• Violence may start with something as 'little' as verbal abuse and evolve to severe battery.
• Subjecting girls to early marriage denies them bargaining power for safe sex, equal treatment.
Many adolescents suffer violence in Kenya and a few admit that they have been violated. This is because society always blames the woman, asking, ‘why didn’t you leave the abusive relationship?’
This is, however, not easy because some of them were subjected to child marriage and only have their husband to rely on for a living. Most of these marriages come with verbal abuse which eventually evolves to severe beatings.
A high prevalence of violence is linked with higher rates of HIV infections, early pregnancies and forced child marriages. Gender-based violence reduces the bargaining power to negotiate safe sex, stay on treatment or remain in school. Movements to end violence such as #TotalShutdownKe and #HerLifeMatters continue to amplify the voices of girls and young women.
Cultural norms often dictate that men are aggressive, controlling and dominant while women are submissive and docile and rely on men as providers. There is a need to implement laws and policies that are against gender-based violence. We should mobilise youths to fight harmful practices such as child marriage which denies girls the right to make vital decisions about their bodies, well-being and future.
Quality access to information and services would greatly help youths make good decisions about their sexuality. Bad decisions force girls out of school and into a life of poor prospects with an increased risk of violence and ill health. As we celebrate the 16 days of activism, we should listen to girls’ experiences of violence and find solutions.
We should offer immediate counselling once someone has reported a case of violence. The government should also play its role by ensuring women get justice if violated.
Naya Kenya, Nairobi