Kenya: The Term 'GBV' is Unfair to Men, Says Male Rights' Champion

Daniel Macharia recalls how he was driven to depression, even harboured suicidal thoughts in his short-lived first marriage that was characterized by all manners of verbal insults from his former wife. After their church held marriage ceremony, it was not to a good footing the pair began their married life together for his spouse's true colours manifested shortly.

The father of three and a resident of Nakuru County village, who is currently in a stable union after he remarried, attributes his woes to not understanding his first spouse better. Their marriage fell apart after two years.

"The first few months were good before her demeaning verbal abuses became the order of the day. We hardly had peace in the house," says the man in his mid-40s.

Ordinarily, Mr Macharia would have been a laughing stock of the village as one unable to 'man up' and reign over his spouse.

Cases abound of men in abusive unions who would rather not speak up or seek counselling for the fear of being stigmatised by their peers. It is no wonder many have sunk into alcoholism as a way of escapism or nursing their frustrations, than seek help with depression claiming lives of some. The worse is when one partner cannot take it anymore and inflicts grievous harm on the other or even takes own life in the process.

Pushed to the corner

Samuel Karanja, who heads Ladder of Hope Kenya Organisation, which also goes by another name as BoyChild Pillar Organisation, and which fights for the rights of the boy child (men), notes than men have been pushed to the corner and have decided to fake comfort though they are dying on the inside.

He believes there is no fairness when it comes to gender-based violence as this term is used to connote that men are the aggressors when there are men who are suffering at the hands of their wives.

"Most men are wounded but society has decided to give them a blind eye," he says.

A case where a man batters a woman will get immediate attention than if it was the other way round. Even if a man would report his abusive wife, it is unlikely he would be believed. Mr Karanja notes that even the police have been made not to believe that men can be recipients of aggravated battery from women, and this has led to more males being vulnerable.

"This perception needs to be changed. It is time for men to scream from the rooftops. It is time to empower the boy child and secure the society," he says.

He points out that some of the laws Parliament has passed are unfavourable towards men.

"Men have been tricked into passing Acts of Parliament, which have worked against the boy child and favoured the girl child."

He blames this on donors who have poured money to throw the man off the track.

"Men have decided to bury their woes and worries in illicit liquor dens instead of hitting back on these evil plans," he says.

African cultures

But Lucy Jonsson, a counsellor with Doors of Love organisation, based in Nakuru, differs. She says there are few factors that have made men suffer silently at the hands of their abusive spouses.

"Many African cultures have it that men should be strong and not show their weaknesses. It is no wonder there are many who are suffering physical or verbal assaults or abuses from their better halves but put on a false image conveying that all is well," she says.

African men, she notes, have been taught that a man should not cry, show any emotion or speak up his frustrations otherwise, he would be considered as a weak cry baby even be stigmatised by his peers.

"They cannot talk their problems out to anybody, even to their fellow men, as they can be laughed at or not be taken seriously. That is why you hear such a man is questioned as to why a woman can beat him so easily. In such a case, the man tends to show off as strong and keep his frustrations to himself and this leads to depression and many other diseases or sicknesses and eventually that person can develop mental illness," she says.

Also the society has not been fair to a victimized man as it will regard him as a very weak person.

"Men fear what people will say concerning them so there is this part of the society that will condemn them as weak and this is what makes many not to speak up or seek counselling," she says.

Male victims of gender-based violence, she adds, also tend to exhibit low self-esteem. They cannot believe in themselves.

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