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Should battered men go public or suffer in silence?

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ILLUSTRATION/ JOSEPH BARAZA

ILLUSTRATION/ JOSEPH BARAZA 



Posted  Tuesday, February 21  2012 at  17:25

I have been reading stories in the local press about men being beaten by their wives — and going public about it.

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I am not sure whether this helps the men to heal emotionally, or whether it is going to subject them to ridicule.

My feeling is that it might do more harm than good to their well being.

What is your take doctor? Should they speak out or take the beating in silence?

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One of the most misunderstood and often abused concepts in African traditional beliefs in the act of men beating or “disciplining” their wives.

Today, many are horrified at the possibility that one adult (male) was permitted by custom to beat another adult for any transgression the man felt demanded such a beating.

My understanding of African customary law is that the most basic of rules in the relationship between men and women is that of mutual respect in marriage and total acceptance of the different and complimentary roles that each plays for the interest of the family and community.

In his classic book, Facing Mt Kenya, the late president Jomo Kenyatta comments on this issue.

“When a wife is ill-treated by her husband, she has the right to return to her father for protection,” he wrote.

“Among the Gikuyu, divorce is very rare because of the fact that a wife is regarded as the foundation rock on which a homestead is built.

"Without her the homestead is broken and therefore it is only when all efforts to keep the husband and wife together have failed that an action of divorce can be taken,” he added.

Bedrock of society

My reading of the foregoing is that traditional society recognised women as the bedrock of society and any attempt to suggest that men were allowed to beat women at will fails to recognise the central role they played as wives and mothers.

We get another glimpse of the nature of the relationship between men and women from the writings of Wole Soyinka
Chume, a character in The Trials of Brother Jero, seeks crooked Prophet Jeroboam’s permission to beat his wife.

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