With the string of gruesome and senseless killings, concern has peaked in the country on the safety of women who seem to be the main casualties.
At least 20 people, majority of them women and girls, have in recent months been killed by people they were close to, according to media accounts. Data from police shows there were 2,774 homicides in 2017, an increase from the previous years and counting.
In a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2018, Kenya was shown to be among countries with the highest cases of female homicides.
The 2018 ‘Global Study on Homicide: Gender-Related Killings of Women and Girls’ showed women are far more likely to die at the hands of someone they know.
According to the report, 38.5 per cent of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 in Kenya have experienced physical violence at least once in their lifetime, while 24 per cent experienced physical violence in 2018.
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This is not all. Technology has aided this trend with increasing numbers of women reporting cyber-bullying and abuse through social media and smart phones, while in other instances, jilted lovers expose nude pictures of their ex-girlfriends on social media platforms in what they call “revenge porn”.
As I have argued in this column before, all these happenings are due to the sudden change that has happened in society.
Specifically, aren’t the empowerment of the girl child and the subsequent effects of a neglected boy child not the labor pains we are experiencing now?
We must have missed the point long ago when we started, or is it joined and insisted on gender equality. And now, the intersection between modernity and traditional practices which has thrown the boy child into a wilderness of identity is creating a totally unexpected terrain: social violence and turmoil of all forms.
When I was growing up, a man was supposed to be stoic, strong and forbearing.
Today, the message we are passing around for all who care to listen is that what a boy can do, a girl can do better.
Instead of working on the inherent strengths in both, the current rhetoric sets them in competition. But this fallacious, if not misconstrued misnomer indicates that a boy does not need direction. He can do things on his own and doesn’t need someone to walk with through the tumult of adolescence like a girl.
In any situation, he is the aggressor and an impediment, if not an enemy of a girl’s success. This is how the problem started.
Truly, the place of the boy child in the society is changing at a terrifying pace. Due to this situation, young boys and men in Kenya have turned to other things to seek for role models and gratification.
Video games have become an enchanting alternative for fantasies. Drug abuse is all over.
Given the choice between traditional schoolwork and exciting and varied video games there’s no contest. Excessive and isolated porn use has become a new challenge among boys and, sadly, even some parents.
What this means is that boys or young men aren’t sure what it means to be a man, that the people that need to be showing them the way aren’t available guides, and it’s affecting their ability to succeed.
And fathers have dropped the ball. They are busy chasing elusive things and running away from reality. In fact, ‘fatherlessness’ in Kenya is increasing at an alarming rate.
That’s why the percentage of children in Kenya being born to single mothers is on the increase and nothing giving. But even for those with fathers, research indicates that the average school-age boy in Kenya spends half an hour a week or less in one-to-one conversation with his father.
The fact is that boys aren’t spending enough time with fathers or mentors. At this rate, soon, boys are going to have less education than their fathers. And they will fizzle into oblivion leaving the “successful” ladies to “run” themselves. A real challenge.
The current generation of boys and young men need more real male role models, courageous, compassionate and heroic ones. It is in the interest of women for the boys to succeed too, because they will need responsible men in future to marry and even work with. Otherwise, where will they go after all that success with lowly men?
Girl child empowerment seems to have taken the center stage in all aspects of life and have overshadowed boy child empowerment as the society seems to be more inclined to supporting girls more than boys. But the effects of this long-term campaign without a strategy will soon hit us all like thunderbolt. Its time parents begun to raise daughters more like their sons, and sons more like their daughters.
Prof. Mogambi, Communication and Social Change Expert, teaches at the University of Nairobi.hmogambi @ yahoo.co.uk