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Gender Based Violence No laughing Matter

During this year’s 16 days of activism against gender based violence, I would want to take the readers back in 2015 of horrifying stories on how gender based violence affects the society. With all focus on women, this piece contradicts the focus and puts the shift to men based violence. However, the content resonates with abuses carried out in daily life today.


A picture from young people in Mombasa advocating for a GBV free society

In the year 2015 the nation woke up to the ‘humorous’ news that a man had his penis chopped off after alleged night of drinking. But this wasn’t the first reported cause of a crime so horrifying. In the usual Kenyan way we tried falling over ourselves with creative hash tags and memes on social media while exchanging pictures of the severed organ on our Whatsapp groups. They would have passed as funny had this incidence not been so grave.

Even Google wasn’t left behind. Try goggling Nyeri man and see the suggestion that the search agenda puts forward. Nyeri man beaten by wife, Nyeri man battered, Nyeri man chicken among others. The converse is true when you search Nyeri women. The suggestions are of battery and now most recently bobbiting.

Gender based violence, especially against men isn’t treated with the same ire and scorn that perpetrators of gender based violence against women are forced to. Why? Is it because our men are strong and thus can protect themselves against such ‘little’ crimes? Or is it because we are still stuck in a society that has given the man the ‘makmende’ status while seeing ladies as frail and weak beings who are harmless and thus need our assistance.

Am not saying gender based violence against women isn’t happening. In fact, according to a UNFPA report, three out of ten ladies have experienced some form of gender based violence. The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health survey puts it at four out of ten women. But, regardless of the gender of the victim, gender based violence is uncouth, barbaric, outdated and should be castigated with the same glee we rush to create ‘funny’ #Nyerification hash tags

While striving to rid our nation and our world of this practice, we need to stop limiting gender based violence to just a man beating a wife or in the context of a Nyeri man being beaten by his wife. Gender based violence is bigger than that.

Whereas physical violence is the most observed form of gender based violence, other subtle forms of these violence are equally harmful if not more disastrous. Many people experience emotional and psychological violence without even realizing it. Sometimes their value is demeaned, or they are forced to accept certain behavior as cool or their choices and opinions are restricted in relationships. Others experience economic violence where they are prevented from accessing fundamental resources including food, shelter and clothing in an attempt to control them.

The most known though is sexual violence. A day in Kenya is not complete until the news of a child defiled by the uncle or the teacher is out, an old woman taken advantage of by a young man or a young boy sodomised by the house help. But it doesn’t stop here. How many times have we heard of men and women withholding sex? How about marital rape? Is it happening or so long as two people are legally married then it stops being rape?

What of retrogressive cultural practices like forced marriages and female genital mutilation? What of threats of violence, abduction and trafficking of persons? Are they happening in our society?

Then and only then will we be able to cast this dark practice to the dark history where it truly belongs


Evans Ouma

Stretchers Youth Organization

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