The rising trend of domestic conflicts that have seen family members kill each other in Kenya is worrying. This January, two women, Becky and Njambi faced death in the hands of their intimate partners - men they loved and fathers of their children.
I grew up in a home where domestic violence was the norm. My father would beat my mother. In anger she would flee to her parents for safety, and elders would be called to mediate. They would talk it out and she would come back home. I didn’t know that this would one day happen to me.
One time I had a disagreement with the father of my daughter over an issue we could have talked about and settled. The man hit me hard and injured my eye. After several such episodes, I realized that those were not good signs of a man I was intending to spend my life with. It dawned on me that domestic violence was not normal and I could do something about it.
I started my long and painful exit from the relationship. I wonder why men beat women. Faced with a similar scenario, the matriarch Muthoni Likimani asked: What does a man want?
Women should come out of their closets and say enough is enough. No woman should die at the hands of a man. Women need safe and secure environments in their homes and in the public.
Women are being socialized to be silent about domestic affairs. They are chastised for speaking about what transpires in the home. Some Gikuyu Catholic song praises the woman for her silence or for being the sponge that absorbs all that transpires in the home. This is unfair.
Women should not stick in violent relationships due to social or religious reasons. Women should learn to tell love from violence. If a man raises his voice or slaps you once, he is likely to do so again or inflict more harm. One should leave him at the first cock crow. If he cheats you once, he will do so again. Your health is endangered!
Women should not become marriage martyrs. Societal institutions, especially religeous outfits, should come out strongly and condemn domestic violence. They should start preaching to men instead of preparing tonnes of sermons that chastise women and blame them for most of the ills in the family.
Enough of this! No other woman should die.
Dr Njeri Kinyanjui
Institute of Development Studies,
The University of Nairobi.