Statistics are grim and suggestive on gender-based violence (GBV). In a recent Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) Kenya report, it emerged that 80 per cent of the perpetrators of gender-based violence were men, and only 14 per cent were women. Five per cent was attributed to parents and custodians.
This is proof that GBV exists right under our noses and therefore, we are all susceptible to it. According to Catherine Mbau, a psychologist, violence has detrimental effects on the mind of the person it’s meted on.
“Without psychological help, these people may suffer severely. Silence is a feedback mechanism to protect themselves against other people who may inflict more pain on them instead of helping.
At the same time, oppressive cultures may nip their voices so that they don’t subject the family or the community to shame,” she opines.
The psychologist admonishes that breaking the silence, however disgusting an ordeal had been, would be the first step to finding solutions and the healing process. Esther Muthini, a victim of GBV, agrees fully with the experts, saying that it is better off for people to know what you are going through instead of containing the turmoil that GBV vomits in your life.
“Report to the authorities or talk to people who can help,” she advises. “That is the only way you can save yourself and your children or whoever else is suffering as a result of you suffering.”
The law has provided an affable solution to GBV. However, not many Kenyans know what the law says. Jacqueline Ingutiah, a senior counsel with Fida admits that many women and men have not known how they are protected by the laws.
“Women and men should be bold and graceful in the war to uphold the dignity of all human beings,” Jacqueline says. “The law is there to protect everyone against violence of any kind. In the same breath, all of us should join in the war against GBV so that we can help those suffering in silence,” she adds.
Catherine says that like a disease, violence against a person may go over a threshold that may mean a lot can’t be salvaged. “The more you keep it inside without talking about it, the more it affects the subject. It’s a vice that is approached with a multi-pronged solution; the law, psychological assistance and intervention by family members,” she says.
Both Catherine and Ingutiah say that silence should be the only thing to fear in the fight against gender-based violence.