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Covid-19 Crisis Exacerbates Domestic Violence Cases

Just before the country went into a Covid-19 semi-lock-down in March this year, Fridah Nyaanga rushed to her friend’s place to save herself from physical and psychological abuse from her lover of five months.

However, for the 20 year old mother of two, this respite was short-lived as her offending lover Joseph Baya tracked her down to her friend’s house in Mpeketoni and in a fit of rage, cut her right hand off.

On top of her right hand being severed off, she was left with head and leg injuries which although now healed, the scars remain a harrowing reminder of the gruesome attack.

Fridah Nyaanga shows her leg injuries that have since healed from her March domestic violence attack by her then boyfriend. Domestic violence cases have been on the rise since the advent of the Covid-19 crisis due to strained domestic wages.

“I had been with him for five months prior to the attack, and it was during the tail end of our relationship when he turned violent after I questioned him for taking money that I had planned to send to my children who are being taken care of by my mother,” she as she tries to hold back tears.

She further says that the last straw that forced her to leave was when he violently beat her to a pulp forcing her to call in sick at work the next day.

She had a sense of foreboding that she had that unless she ran away from the abusive relationship, things would only turn out worse in future. And she was not wrong.

“I made the choice to flee and find safety in my best friend’s house (Ann Njoki) with nothing except the clothes on my back after that beating and even then, he still managed to stalk me and find out where I had sought safety,” she continues adding that it was when her guardian stood up to her former lover that he turned violent and attacked her.

“He had resorted to forcefully taking money from me for the various small jobs that I would do in my free time, with no thought for my children,” Fridah recounts, adding that now despite being gainfully employed at a local restaurant in Mpeketoni town as a cleaner, she is unable to go about her side hustles as a laundry woman.

It is not too hard to tell that even behind Fridah’s soft spoken and strong demeanour, she carries her life’s scars literally on her right sleeve which she hides behind a lesso, if only to take her mind off the painful reminder that her life would never be the same again even if justice is served.

She has however been able to keep her former job, thanks in a large part to her employer who was understanding enough to allow her earn her keep despite her disability.

World Vision Lamu County Coordinator Ndaru Mkoba addresses the media in Hindi town over rising domestic violence cases since the turn of the COVID-19 crisis. He has urged for greater public awareness and government efforts to deter the upsurge in these cases brought about by conflicts over loss of revenue due to the corona pandemic.
Photos by Amenya Ochieng

“My only hope now is that I can get a well-wisher to gift me a prosthetic right hand if only to have some semblance of my former life when I had both hands,” she says.

As for Joseph Baya, 28, he is currently in remand at Hindi Prison for attempted murder and violent assault charges with the case yet to be heard due to Covid-19 precautionary measures.

Although Fridah’s domestic violence case points to the extreme, it is hardly uncommon to find an emerging pattern of an increase in domestic violence case in Lamu especially with the turn of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Domestic violence is emerging as a growing problem, affecting all creeds and in scenarios where many households are economically strained due to Covid-19 crisis that has seen jobs in the hotel and tourism industry being curtailed. These cases are likely to rise unless mitigating measures are provided,” Ndaru Mkoba, World Vision, Lamu County Coordinator stated in an interview with KNA.

He added that the national government especially through the courts and the public administration should crack down hard on such cases, in order to deter their occurrences in Lamu and the country at large.

“Women and children are especially prone to being exploited and such cases should be looked into without the involvement of Kangaroo courts, which have become the norm especially in Hindi area.

The sentiments were echoed by Lamu West MP Stanley Muthama who also spoke to KNA over the emerging domestic abuse cases being reported in the county stating that harsh prosecution and convictions could also be one way to deter cases such as Fridah’s from occurring.

“Religious leaders also need to be at the forefront condemning this emerging trend, as there is no religion that condones bludgeoning one’s partner in case of strife,” he added.

Lamu Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya Chairman Ustadh Abubakar Shekuwe, weighed in saying religious leaders needed to be at the forefront of condemning these cases.

“Domestic violence and divorce rates go hand in hand, and if the county figures of a 60 percent is anything to go by, we need to reverse the trend by creating more public awareness among young men over the perils of having broken homes,” he added.

For Fridah though, although a lifelong sentence for Joseph Baya could provide some sense of closure, it is hardly a hurrah with her hand gone and now she harbours is the dream of a prosthetic hand that would give her a sense of being whole once more.

She says an arm prosthesis would enable her cope with her new found situation better and enable her to do the chores that she once did.

“These scars are a reminder that I am lucky to be alive today from a domestic violence incident from which many women have died and despite my handicap, I must live and provide for my children now,” she says amid tears.

“I will continue to go about my way without any sense of an ending or self-pity,” she concludes just as she finishes washing her clothes.

By Amenya Ochieng

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