As 2019 comes to a close gender based violence seems to have exponentially increased in Kenya, or maybe it is just better documented and reported.
It is a depressing trend that must be prevented and reversed by any means possible.
The faces of two beautiful children and their mother, whose lives are suspected to have been brought to a tragic end by their father in Nanyuki, will haunt many Kenyans as we move into 2020.
The public must also remember that for every case reported and brought to public attention, there are many more that remain unreported, especially if they do end in death, due to various social cultural norms and societal barriers.
VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN
There have also been cases of violence against men, and much as society always reverts to the non-solution based argument of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, violence against any gender is a dreadful human rights violation.
Unfortunately, Kenya is not unique. According to a World Bank report, violence against women and children, predominantly girls, is a world epidemic that affects one in three women.
This are staggering statics.
The thought that every time ten women are gathered anywhere for their famous chamas, three out of that number are likely to have experienced or will experience one form of violence or another.
According to the report, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced physical and or intimate partner violence. Of this number, seven per cent have been assaulted by someone other than their partner.
What society does not immediately take into account is that this violence has devastating social economic effects on nations.
In such instances, the survivors of the violence and their immediate families spend many hours of trauma, discussion, filing of police reports and where such violence is fatal, looking for bodies or attending to and paying for funeral services, post-mortems and other related services.
The government also spends substantial amounts of money and human resources on these crimes.
The report indicates that some countries in the world spend up to seven per cent of their GDP dealing with issues of violence related to women.
This percentage is much more than what many governments spend on public education and other essential services, such as health and sanitation.
Kenya, for example, spends an average of 5.6 per cent on education each year since 1971, in which the minimum of 3.1 per cent was incurred, with a maximum of 7.3 per cent being incurred in 2005.
According to the Ministry of Health’s health sector and investment plan (2014-2018), the required investment for health in Kenya would be at least 12 per cent of our GDP.
COMPETING WITH ESSENTIAL SERVICES
But the allocation given is consistently averaging about five per cent. So it might be that violence is competing and winning against essential services and development of nations now and in the future.
A more worrying concern is this violence, if not prevented, continues to affect the survivors, some of whom become perpetrators of violence in future.
A unique characteristic of gender-based violence is that it affects all socio-economic classes and is just as prevalent in underdeveloped as in developed countries.
A culture of violence against women, clearly slows economic growth and poverty eradication.
Rather than fall into paralysis with the grim facts, each person can make a small contribution to eradicating this vice.
Members of the public must be willing to be witnesses where such violence is meted in full public view. Each Kenyan has the personal responsibility of desisting from the social norm of shaming the victim and posting thoughts that have further negative impact on their lives and the situation.
Some countries have organised impressive non-violent demonstrations as a show of solidarity with victims of violence.
In Indian for example, five million women showed up and formed a human chain-link along highways in demonstration for equality. The demonstration was prompted by violence based on religious discrimination.
The judicial system, including probation officers, must continue to be sensitised on the plight and devastation of victims and give their needs utmost priority.
A recent report in the press indicated that a perpetrator had been given a lenient term because he had faced shame in the society. What about the life-long shame of the victim, who is a minor? How can shame be a deterrent for human rights abuses?