Experts: Law is not fair to abused women - Daily Nation

Experts: Law is not fair to abused women

Sunday August 5 2018

domestic violence

A couple enacts domestic violence. A psychologist, says the inability by young families to handle marital and parenting issues are to blame for the increase in domestic violence, resulting in separation, murder or suicide. PHOTO | FILE |NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The footage of a helpless Winfred Mwende lying on a dusty road as her husband David Nzomo rains blows and kicks on her has been the subject of feverish debate in the past week.

Residents of Kyaaka village, Makueni County witnessed the horror without intervening. The most some could do was urge Mr Nzomo to stop beating his wife.

But is wife-beating unusual in Kenya?

While the brutality witnessed is inexcusable, domestic violence takes place in many households, except that it is never captured on camera.


While men and women suffer domestic violence globally, research has shown that 85 percent of the victims are usually women.

In Kenya, 40 per cent of all married women have been abused at one point or another in their relationship, a figure that is higher that the global average of 30 per cent.

So, what exactly feeds the evil of domestic violence? Are the laws lax? Experts agree that domestic violence is a complex social subject whose solution does not lie in the law.


Ms Gladys Chania, a psychologist, says the inability by young families to handle marital and parenting issues are to blame for the increase in domestic violence, resulting in separation, murder or suicide.

“Most young people getting into marriage and parenthood are unaware of the challenges that await them. Parents are to blame for not adequately counselling and preparing their children for marriage,” she told the Sunday Nation.

“Young married people are, therefore, clueless on how to handle problems.”

Dr Margaret Kisutsa, a consulting psychologist, agrees.


“In many families, the man and his wife are employed. In such situations, the husband is likely to feel that his needs are not being met, which may lead to rows, especially if the couple does not adjust quickly to such circumstances,” Dr Kisutsa said.

The experts say severe penalties do little to deter would-be villains, adding that Kenyans lack faith in counselling and pressure to contain problems within the family.

They add that the absence of a law that addresses domestic violence is another reason for domestic violence.

Ms Patricia Kameri-Mbote, a scholar, attributes the escalation of domestic violence to negligence by the government and lack of structures that address the scourge.


“The doctrine of privacy, especially in the home, is sadly invoked by the State in its refusal to act,” she said.

Ms Kameri-Mbote adds that while the Constitution protects men and women from inhuman treatment or torture, the law does not explicitly protect women and girls against domestic violence.

Experts say a woman’s ability to flee or avoid domestic violence is often directly entwined with her level of economic security or vulnerability.

In 2017, Ms Anne Waithera (not her real name) became pregnant a few months before graduating from the University of Nairobi.

The 23-year-old mother of one has been in a marriage characterised by physical and verbal assaults.


“My husband is a taxi driver. Sometimes he comes back home late and angry for no reason. He has been beating me from the time I gave birth,” she told the Sunday Nation.

When Ms Waithera fled to her parents’ home in Nyeri early this year, her mother told her to go back to her husband, saying she did not have the means to take care of her daughter and grand-daughter.

Unfortunately, Ms Waithera’s return only made matters worse.

“I endure the beatings since I have nowhere else to go to. I have no job so I depend on him,” Ms Waithera said.

Sometimes referred to as intimate partner violence, it may take different forms, including physical, emotional, verbal, sexual and economic assault.


Ms Chania said most families are in financial distress, adding that failure to cope with the aftermath of loss of income or collapse of business only accelerates emotional distress.

This form of violence, however, transcends the economic well-being, and is one of the biggest and most stubborn social phenomenon even in the developed world.

In 2017, more than 1.9 million cases of domestic violence were reported in the United Kingdom.

This staggering statistics rose by more than 40 per cent during the World Cup.


Dr Kisutsa disagrees with the notion that domestic violence only occurs in marriage.

“We have heard of university students killing one another,” she said.

She cites background as a factor that significantly influences the type of spouse one eventually becomes, adding that a child from a family with a history of violence is mentally predisposed to become an abusive adult.

“Couples should avoid arguing as their children watch. Whenever there is a dispute between them, it advisable to resolve it in private,” she advises.