Masculinity as a social construct promoting human trafficking

Presentation by Koech Charles – research and Documentation officer-Men for the equality of men and women (MEW)


Men for the Equality of Men and Women (MEW), is trust registered in Kenya and works in partnership with Ford Foundation, Trocaire and Kenya Women Finance Trust(KWFT).

VISION: Men and Women who have become human, sovereign and equal.

MISSION: To transform men and women into being human, sovereign and equal as a prerequisite for the attainment of human rights and democracy.

OBJECTIVE: To discern and deal with the root causes, nature, character and ethnicity of Kenyan masculine barriers to the attainment of equal human rights.

STRATEGIES:  Unearthing Kenyan masculinity from its various cultural fossils and diagnosing its composition, origins, nature and character so as to identify how masculinity imposes upon gender relationships.


  • Masculinity– refers to roles and behavior that are traditionally assigned to men.

        ”           -it is comprised of multiple things; the sliding scale that men put

  • Kenya’s masculinity is characterized by the following roots, the ability  provide, protect and own property
  • Gender violence is bound to erupt when a man can no longer feel competent enough to provide, protect and own property but continues to expect from women submission and services. According to MEW clinical findings at Laare, “In order to shorten your life, you must force somebody to do for you the activities which if you did would have prolonged your life”. Violence will occur when women fail to do the activities which men would have done for themselves, or for failure to complete the tasks that men expect them to and according to men’s specifications.
  • Patriarchy refers to a situation where women‘s stories and thereby there experiences have been ignored, forgotten, misinterpreted and devalued, while stories about Men and thereby their experiences have been elevated, remembered, emphasized and overvalued.
  • Machismo– refers to excessive masculinity. It is an exaggerated sense of manliness characterized by domineering, fierceness and bravado attitudes.

Unequal and broken material relationship

  • Women who comprise half of the world population, do two-thirds of the world’s work, earn one tenth of the world’s Income and own one- hundredths of the world’s property”- United Nations.
  • The unequal material relationship between men and women is flawed. This is because while men are providers and donors to women and children, hence for women to get any thing from men they must surrender their lives, bodies and bodily products like children, free-labour, their earnings and sexual services.
  • The complete overhaul of unequal material relationship is the only legitimate platform for men and women to work together.
  • The brokenness in material relationship leads to brokenness in all other relationships social, cultural, political, spiritual and economical.
  • This indicates that when the material relationship is broken other relationships are bound to be broken. A good example is the materialism of Jesus parable of the Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), when both of them died under broken materialism, Lazarus went heaven and the rich man went to hell.
  • Language as a cultural tool of male dominance, for example the Kikuyu word for a woman is called Mutumia meaning shut up, in Luo is thako meaning the one to be penetrated, in Kipsigis Kwondo meaning the one to cook.
  • A wife becomes a property once the husband has paid the bride price thus giving him absolute freedom to discipline the wife if she does contrary to man’s expectations.
  • Dowry in all Kenyan cultures is an intra- masculine trade between fathers and sons- in law

Masculinity disordersrefer to a chain of reactions that erupts in men when trying to make up for the deficit between what the market expects them to provide for women and children and what they have failed to provide.

Socialization process in Kenya is flawed due to the fact that Men are said to be menonly if they have accomplish the following 3 major roles:

  1. Provision –being bread winners for their wives and children
  2. Protection – acting as security providers
  3. Ownership of property i.e. possession of material power.

When men fail to fulfil the aforementioned roles as society expects of them, they exhibit some disorders to cover up for their failure. Some of these chain reactions include the following:

  1. Self-assertive aggression personality disorder:- in this kind of disorder  men make up for their failure by engaging in unethical sexual behaviours such as Rape and incest, corruption ,gang-fights, cattle rustling and other acts of violence against the society. Example
  • Cain killed his brother Abel because the lord God did not accept his sacrifice of his harvest but preferred the Abel’s sacrifice (Genesis 4:1- ).
  1. Self- defensive aggression personality disorder:-This is a scenario where men after realizing their failure to provide, protect and own property, they shift their blame to other people of whom the worst hit are women and children. For example, a man will blame his wife that before they got married he was doing well and thus she is the cause of his woes. Other manifestations of such a disorder include: a man blaming his wife for the deteriorating relationships between him and other members of extended family, neighbors and even with God.
  1. Offensive -aggression personality disorder: – this is against women by men on realizing that women can deliver more than them, thus they feel their flawed masculinity is threatened. It occurs when a man cannot feed or fend for his family thus his natural instinct would be to destroy the evidence – the family he sets out to protect and provide for. For example, in a family set up, the husband will pick a quarrel with the wife and then vent his anger on Cats, dogs and Utensils by kicking them around, insulting everybody in the house to instill fear on them to avoid being asked of what he has failed to fulfill. In nut shell the man becomes violent with the slightest provocation. He will hate and threaten those whom he should protect and provide for.
  2. Self-Incrimination aggression personality disorder:-in this kind of reaction men react in a way to teach those who value and depend on them a lesson. They do this by involving themselves in vices like abuse of alcohol and drugs, refusing to eat, harming themselves while others commit suicide.

Examples in include:

        • Dismembering of genitalia- A man by the name Igongo when his wife refused to give him money for his business as a cobbler cut his private parts, another did the same after suspected his wife of being infidelity and the third one did so again after his wife refused to mate with him.
        • Drug Abuse-A man whom I know in Nakuru who had borrowed a Loan of half a million shillings but disagreement with his wife on the use of that money arose.  The man wanted to buy a car but the wife was for the idea of buying a piece of land. Because of this turmoil the husband with a view of punishing the wife misuse the entire amount by abusing alcohol such that within a span of one week he was insolvent(broke)
        • Refusal to eat-Another example, is husbands who refuse to eat when they are angry with their wives
        • Committing suicide, a man by the name Benson Shimenga in Musoli area Kakamega South District killed himself by hanging after suspecting his wife of being unfaithful (D/N-3/02/2011 pg 22)


  • Personalities from being property into human, this is by fighting against commercialization of dowry which renders women as property which can be bought.
  • Intellect from success narrative into moral excellence, dignity, respect of human rights, creativity, productivity and vision for service for all,
  • Transforming dominance into governance where both men and women are equal and can be providers, protectors and owners of property.
  • A research conducted by MEW at Naivasha Maximum Prison revealed that the prisoners convicted of committing sexual offences against their female relatives would kill anyone they found attempting to rape their wives, mothers and daughters or sisters
  • To men every time you think of violating your wife, girlfriend or colleague, stop and ask yourself: “would I beat, demean, insult or rape my mother? Why do so to somebody else’s mother?”
  • “Men and women are like wings of a bird, if one wing is broken the bird cannot fly” Baha’i faith.



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