He don’t beat me, so he don’t love me
The results of a recently published Multiple Indicator Monitoring Survey for 2009 in Zimbabwe has some very shocking revelations about people’s attitudes towards domestic violence.
While men, some of whom have been socialized in “macho society” try and justify abusing people because of their sex, it is not often that the world is told of how woman “justify” the abuse they undergo at the hands of men.
According to a recent report on the survey in The Herald, women from Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces aged between 15 and 49 years were asked questions to assess their attitudes towards whether husbands are “justified” to abuse their partners.
Five scenarios were given: a wife goes out without telling her husband; a wife neglects children; she argues with him; she refuses to have sex; and she burns food.
Given these scenarios, the women were asked if their partner would be justified to beat her up for any one of these.
In provinces that are predominantly rural had high percentages of women who thought it was justifiable for their partner to beat them up for one of these five issues.
More than 70 percent of women in Mashonaland Central province felt a spouse was justified in meting out physical abuse in such instances!
The proportion was much lower in the wholely urban provinces of Harare and Bulawayo.
It seems many women still believe that if their partner does not hit them then he is not really interested in the relationship.
In short, “If he don’t beat me then he don’t love me.”
The Herald quoted social protection and community development expert Musekiwa Makwanya saying women in rural areas accepted domestic violence because they had “internalized” it.
“The only way to undo that psychological problem is to try and educate the women on acceptable ways of communicating differences and disagreements within families.
“Domestic violence has become a victim mentality and coping mechanism to accept that women who are beaten up are in the wrong.”
He added: “There is need for a multi-agency approach where social workers should respond to social protection and police enforce domestic violence law.”
The problem, it seems, lies in the power relations in many societies.
Men still have control over the economic well being of many communities, and they are often looked to as breadwinners, even in rural areas where women carry out more than 70 percent of agricultural work.
The result is that many women still feel that they should not offend their partners in any way and if they do their partners are justified in abusing them.
If she does something even mildly wrong and her partner does not react with fists, then it might mean he is now disinterested in the relationship and will soon leave or take another wife.
Violence is a major obstacle to development and when perpetrated against women in particular, it hinders progress in achieving development targets.
Despite the growing recognition of violence against women as a public health and human rights concern, and of the obstacle it poses for development, it continues to have an unjustifiably low priority on the international development agenda and in planning, programming and budgeting.
It is estimated that one in every five women faces some form of violence during her lifetime, in some cases leading to serious injury or death.
Until recently, most governments considered violence against women (particularly “domestic” violence by a husband or other intimate partner) to be a relatively minor social problem.
Today – due in large part to the efforts of women’s organizations and the evidence provided by research, including that of World Health Organization (WHO) – violence against women is recognized as a global concern.
Still, it does not get the kind of funding required to holistically deal with it.
One of the most pervasive violations of human rights in all societies, it exists “on a continuum from violence perpetrated by an intimate partner to violence as a weapon of war”.
Addressing the Gender-based Violence Action Plan in Namibia recently, Genderlinks’ gender justice and local government country facilitator, Sarry Xoagus-Eises, said violence against women constituted a major threat to social and economic development.
This was recognized in the Millennium Declaration of September 2000, in which the General Assembly of the United Nations resolved “to combat all forms of violence against women and to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women”.
Such violence is intimately associated with complex social conditions such as poverty, lack of education, gender inequality, child mortality, maternal ill-health and illnesses like HIV and AIDS.
Although some of the associated conditions of violence are targeted in the goals set up to guide the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, violence against women is not highlighted in either the targets or the indicators.
Violence against women takes many forms, from the overt to the subtle.
Xoagus-Eises described physical violence against women as being slapped, having something thrown at her; being pushed, shoved, or have her hair pulled; hit with a fist or something else that could hurt; choked or burnt; threatened with or had a weapon used against her.
Sexual violence means a woman has been: physically forced to have sexual intercourse; had sexual intercourse because she was afraid of what her partner might do; or forced to do something sexual, she found degrading or humiliating.
Though recognized as a serious and pervasive problem, emotional violence does not yet have a widely accepted definition, but includes, for example, “being humiliated or belittled; being scared or intimidated purposefully”.
Intimate-partner violence (also called “domestic” violence) means a woman has encountered any of the above types of violence, at the hands of an intimate partner or ex-partner.
It is one of the most common and universal forms of violence experienced by women.
One of the most infamous cases of domestic violence reported in Namibia was when a man killed his wife and cooked her body in the kitchen of their home.
In the place where the woman felt that she was safe, she was brutally attacked and killed.
And even when faced with such gross violence, and aware that they may be killed, many women still do not leave their abusive partners.
Women are often dependent on their partners and are also afraid of being stigmatized by their communities if they leave.
Many are still unaware that if they make a police report the abusive partner can be incarcerated.
However, an element lacking in many countries’ police-led interventions against gender-based violence is that both the victims and perpetrators are not often given the appropriate counselling afterwards.
Further, there are very few social security nets for abused women in the form of safe houses and support for them to establish themselves economically in case they have to leave the breadwinner or he is jailed.
In the absence of such safety nets and provisions, few women will be likely to leave abusive relationships or report abusive spouses.
And when this is coupled with “cultural” perceptions, then the problem becomes very big.
Information collected at a series of workshops by Genderlinks in Namibia’s 13 regions (provinces) shows that many women believe they must obey their husbands at all costs and should they somehow fail to meet expectations they can be abused.
People abuse “culture” so that they can dominate their partners.
Women are told to ask their husbands for permission to work, they must hand over their earnings to their partners, and have no say in how that money is used.
She cannot refuse to have sex because some abusive men claim they have a right to intercourse whenever they feel like because they paid a bride price.
So what is to be done to deal with this scourge of gender-based violence?
Education and empowerment are certainly important and could be central to the whole campaign to eradicate gender-based violence.
A major global campaign in this regard is 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.
This is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.
Participants chose the dates, November 25 (which is International Day Against Violence Against Women) to December 10 (which is the International Human Rights Day) in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.
The 16 days of activism also highlight other significant dates including November 29 (International Women Human Rights Defenders Day), December 1 (World Aids Day), and December 6, which marks the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
The École Polytechnique Massacre, also known as the Montreal Massacre, was a hate crime perpetrated on December 6, 1989 at the École Polytechnique in Montreal,Canada.
Twenty-five-year-old Gamil Rodrigue Liass Gharbi, who had changed his name to Marc Lépine armed with a rifle and hunting knife, shot twenty-eight people before killing himself.
He entered a classroom and separated the male and female students.
After claiming that he was “fighting feminism, he shot all nine women in the room, killing six.
He then went through buildings, specifically targeting women to shoot.
He killed 14 women and injured ten others, as well as four men, in about 20 minutes, before turning the gun on himself.
His suicide note included a list of 19 women whom he considered feminists and apparently wished to kill.
The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.