Heading to Kawangware from town the Sunday before last, a colleague on the Kenya Forum shared a matatu with some jubilant AFC Leopards dressed in Ingwe jerseys who were coming from the Nyayo Stadium after their club beat Mathare United 2-0 in a thrilling match.
The jubilant Leopard fans chanted, sang and cracked jokes as the matatu navigated the streets of Nairobi. Being a Luhya supported club, they joked about how they ‘pinched’ their rivals noses, relating to the incident that happened at the Village Market where suspended Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Barasa (a Luhya) allegedly pinched a security guard’s nose.
One joke however, caught the Forum correspondent’s attention when one of the guys jokingly shouted to the driver, “Tafadhali harakisha kwa sababu wengine wetu bibi zetu ni wa Nyeri!” (“Please speed up because some of us our wives are from Nyeri!”).
This is just an example of what has been the talk of the town, “husband battering”, which has lead to the stereotyping of Kikuyu ladies, especially those from Nyeri. Though it’s a serious issue, it has remained a topic for jokes and the reason why men suffer in silence.
SERIOUS SOCIAL PROBLEM OR MEDIA HYPE?
It’s hard to know whether cases of husband battering have been on the rise in the past few weeks especially in central Kenya, or just the media interest on the subject has been on the rise. The media has certainly been awash with stories of women battering their husbands sparking public debate especially in the social media.
The truth is that domestic violence against men has been going on since time immemorial, it’s just that in recent days, due to provocation, men have come out and spoken about it. Most of them have been silent in the past to avoid shame and being laughed at by their friends.
Statistics released last year suggested that as many as 460,000 men in Nairobi and Central region have been abused by their wives. It appears like the wave of violence by wives against husbands is also spreading to other parts of the country like a bush fire (or again the reporting of it is spreading). It was reported that men in Taita Taveta on the Coast in particular, also suffer in the hands of their wives.
HUSBANDS NOT PERFORMING ‘FAMILY DUTIES’
The women say it’s not their fault. Husbands have been accused of not performing their family duties while over indulging in alcohol leaving all the responsibilities to their wives. Speaking to The Star, Murang’a County Council Chairman, Martin Mwangi said: “We are shocked by the news but is not a surprise since men in this area have become lazy to an extent that they are fed and dressed up by their wives.”
Alcoholism takes the most blame. Even when Mututho Laws to regulate alcohol drinking came into place, it seems like it has only worsened the situation. John Githinji, a village elder from Othaya who spoke to The Star said: “It seems there is ignorance of our culture and most women want to dominate men. Our culture has been thrown to the dogs. I don’t see this vice of men being battered by their wives ending soon”
So, “husband battering”: serious social issue or media hype and an excuse for coarse humour? You’ve got to laugh but the Kenya Forum thinks there is a serious side to this subject.
OUR CHANGING SOCIETY
Our society has changed from the traditional African family which was more organised and well defined. In the past, society was based more on the extended family which also involved the grandparents whose responsibility was to instill values into the young ones. In that society everyone knew their roles and performed them accordingly. The husband was the head of the family and was expected to provide for the family and protect them as well. Those days, a woman was not allowed to go for a job and she could not pursue her studies after certain level. She was a caretaker of the house. Her main job was to take care of the children, and her parents-in-law, cooking and other house related work. A wife beating her husband was unthinkable. There was natural respect between the husband, wife and children.
Slowly the traditional family setup started diminishing. Women started looking for employment like men and there was a growing demand for equality in opportunities between men and women. Some men lost their feeling of self-worth. For good or ill, the traditional extended family as the basis for our society, broke down.
John Githinji added; “We have seen many programmes being initiated by the government which have empowered women economically while men have been sidelined. Women have become dominant economically while the desperate men have gone to bars and illicit brew dens.”
ARE WE LOSING OUR MEN?
The Kenya Forum asks: Are we losing our men? Is the boy child now an endangered species? Are the government and NGO’s focusing too much on women empowerment and the development of the girl child thus forgetting about the boy child?
Even as you could understand the reason why women have turned against their husbands in a violent manner, the Forum does not agree with their actions as it is also illegal, just as we do not agree with husbands “battering” their wives.
The Forum feels that for this to stop it’s important that the government and institutions give equal attention to the male youth as they do to the female. It’s also imperative that attention be given to the boy child as they are the future husbands and fathers.