HIV linked to surge in gender-based violence in Africa

A new report has linked HIV and AIDS as one of the leading causes of gender-based violence, not only in Kenya but across Africa.

A new report has linked HIV and AIDS as one of the leading causes of gender-based violence, not only in Kenya but across Africa.

According to the Status of gender-based violence report by Peace Initiative Kenya, there is a rising tendency among spouses to blame each other for the spread of HIV and AIDS within the family.

The findings suggest a male partner living with HIV is likely to show new levels of aggression, a trend that appears to indicate that homes are no longer safe for women and girls.

Stigma leads to aggression

The Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya, which has done similar studies, say the aggressiveness could be flared owing to frustrations borne out of stigma and discrimination.

“The irony of the situation is even more pronounced when we consider that most people will think of an evil stranger attacking women and girls, mostly when they venture from the safe home environment to the streets or farmlands,” says the report, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Police sources, quoted by the report, list the HIV status of a spouse as a leading cause of gender-based violence at 10.3 per cent. It follows other causes such as financial status, alcoholism and conflict over adultery, respectively.

“It may appear that by their gendered socialization, men tend to gravitate towards GBV as a show of ‘manhood’,” says the Peace Initiative Kenya report.

Rape cases on the rise

Meanwhile, the Nairobi Women’s Hospital Gender Violence Recovery Centre reports that 64 per cent of gender-based violence cases occur within the survivor’s homes, compared to 20 per cent that occur in public places.

Officials at the hospital say reported cases of rape rose from 297 in January-May 2011 to 383 within the same period in 2013.

While this is the case, the Peace Initiative Kenya report says an intimate partner is more likely to commit an act of violence compared to other perpetrators.

A crisis in Kenya

The report collected 580 cases of violence through deprivation of basic needs, while 333 Kenyans said their partners refused to communicate with them. Another 317 said they were violated through control of finances.

The report was released during a recent summit on gender-based violence, under the theme: From private to public domain; the gender-based violence crisis in Kenya.

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