'Kenyan men suffer silently in hands of brutal spouses'
HEALTH & SCIENCEBy MERCY ADHIAMBO AND GRAHAM KAJILWA | Sun,Mar 17 2019 00:00:00 EATBy MERCY ADHIAMBO AND GRAHAM KAJILWA | Sun,Mar 17 2019 00:00:00 EAT
Did you know that nearly half of men in Kenya have suffered the wrath of their women?
About 47.1 per cent of men have either been slapped or had an object thrown at them by an intimate partner.
According to a report conducted by the National Crime Research Centre last year, a big number of the male population has been victim of domestic violence. But they rarely talk about it.
The report further indicated that 5.9 per cent of the males have been kicked, dragged or beaten by their partners.
When his wife slashed his face with a knife after a quarrel over money, Peter Mulwa says he could not imagine the shame of walking around telling people that his wife had harmed him.
“I lied that I had cut myself while pruning. It was better than saying I had been cut by my wife. People at work would have said I am weak,” he says.
Lowered his status
As a manager for a start-up company, he felt admitting he was beaten by his wife would have lowered his status among peers.
Dan Matakaiya fidgets when he recounts how he lost his sight. In a police report, he recorded that his wife poured acid on his face; blinding him on impact. His face, he said, got scarred as a result of the violence.
It is five years since the incident which is on trial in court, and Mr Matakaiya has dedicated his time to talking about domestic violence, a subject rarely discussed in Kenyan households.
Faith Nafula, a psychiatrist, says while some cases of domestic violence can be as a result of a medical condition, catapulted by drug and substance abuse, some stem from marital issues that remain unsolved over the years.
“People are bottling up so much and don’t know how or whom to talk to about it,” she says. It is such bottling, she says, that ends up bursting into serious cases that can result into death.
“The challenge with marriage today is that every partner looks out for their own selfish interest and it becomes a competition of who wins whenever there is a disagreement,” she says.
Data shows while women’s vulnerability remained fairly constant, that of men increased over the years. It also paints an ironic picture of counties that are considered to have a higher education level such as Nairobi ranking high in violence against men, while North Eastern that has the highest number of illiteracy reporting lowest cases of domestic violence of both genders.
Maendeleo ya Wanaume chair Nderitu Njoka says most men are tortured by their partners ‘psychologically’ more than physically which leaves them depressed.
“We have a lot of men suffering in silence, men sleeping in their cars but they cannot tell anyone because once they speak out, they will be victimised more by their partners,” says Mr Njoka.
He says there are men walking with physical and emotional scars, but they are ashamed to talk about it.
Njoka’s list of emotional torture is endless: it includes denial of conjugal rights, or refusal by a woman to do ‘wifely’ duties like cooking or washing.
Ms Nafula, who has handled many cases of domestic violence during her counselling sessions believes that issues of gender based violence can be addressed once couples understand that marriage is team work that requires people to complement each other.
Macrine Aoko, a social worker in Nairobi, believes the problem stems from systems that make men believe they cannot speak out when they are hurting.
“Try an experiment as a man to post on social media that you are being beaten by your wife. People will ridicule you and even suggest that you man up,” she says.
She notes that the country does not have recognisable organisations that deal with issues of men and domestic violence.
Matakaiya says he is not in a hurry to remarry. The scars on his face and hands have not healed despite a series of skin transplants and surgeries some which failed, including one to open up his right nostril.
“The problem with us men is that we don’t share what we go through. The reason we do not share is because society has labeled us perpetrators, so when you come out to share you can be a laughing stock,” he says.
Matakaiya hopes to advocate against domestic violence. This, he says, will include rallying for policy change so that only regulated retailers and certified individuals can handle chemicals like acid.