The story of 16 year old, Khadija, adds to the long list of tales about gender based violence (GBV) and underage marriages in Kenya. Her story has led to outcries for justice both on social (#justiceforKhadija) and traditional media. Forced into marriage in 2014 at the age of 16, Khadija’s story made it to the light after she was admitted at the Mandera General hospital having been beaten unconscious and burnt by her husband.
This is just a tip of the iceberg to the many unreported cases of gender based violence in Kenya and leads us to question whether anything can be done to stop such cases from happening. Each year the debate on GBV is held as new cases come up with cries for stricter legislation to punish the perpetrators.
But, will we be able to fight GBV if we do not attack part of the root cause i.e our cultures and the patriarchal system they promote? I am not an expert on the matter but it’s clear to see that as long as women are not viewed equal in the eyes of society then cases of gender based violence will keep coming up.
As with Khadija’s case, the neighbors knew for a while that she was being beaten by her husband but chose to do nothing. By the time someone reported the situation it had moved too far. Now this young lady might never get her life back.
Each and everyday an act of violence on the basis of gender happens and most of these are done by people close to the victim protected by “law” and tradition. If we are to end these acts of violence then there needs to be serious discourse about the role that culture and traditions play to this and after this we need to reflect and think of better ways to end GBV.