Boys exposed to violence likely to become offenders - UN Women

Factors increasing violence against women and children can be communal, interpersonal, societal and individual.

In Summary

• One in five Kenyan men has experienced violence before attaining the age of 18. 

• Gender norms that uphold male privilege and limit women’s autonomy contribute to violence against women and children.

Figurine of an abused woman
Figurine of an abused woman

Boys exposed to abuse are more likely to perpetrate violence against women and children in the future, UN Women says.

In their latest brief on violence against women and children and Covid-19, the organisation said though violence against women and children is often addressed independently, they have common risk factors and social norms that drive both practices. 

"The ripple effect of abuse by boys is characterised under inter-generational effects," the brief reads.

According to UN Women, violence against women and children intersects in co-occurrence which refers to abuse against women and children happening in the same household. 

Others include common and compounding consequences and adolescence which refers to a period where individuals are neither regarded as children nor adults. 

"Violence against women and girls takes place at alarming rates across countries in normal times. The magnitude of violence against women and girls indicates that this is not a product of random acts by a few bad actors," the brief reads. 

"Such violence, intentionally committed, is a product of power and control, stemming from inequality between men and women."

According to the Gender-Based Violence Recovery Centre, one in five Kenyan males has experienced an episode of sexual violence before attaining age 18. 

An estimated 3,000 survivors of violence report every year with men being the main perpetrators. 

Additionally, the female population is most affected with 56 per cent women and 36 per cent girls reporting violent incidences. 

There are several factors that increase the vulnerability of women and children further exposing them to violence.

The factors could be communal, interpersonal, societal and individual.

"Communal factors include harmful gender norms that uphold male privilege and limit women’s autonomy, high levels of poverty and unemployment, high rates of violence and crime, and availability of drugs, alcohol and weapons," the brief says.

Societal factors include discriminatory laws on property ownership, marriage, divorce and child custody, low levels of women’s employment and education, absence of enforcement of laws addressing violence and gender discrimination in institutions.

"Interpersonal factors include high levels of inequality in relationships, male-controlled relationships, dependence on the partner, men’s multiple sexual relationships and men’s use of drugs and harmful use of alcohol." 

Childhood experiences of violence or exposure to violence in the family, mental disorders, attitudes condoning or justifying violence as normal or acceptable are some of the individual factors encouraging violence.

"During times of crisis, violence against women and girls increases. Pandemics, such as Covid-19, create challenging conditions that increase the risks of violence against women and girls.”

Pandemics also challenge the implementation of violence prevention programmes. 

According to the organisation, evidence-based strategies demonstrate that it is possible to reduce rates of intimate partner and sexual violence by promoting gender equality. 

Gender equality can be achieved through laws, policies, systems and structures, strengthening relationships and empowering women.

"Others include ensuring the availability of services such as mental health and substance abuse counselling, reducing poverty at the community and household level, making environments such as public spaces, schools and workplaces safer, preventing childhood and adolescent abuse and transforming attitudes, beliefs and social norms.

Edited by R.Wamochie