Violence Against Women
MetadataShow full item record
Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of interest in gender issues. However, gender violence has been side stepped in most discussions yet the media and off side talks are replete with stories on domestic and other forms of violence. One form of gender violence recurrent in most of such discussions is violence on women. Violence on women 1 is increasingly now seen as acts and threats that discriminate against women, and processes that are ostensibly geared towards subjugation of women. That is all acts that negatively affects women's emotions, mental, physical, economic or social conditions. Rape, murder and battery are the most common forms of physical violence. Violence against women is not restricted to only physical violence but also structural violence. The latter influence psychological and societal attitudes that view women as inferior to men. Violence on women is rampant in most parts of the world and yet it remains largely hidden in the hearts of those affected. For this reason it is difficult to get data on the types and prevalence of violence on women. This is partly attributed to the social stigma associated with 1 Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or in private life (UN, 1992). 2 some types of violence, for example rape and incest. In both cases the question of (young) age has been serious with young persons who can not defend themselves being defiled. Victims of rape and incest suffer psychologically and do not reveal the offence. What is even more worrying in the case of Kenya is the inability of institutions dealing with violence on women to keep records. During rapid appraisal of violence on women in Nairobi, Central and Nyanza provinces the author experienced the lack of records, and reluctance to provide information. An explanation to this may be the lack of importance placed on violence on women and the inherent patriarchal cultural values. Cases of violence on women are evident in newspaper reports and word of mouth. Phases such as; `man struggled girl 9 to death', man made standard four girl pregnant, `suspect caught defiling girl, 6', 100 year old suitor for 10 year old girl' are common in courts and newspapers. In the first half of 1996, 379 cases of defilement were reported ; whereas in 1995, 1994 and 1993, there were 572, 513, 546 cases of defilement respectively. It is sad to note that the youngest victim of defilement on record was a mere eight month old baby (Coalition on Violence Against women, 1996). Violence is not only inflicted on women, violence on men by women as well as violence between and among women is 3 not ruled out. It might even be more appropriate to talk of gender violence. However, it has been observed that women also perpetrate violence but not as they are victims of it. In cases where women are involved in violence against men, it is usually in self defence. Additionally, violence on men rarely results in injury as does violence against women (Olawale, 1996). It has also been noted that in homes where men are violently attacked by women the men do not have to live in fear as women victimised by male violence do (UN, 1993; Plecks et al 1993; Steinmety, 1978). These factors provide a justification for focusing on aspects of violence relating to women. Recognition of gender violence as a social problem emerged within the broad context of feminist activism and research on issues related to the social status of women and their right to participation. This was initially led by European and North American feminist theorists and activists. Knowledge and pressure generated drew the attention of United Nations , and consequently the UN World Conference, and International Women's and Human Rights Movement. This resulted in declaring violence against women a violation of human rights. There have also been special conferences such as United Nations 1975 Women's Decade, UN 1985 Women's Mid Decade and the 1995 Women's Conference in Beijing dedicated to gender issues. The pioneering knowledge and pressure on violence against women and other gender issues was largely restricted to 4 the western world. The rest of the world, especially Africa and Asia begun attending to gender issues (including violence against women) after the UN Women's Decade Conference of 1975. The conference and subsequent ones, generated research issues, debate and establishment of institutional structures on gender and development. Studies done indicate that the contribution of women in development is enormous but remains unrecorded and unrecognised. Additionally, a number of rights of women are being violated and hence the violence inflicted to many women across the world. In Africa violence on women has historically been condoned with some societies institutionalising it. African practices and values have been viewed as escalators of gender conflict. A number of communities tend to socialise individuals to condone gender violence against women, with a large majority of women accepting the situation as given. Although many women organizations have been calling for review and enactment of laws to guard against gender violence, the problem seems to lie on social, cultural, economic and legal systems. Of these factors, the socio-cultural changes pose a major problem and must prelude or at any rate support change of laws, if the society is to effectively address the question of violence on women.