The International Conference on Population Development (ICPD 25), concluded two weeks ago, served as a spotlight event to rekindle debate around the topics of gender, population and equality. Women form the crux of all these topics.
In the wake of the event’s deliberations, an incident highlighted in the local media last week where a supermarket attendant was captured on video assaulting a female colleague, highlights one of the conference’s concerns: violence against women.
By definition, this is unwarranted, unjustified and unexplainable excessive physical force or verbal utterances meant to demean, undermine or position as inferior a person of the female gender. Majority of such acts occur either at the workplace or in the homestead.
While the former seems to be reducing in occurrence, assault in the domestic front still happens quite a lot, unfortunately.
Depending on income, culture, age, family structure and other socioeconomic variables, its prevalence varies across regions and setups. There is also quite a variation from urban and rural areas.
One of the parameters assessed by the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014 was violence against women and the probability of a female household member being physically assaulted. The findings reveal a mixed pattern, with occurrence also tied to the years a couple has been in marital union. What was not assessed however is the timing of the violence. According to one activist, pregnancy and family planning are some of the commonest triggers of violence.
This despite, such decisions being also within the women’s domain of choice to have a say in their reproductive health matters. For pregnancy in particular, conceiving at the “wrong” time, inability to conceive or refusing to abort or aborting have been cited as recurring reasons that could trigger such violence.
Similarly, decisions on utilisation of family planning services, insistence of the sexual partner to wear a condom are also violence triggers around intimate partner violence. Across Western nations, strides have been made in eliminating this behaviour. Why does it still continue despite advances in rights and awareness and acceptance of gender equality?
Sociologists point out the perseveration of cultural patriarchal family structures and norms as a reason. There is also a socioeconomic angle, in quite a few of cases. Financial strain at the family level has been noted to be a trigger, particularly where the female partner has lower or “no” contribution to the family financial basket.
The latter reasoning has however gained disfavor with new thinking placing economic value for the work women do in the households. Chores traditionally deemed as customary are now valued and a premium pegged on these hours.
This shows that though many African family setup women are deemed as non-financial contributors to the households, they could in fact be bringing in more to the table. What is needed now is more advocacy on legal implementation of legislation fighting such behaviours.