The role of culture, beliefs and practices

(This is an excerpt taken from my research published in 2015 concerning violence against children in Kenya. I have included one aspect of the risk factors for discussion here.)

In my recent research (Omolo 2015) on violence against children in Kenya, a number of adult respondents argued that violence against children is accelerated by the communities’ perceptions about the social status of women and children in the society. Thus, domestic violence is seen as one way the men attempt to assert their masculine authority on the family and upon which they define the status and responsibility level of women and children. As such, the views and thoughts of women and children are rarely considered while decisions that concerns the family or the surrounding neighbourhood is made. A respondent explained that:

“… the culture treats the child and the women as objects of male domination. So the culture recognizes the man as the human being [superior] and goes ahead to give the man the authority to misuse that power [against children and women].”

In addition, the ‘individualization’ of the practice of child rearing has exposed children to increased violence. In the past, in the Luo communities (River-Lake Nilotic group found at the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania), when children were being beaten (‘disciplined’) by their parents, they would run to the neighbour who would walk them back to the home and plead with the parents not to beat them anymore. In such circumstances, chances were that the parents would oblige and the beating would not be continued. However, such practices are long gone and the children have no one to run to or nobody to plead for them. This has resulted in the increase of repeated beatings experienced by the children. Unrealistic beliefs and practices such as female genital mutilation, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” are repeatedly used as a justification for unfair and despicable behaviours against children and women. Besides, the girls bear the brunt of most of the violation because they are considered weak, vulnerable and do not have adequate protection.

Based on your practice or concrete life-experience, which measures can you suggests so as to effectively deal with such retrogressive beliefs and cultural practices?

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