Kenya / violence: Alarm as half of women with HIV abused

10 Dec, 2009
By: Ken Opala
Tags: violence

Half of Kenyan women living with HIV/Aids have been physically abused in the past year, according to a new study that highlights the worrisome link between the scourge and violence against women.

At least one in two of the victims interviewed said they had been slapped or shoved, 40 per cent had been kicked or beaten, 36 per cent had been hit with an object while 31 per cent had been threatened by use of a knife or a weapon.

“These results are indicative of high levels of physical violence against women by their partners ... the consequence ranges from pain to death,” says Linkages between Violence against Women and HIV/AIDS among Wofak Beneficiaries, a report prepared by Dr Mumbi Machera for Women Fighting Aids in Kenya (Wofak) and ActionAid International Kenya, and which was published this week.

The study was carried out in Nyanza, Coast, Western and Nairobi provinces.

“Rape and sexual exploitation are prevalent in all the study areas. It is also evident that violence is common among adolescent girls. Aids orphans, especially young girls are at a higher risk of forced marriage.”

Guardians force girls into marriage to shove responsibility to the husband. These girls risk mistreatment and other forms of violence, including rape. This increases their vulnerability to HIV infection, the report indicates.

Physical abuse apart, the incidence of psychological, economic and cultural trauma is much more worrying.

Social isolation
Nearly nine in ten of women with HIV face social isolation or have been denied basic rights, such as food and medical care. They also risk being evicted out of their homes or denied employment.

“We found that women who disclose their HIV status face mistreatment by their husband’s relatives. Most widows face the risk of being disinherited by relatives. For women in rural areas like Bumala, cases of property rights abuse are common. Women are often chased out of their matrimonial homes as soon as the husband dies.”

However, the study further established that the victims of violence are reluctant to talk about their experiences or even negotiate for better medical attention.