Wife Battering in Nairobi, Kenya

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Yesterday I met a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time, on my way to “hustle”, and he asked me if I was sick or had somehow started using marijuana. I was puzzled and at the same time felt some slight tinge of irritation. I thought it was rude of him, friend or not, to say that to someone you hadn’t seen in a long time.

I told him I was okay, only a little stressed up with the cumbersome job of searching for a job in the nepotistic and corrupt streets of Nairobi. He assured me of letting me know in case he hears of a job opportunity in this Indian-owned firm he works in. Said our farewells and parted ways.

I continued walking on, feeling somehow sulky and moody. I knew I was in a terrible mood — I always know, and then I would try to talk less least I piss off someone. But as I pass by this huge boutique, with glass windows, noticed that my eyes were swollen, red and heavy. I looked terrible and felt horrible. Now I understood why my friend felt concerned of my health and well-being.

He was right, I looked like a ghanja smoker straight out of Jamaica. I looked like a stoner in Wiz Khalifa’s music videos.

But it was only because I hadn’t slept the previous night. I didn’t sleep well because some imbecile, a bully, and a beast of a man thought it was okay to beat up his wife in the middle of the night, just some few minutes into Sunday.

I wanted to sniffle out the noise like I’ve done with the noise of the Boeing planes taking off at JKIA, A stone-throw away from where I stay, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t shut out the sound of a crying woman in obvious excruciating pain.

First it was just the banging of stuff and the accompanying commotion and clamor that followed, and immediately after, a blood-cuddling scream. A booming voice of a man could also be heard calling after her to get back into the house — maybe for more beating.

To be honest, I’ve never heard a woman cry that hard, and that long. It disturbed me so much and especially when I heard kids crying as well. I felt pressure piling up in my chest, and I could feel tears lingering in my eyes. I kept turning from one side of the bed to the other, my sheets wet with perspiration. I couldn’t stay in bed anymore.

I got up, took a glass of water to quench my dry throat and then remained quiet for a while trying to listen if any of my neighbors were opening their doors in response to the call of distress downstairs — yes it was downstairs, a few floors down. I heard no door opening, and as I went out, putting on my shirt on the way, I could see quite a number of half-naked people peeping safely from the balcony of their apartments. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the unity we used to have as Africans.

What happened to people living like one big family, being there for your neighbor in time of need, and treating their children — disciplining them — like your own. Now it’s each man for himself. And you are wondering why the Al-shabaab think we are a soft target!

A woman is crying for help but everyone, including men, are coiled behind closed doors, peeping through windows like scared sissies. Pathetic.

When I got at the scene, there were a handful of people, obviously their immediate neighbors, and trying to restrain a distressed semi-nude woman in her late twenties threatening to jump down from the opening near the stairs and kill herself. She was bleeding profusely from the nose and left ear, and with the way she was struggling, kicking around and tearing at her hair, it was practically impossible to even give her first aid.

“Let me die! I’ve had enough, please just let me die!” Cried the woman.

Her husband, a short stout man with a long unkempt beard, lay pinned on the floor by four strong men lecturing him on something about controlling his fiery temper and on better ways of sorting out marital issues. But was he even listening? The bastard was still shouting at his wife from down there to stop her theatrics and get back into the house.

“I swear if I get out of here, I will kill you!” He threatened, trying to shake himself free from the powerful grip of the four industrious men holding him.

Standing at an open door, a few meters from where the man was held, were two cute kids whimpering and shaking like ship masts under the influence of a strong wind. I felt really sorry for them. I wanted to walk over and try to console them, but as I was still trying to figure out what I would say to them  — I’ve never been comfortable around such delicate situations — a  pretty lady with kind eyes who I bet had arrived at the same time as me, walked over to the kids and covered them with her Maasai shuka. I smiled at the kind gesture. Thank God she went before me, I had neither a shuka or even a jacket, just my skimpy shirt.

The smile was short-lived though because the culprit who was supposed to be a loving husband and father, but now a contrast to the values real men stand for, interrupted me.

“Leave my kids alone woman! Don’t touch them!” He shouted at the lady who was by now trying to console his kids.

I lost it. I think everyone else lost it as well, and if not for the security guards who had just arrived intervened, that idiot would’ve seen the wrath of mob justice. He would have ended up in a body bag. But he still received a few blows and slaps from two of the men holding him, who obviously couldn’t hold it together.

As I went back up to try to catch some sleep for the two or so hours remaining before dawn, I left the wife batterer being whisked away by a team of security guards to the nearest police post at Embakasi. In this side of the Sahara, the police are too lazy to patrol around, and the chance of them timely intervening in any incident is close to zero.

I hope that man is convicted and taken as far away from his wife as possible. He and the others like him out there are a shame to manhood. Beating up your wife, or any woman is unacceptable.

The woman had finally calmed down and now lying in the lap of one middle-aged woman who lovingly stroked her hair, just like a mother would. Another young lady was nursing her wounds as a bevy of women folk stared, murmuring among themselves.

She had completely stopped crying but was still shaking in mild tremors. Even in her closed eyes and messed up face and hair, she still looked pretty and I felt awful looking at her in that state.

No woman deserves that; not my mother, not my sisters, not my nieces, not my girlfriends, not my neighbors, and no one else. Not at this age for crying out loud! That’s the lowest degradation of a human life.

I hope that lady and her children would be alright, and at the same time hope no other woman would ever have to go through such an antagonizing ordeal. Mistreated and beaten to the point of thinking about suicide (and she has young children).

To fellow men (African men), mostly young men like me who are yet to get married and looking forward to  in  the near future, never ever lay your hands on a woman. Violence never solved anything (even if for a moment thought about physically attacking that man myself). It doesn’t matter how angry you are. Never beat a woman! That is somebody’s daughter, that’s somebody’ sister, or cousin. For a moment think about the same being committed to your child or your sister.

Beating up a woman doesn’t make you stronger, or respected, it only shows how weak you are as a man. There are more amicable ways of solving issues as a family. If you can’t solve your family problems yourselves, there are good and competent marriage counselors out there. And after that if it still doesn’t work, you can talk about divorce as an option. Today in Kenya people are divorcing, unlike in the past. Just know you won’t be the first, and certainly not the last.

I used to think wife battering only happened in the villages but never in the city like Nairobi.

Finally, I hope my good sleep would never be interrupted again by another wanna be Rambo shading off some of his energy on a poor woman.

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