Addressing stigmatization in gender based violence. The problem with GBV in educational institutions

Wissenschaftlicher Aufsatz, 2013

16 Seiten


Table of Contents




Review of Literature

Legal Framework on GBV






The 1stauthor is an educationist with a B.Ed. (Science degree in Mathematics and Chemistry) from Egerton University, M.Ed. (Administration) degree from the University of Nairobi and is currently a PhD (Peace and Conflict Studies) candidate at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology. She is a Senior Assistant Registrar and part time lecturer at Daystar University.

The 2nd author is an educationist with a B.Ed. (Arts degree in Geography and CRE) graduate with an MA in Counseling Psychology. She is currently a PhD (Peace and Conflict studies) candidate at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology and a Psychology Lecturer in the School of Human and Social Sciences of Daystar University.


Stigmatization is a bottleneck in fighting GBV. Yet Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a pervasive problem in educational institutions that can have devastating impacts on those affected ranging from absenteeism, severe mental and physical health issues, dropouts and in most severe cases, suicide (Gender Studies Institute, 2010:2).This paper is based on research findings from six universities in Kenya involving 662 students, which revealed that stigmatization is a stumbling block in dealing decisively with GBV affecting students. Additionally, the study involved 144 lecturers, five deans of students and heads of student counselling in the sampled universities together with four student leaders and vice chancellors. These findings corroborate past studies by (Chege, 2007; Parkes & Chege, 2010, p. 1-11; UNESCO, 2003) where students did not want their cases to be known as a result of the fear of stigmatization and repercussions. Further, the World Health Organization findings show that male survivors are less likely to seek medical help due to stigma and prejudice regarding male sexuality or masculinity. From the research in the six universities, 21.8% of students in the public univerisites and 11.1% in private universities affirmed that stigmatization is a major challenge.The universities therefore have a task to devise means of managing this vice and communication was found to be vital in this end. The paper gives highlights on stigmatization as a challenge in the fight against GBV and the role of communication in managing the vice with the related policy recommendations.

Key words: Stigmatization, Communication, Gender-Based Violence, Social Justice


In an effort to tackle stigmatization, a group of activists in Zimbabwe organized an open discussion between media practitioners, members of the public and civil society representatives with the theme “The Media Against Gender-Based Violence”. The open discussion was aimed at unveiling the role of media in covering issues on GBV in the country. It was found that only 3% of stories covered by the media in a year were GBV related irrespective of the prevalence (, 2012). GBV was noted as a human rights violation. The Kenyan society, like most African societies, is historically patriarchal with the female gender occupying a lower status compared to the male gender (NCGD, 2006). This brings into play an imbalance in power between men and women resulting in higher rate of women and girls’ vulnerability. However, USAID findings show that violence against men and boys in the world is increasingly worrying (USAID, 2013). Accordingly, a need to focus on both genders concurrently is essential, thereby directing the course of this research. It therefore follows that GBV should be eliminated and concerted efforts towards this achievement are essential.

Noteworthy is that gender differs from sex in that sex dispels the biological differences between a man and woman while gender is constructed socially. Therefore, gender defines the set of roles and characteristics that govern the relationship between women and men. Universally, these set of roles and characteristics are learned and internalized by young generations from the older generations through the process of socialization (NCGD, 2006). The socialization process therefore plays a very crucial part in modeling gender roles. Accordingly, gender refers to the socially and culturally constructed roles, privileges, responsibilities, powers and influences, social relations, expectations and values of men and women, girls and boys (UNHCR, 2003).

In the construction of gender at the community level, a child is told he is a boy or she is a girl and treated in a way parents deem appropriate to that gender (Lips, 1993). The child is also able to identify others who are called boys and girls and observes similarities in characteristics among boys on one hand and girls on the other. Children are also able to note that boys are treated differently from girls and are expected to behave differently. They are punished for not behaving in a manner perceived to be socially and culturally acceptable for their gender.

GBV is defined as any physical acts of force, social and psychological harm meted out to an individual or group of individuals for no other reason than that they are female or male. This includes any form of neglect, maltreatment, exploitation, threat, coercion, deprivation of liberty and sexual abuse as per the United Nations Report on Violence against Children (United Nations, 2006). Reports from UNFPA indicate that biological factors have no bearing in the intense differences in the behaviours of men and women pointing to the fact that the differences are rooted in the socialization process. The United Nations Population Fund expounds that GBV compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims and is sustained by a culture of silence and denial (UNFPA, 2012). This implies that silence serves to advance the vice and as a result, the victims are stigmatized.

The purpose of this paper is to address stigmatization as a challenge at universities in the fight against GBV and the role of communication in managing the vice with the related policy recommendations.The GBV variables considered in this study are sexual exploitation, discrimination and class (differing status given to genders), derogatory Language use, stereotype and negative indoctrination and non-responsive learning environments to gender are based on NCGD (2008) report. This study considered the fact that, GBV affects the male and female alike albeit to differing degrees and does not facilitate an environment of peace, development and equality. Therefore, in addressing GBV, it is essential to include both the male and female gender.

Review of Literature

Stigma can undermine the intended outcomes of projects and the fight against GBV is not exempt. Statistics show that one in every three women and one in every six men are beaten or coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime. Its toll on women’s health surpasses that of traffic accidents and malaria combined (American Relief Council International). In a study by the United Nations Secretary General on violence, it was noted that whereas educational institutions have a role to protect students, they are exposed to cruelty, humiliation, psychological punishment, gang related criminal activities such as drugs, bullying and fighting by fellow students or those in authority. Bullying is a form of punishment meted against marginalized groups or persons, (UNICEF, 2006). Consequently, educational managers have a task of ensuring that the institutions are safe environments for all students.

The American Refugee Committee International identifies serious consequences of GBV such as Sexually Transmitted Infections, reproductive injuries, fistula, physical injuries, emotional, social and psychological consequences such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, fear, anxiety and even death. The victims also face social stigma and rejection.

In creating GBV awareness, Kenyatta University held the first International GBV conference between 1st -3rd August 2012 with the theme “Creating safe spaces: A multi-disciplinary approach to GBV” where GBV was explored in the context of family, community, institutions and state. Traditional gender roles and culture were found to play a part in promoting GBV by assigning certain expectations to gender and punishing perceived non-compliance in ways that violates human rights. As a result, community leaders, administrators, teachers, and lecturers alongside parents have a key obligation to design gender roles and responsibilities that are effective in managing GBV (Kitetu, 2000).

In Kenya, a study carried out in a secondary school identified differential treatment in physics classrooms (Kitetu, 2000). Boys were assigned different tasks from girls and were treated more harshly compared to girls. The specification of tasks and traits for each gender serves to label non-conforming males and females as deviants, (UNESCO, 2008). For instance assertive females are portrayed as tomboys implying they have more male traits than female traits while nurturing males are seen to have more female traits thus looked down upon and ridiculed. The cultural labeling of gender hampers the development of full potentials of victims in oppressive and exploitative ways.

In a proposal to reduce GBV at a South African University, measures were developed to change the underlying social norms and the overall institutional culture (Collins et al, 2009). The university management engaged the risk management services to create gender democracy and address stigmatization. Additionally, a GBV lobby group which is a coalition between staff and students was developed in the year 2005 to tackle the issue of student safety and security paradigms. The media was involved in creating awareness. A survey done at the university had revealed hidden problems such as sexual violence in residences, intimate partner murder, rape, attacks on men who reject dominant stereotypes and aggressive masculinity. These findings indicate that an exclusive focus on physical security is not effective in curtailing GBV as it has more complex social underpinnings which include gender and social norms.

Globally, statistics by the Council for Women of Moscow State University show that six out of ten women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime leading to consequences such as death and disability (Council for Women of Moscow State University, 2012).. The Council of Europe (COE) additionally found that one fifth to one quarter of women have undergone physical violence in their adult lifetime (Council of Europe, 2008). The COE then drew campaigns to combat violence in member states on television, radio, sports, pens, posters, campaign websites, meetings at focal points and publications to expand knowledge about GBV. This led to the realization that violence against women was not a private issue but a human rights violation. Further, the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) established that one in every three women worldwide has experienced beating or coercion in her lifetime and links GBV to inequality and gendered power relations. As a result, the WUSC mobilizes communities and groups (religious and local leaders, youth, media, men and women organizations and government officers) to raise awareness on GBV.

In relation to the violence against men, King (2000) indicates that the boys are sidelined. She points to the recruitment of child-soldiers and the male child being forced to show masculinity in ways that damage them and the community. This opinion is supported by the sentiment that “We need to move beyond seeing women as victims and men as rapists” (Scully, 2013). It implies that both genders should be involved in addressing the problem. In the same light, USAID findings show that violence against men and boys is increasing (USAID, 2013). However, the observation that boys are sidelined are refuted by the explanation that it is not all about favouring girls over boys but rather an approach that gives priority to issues affecting girls in order to secure gains for both girls and boys (Women Watch, 2010).

Legal Framework on GBV

There are no specific anti-GBV laws under which perpetrators can be charged hence they are charged under different laws such as the Penal Code, Sexual Offences Act and the Counter Trafficking Act (HHRI, 2010). As a result, victims of GBV do not get justice as expected. Furthermore, failure to enact pending bills is a hindrance to fighting the vice and a show of absence of political will to combat GBV.

However, Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Kenya contains the Bill of Rights where part 2, article 27, section 1 states that ‘every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law’ (Republic of Kenya, 2010). The Bill of Rights further binds all state organs and persons as stipulated in Chapter 4, part 1, article 20, section 1. Hence both male and female students are to be protected from any form of harm.

The Constitution of Kenya in Chapter 1, article 2, section 5 and 6 provides that the general rules of international law and any treaty or convention ratified by Kenya shall form part of the Kenyan law (Republic of Kenya, 2010). This is to ensure the implementation of international treaties ratified by the state as opposed to the previous constitution that provided for a dualist system of treaty implementation. In the dualist system the treaty could only take effect after parliament domesticates it through an Act of Parliament or other legislative means. The state therefore has an obligation to ratify international treaties that are relevant and beneficial to the people of Kenya in relation to GBV.

Some of the treaties that Kenya is signatory to include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 which gives standards of human dignity and is a foundation of the United Nations human rights systems, (Narangiti, 2008). The declaration prescribes for the enjoyment of human rights without discrimination and affirms equal rights of men and women. Thus the male and female students at universities have equal right to dignity.

Further there is the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1972 which stipulates that all individuals shall enjoy civil and political rights without discrimination on the basis of sex or on any other ground (UNESCO, 2003). The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) of 1972 looks at women status in relation to working conditions, social protection, standard of living, physical and mental health, education and enjoyment of cultural freedom and scientific progress (De Piccoli & Chiara, 2009).

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted in 1979 is gender specific and is a powerful tool for achieving gender equality and managing GBV due to its concern for equal access to opportunities in political life as well as education and employment, (Ibid). Moreover there is the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Banjul Charter) of 1981 that calls for states to ensure the elimination of discrimination against women and the protection of the rights of women and children. The Global Platform for Action was additionally developed during the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, (Euromed, 2011). These legal instruments were majorly developed as deterrents to violence against women. However there exist gaps between legislation and the day- to-day practices (Association of African Universities, 2006). For instance there exist harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation contrary to national legislation.


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Addressing stigmatization in gender based violence. The problem with GBV in educational institutions
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
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Stigmatization, Communication, Gender-Based Violence, Social Justice, GBV, students, violence, health, girls, universities, sex, gender, exploitation, derogatory, discrimination, class, status, learning, environment
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Judith Wafula (Autor:in)Sylvia Tuikong (Autor:in), 2013, Addressing stigmatization in gender based violence. The problem with GBV in educational institutions, München, GRIN Verlag,


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