By Vivianne Wandera
With only a few days left to the elections, there has been a new wave of gender based election violence where men impose their candidates on their wives and girlfriends forcing them to vote for the people they want rather than the candidates of their own choice.
In this time and era, one would expect people to be liberal rather than walking over women just because they are married or dating which in turn makes one feel like they don’t have a choice with threats of being kicked out of their homes or being dumped.
The majority of such cases have been reported in some rural areas especially in western and Nyanza province where a whole family is forced to vote for the man’s candidate just because he said so and because he is the head of the family or face the consequences.
Despite several efforts by IEBC to shun such behaviors a good number of men still believe that women cannot make sensible decisions when it comes to choosing leaders. Maurice, from Busia County, argued that women cannot vote without including feelings in their decision.
“I don’t think women can choose a leader without involving feelings. Sometimes they choose people based on their looks and how they talk rather than being reasonable and voting for people with serious manifestos and people who actually have an intention of bringing change in this country,” he said.
“ I think that’s the reason why we end up with horrible leaders. I would not let my wife decide who to vote for on her own, I’m a liberal man but in this matter, it’s either my way or the highway. My candidate is the one my family votes for. At least then one can rest easy knowing that a sensible person has been voted for,” he added.
The case of Maurice is only one among a thousand others. Even in modern homes in the city, one would still require the family to support their candidate despite there being freedom of choice.
“Majority of the men here in Busia force their partners into voting for the candidates of their choice. Others even plan to insist on helping their partners and others even parents on Election Day so that they can make sure they have voted for their candidates.
Sometimes you look at things and wonder what you could do. This is a case of modern day apathy in an era where one would expect men to have outgrown some behaviors,” said An Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) clerk who requested for his name not to be mentioned gave insight into the matter saying that
Voting is everyone’s right, whether male or female. No one should be forced into voting for a candidate they do not want neither should any politician bribe anyone into bullying their partner into voting for them.
The Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission has been educating people all over the country for the entire year on their voting rights and how to vote in order to avoid situations like these where one is tied down into believing that there is no other opponent one can vote for apart from the ones that have been imposed on them.
Women’s right should be respected just as much as men’s rights are. There has to a perfect balance when it comes to issues like voting, decision making and also equality in pay and job offers.
The times when men would earn more than women just because of their gender are way behind us and so are the days when men would impose their candidates on their wives, girlfriends, and children.
So gone are also the days when politicians would buy women’s votes with low-quality lesos, blankets, and sugar and give 100 hundred shillings then disappear for five years only to come back and dish out the same to elderly and poor women in order to buy their votes.
Lorraine, a student at a city university admits to being a victim of such circumstances. “My boyfriend is an old school man. He believes that a woman should and must support her man’s candidate. We have had this conversation many times and at some point, I gave up and decided to support him because I realized it’s a fight I won’t win. Yes, I was frustrated by the entire situation. It being able to make your own decision is and can be very disappointing and frustrating. I think women’s rights must be respected not only by word but by actions.”
The same way we respect decisions by our mothers, wives, and daughters is the same kind of respect society should have for them when it comes to voting.
Women’s votes are equal and just as important as men’s votes are. There is no harm in one choosing a different candidate from their partners and it should not cause and differences in a marriage or relationship.