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Reversed roles: When men are the victims of domestic violence and “Maslaha system” denies them justice

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Man dangles his legs from hospital bed. (Courtesy)

BY: Abdirahman Khalif

MANDERA—Gender violence is nolonger a reserve for the Mandera women as authorities now report spike in male victims.

The latest victim of domestic violence is Mohamed Abdi who was scalded with hot water by his wife after she got wound of his plans to marry a second wife.  Mohamed sustained burns all over his body and is now fighting for his life.

His case never made it past the police occurrence book, thanks to the powerful Maslaha system. Maslaha is an age old celebrated Somali version of conflict resolution mechanism that promotes compromise for the common good.

In the modern times, the system encourages out of court settlement. In Abdi’s case, the elders asked him to negotiate with the wife who committed the deadly act and keep his family intact. Torn between a duty to respect the customs of the land and silent clamour for justice, Abdi settled for Maslaha and forgave, at least publicly, his wife who left him for dead.

Abdi’s case samples latest strings of deadly violence against men by jilted wives. In the Dadaab refugee camp, a fundraiser bid was started for man scalded with boiling cooking oil. Doctors in Garissa referred him to Nairobi for specialized treatment.

The culture of “burning men” is lately becoming a trend going by the social media comments—written and in video—when women discuss polygamy. In most Somali dramas and short films online, women threaten men whom they accuse of cheating with such dire consequences as scalding them.

In the Somali culture, men are always under pressure to ignore threats coming from a woman and complaining, or reporting domestic abuse to the elders or authorities is considered a taboo and unmanly.

Men who spoke to Kulan Post in confidence blamed media and local non-governmental orgernisations for the rise in male victims of domestic violence, saying the two combined effort to pave way for the rise in violence against men.

“They bombard women with information that project men as the evil partners and any actions by a women against the evil gender is justified and at times glorified as standing up for one’s right,” one man who only identified himself as “Muhsin” said.

“They don’t teach women that domestic abuse and violence is a two way traffic,” he added.

On the streets of Mandera, out of eleven men Kulan Post asked for opinion, seven of the respondents admitted that they wouldn’t report abuse to a third party, two men laughed off the idea that a woman can abuse or met out violence on a man. Only one respondent believes abuse against men is a reality and on the rise.

Although the statistics is not scientific, it offers a rare glimpse into a problem largely ignored by the society. Most men have never heard of what to do when they’re the victims and activist hardly raise uproar when women are the perpetrators. 

Even the media is to blame for how male victims are treated. Both Mandera and Daadab cases were not reported at all, denying the victims financial and emotional support from support agencies and well-wishers.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Abdi’s case was preceded by another two cases of domestic violence in Mandera County where the victims lost their lives.

They join a growing list of grim statistics of domestic violence in the county that has been weighing down on families. 

In the last two months alone, 25 cases of domestic violence were reported with hundreds others going unreported. And in many instances, the victim of the violence ends up dead even before the long process to justice commences.

Still, only two murder cases made it to the courts, attracting the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Allan Mulama from the office of the DPP decried about lack of complainants in most cases  and withdrawal when victims are adults.

“We registered 31 cases of gender based violence this year and another 31 cases of sexual offenses; most of them child defilements. Only one rape case was recorded,” Mulama told Kulan Post.

Out of these 31 cases, the DPP office managed to achieve conviction in only three cases. The office blames constant interference by elders seeking Maslaha system for the delay.

“We are having problem of securing conviction on defilement (cases) majorly because of interference of the Maslaha system,” the DPP office said.

Women groups and activists in the county have registered their objection to the Maslaha system, saying it denies victims the justice they deserve.

‘’Masalaha has been corrupted by greedy elders. Why are they feeding on the blood of a minor?” Ubah Gedi, chairlady of the Maendeleo ya Wanawake said.

Ubah Gedi, Mandera County minister for Gender in past function. (Facebook)

The county government of Mandera has set up a gender desk to respond to the increasing cases of GBV in the area. The administration has also equipped and facilitated elders to spread message directing elders to shun frim attempting to arbitrate in cases of sexual offenses particularly when a minor is involved.

”We have plans underway to activate gender desk across mandera sub counties to work closely with the security team and to tell the public referral pathways. Shamsa Mohamed CECM for Social Services stated.

She added that: “The elders are clearly sensitizing the communities that there is no Masalaha system on sexual cases because victims will never get justice.”

Decades of “normalising” violence against women and a stiff patriarchal customs of the Somali community is denying men and women a piece of the justice they seek from perpetrators they are forced to make peace with through a traditional system of conflict resolution that’s celebrated for its fruits in other sectors, but condemned for its approach to how it treats cases of sexual violence.

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