife beating is justified.

“Overall, 22.2 per cent of the men showed high support for partner violence, an equal number moderately supported while 55.6 per cent showed low support,” says the study.

None is indicated to have said never.

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