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Why women endure gender-based violence

Gender-based violence awareness in Migori county. [Courtesy]

While counting the incidents she has witnessed, Florence Imondo narrates how she had met with women at Angengo village who have been abused.

Imondo, who is a Community Health Volunteer, notes that during her visits to homes in her village, she meets women who have either been physically or sexually abused by their spouses.

Most of the time, the women would have visible bruises and sometimes cuts on their bodies.

Imondo says she has made several attempts to help the women get help and report the abuses to police but they are usually reluctant as they fear what would happen after reporting their spouses.

“Here in Anjego village, our women are beaten by their spouses and are sometimes forced into sex by their spouses. We fear reporting these cases as we fear being chased away by the families,” Imondo says.

She adds that it is in the same village that children are physically and sexually abused even by their parents.

In most family setups in the village, women are the ones who work to provide for their families and when they come back home tired and refuse to have sex with their spouses they are beaten and even cut.

“As community health volunteers, we get such cases and tell such women to go and get treated and report to the police but only a few do so,” Imondo states.

The same happens in Kuria where women are left to fend for their families as they are at the same time battered by their spouses.

For Rachael Chacha (not her real name), she has been providing for her family and, whenever she makes a small mistake, her husband beats her up.

The 30-year-old woman says that whenever her children need anything, they would run to her as they would be turned away by their father.

Rachael, who has withstood an abusive marriage for close to seven years, says she does not report the abuse because she is afraid. 

“We suffer as Kuria women. We cannot report them because we ask ourselves who we will turn to at the end of the day if our husbands are jailed,” Rachael says.

According to Joseph Nkonya who is the Champion for Disabled Persons chairperson in Kuria West, these women fear reporting the abuse they get in their homes because there are no witness protection agencies around the areas where they come from.

“We have never seen them. This makes these women die with their problems. There are also men who are being abused in their homes and, as men, they keep it to themselves,” Mr Nkonya says.

According to Nkonya, the women, disabled and men who are abused continue to suffer in silence.

Gender-based violence cases are said to escalate during the festive season with alcohol being blamed on the GBV cases.

Men are said to be battering their wives after drinking sprees.

Vivian Anyango, a young mother from Kakrao ward says that women from the area experience physical abuse but fear to report.

“We experience sexual violence but we keep quiet about it,” Anyango says.

She notes that many young mothers like her fear to speak out about violence meted on them for fear of being rejected by family members or being chased away from their matrimonial homes.

Lydia Ombati, who is a nurse in charge of Anjego Dispensary, says that since the outbreak of Covid-19, the dispensary has witnessed many cases of GBV especially from young mothers and pregnant teenagers.

She says that whenever these women and girls visit the dispensary, she encourages them to report these matters to local authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are arrested.

According to the nurse, mothers between the ages of 16 to 24 have been coming to the dispensary with bruises on their faces and private parts from physical and sexual violence.

“We have been teaching these young mothers on issues of GBV and how to avoid them,” Ms Ombati says.

According to data from UN women’s global database on violence against women, about 40.7 per cent of women experience lifetime physical or intimate partner violence.

The data shows that, in the last 12 months, 25.5 per cent of women had experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence.

Hamisi Hassan who is a "Send A Cow" Project Facilitator says majority of teenage mothers are forced to live with their partners due to lack of income subjecting them to physical and sexual violence.

Hassan who is also in charge of gender and social inclusion at "Send A Cow" notes that GBV is an impediment to societal development which needs to be eradicated for the betterment of society.

While acknowledging that gender-based violence has caused unnecessary pain among families, Hassan says depression, broken families, early marriages, and teenage pregnancies it brings are not conducive to livelihood development.

“Some of this gender-based violence has been propagated because women have no food or income making them vulnerable to abuse and violence from their husbands,” Hassan says.

He says the issue of gender-based violence should be collaborative to ensure that proper awareness is achieved and actions executed.

In March this year, Migori County launched Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Violence County Policy that was meant to curb women violence, early marriages, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and teenage pregnancies.