End the Scourge!

Stop abusing our women

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread but least recognised human rights abuses in the world.

While the frequency of it varies with location, the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2005 Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women states that globally, one in every three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
The rate shoots to as high as 70 percent in some places.
As such, gender-based violence is a global pandemic; a cancer so severe that it spreads and cuts across borders with ruthless venom, impacting all peoples and societies regardless of ethnicity, race, socio-economic status or religion.
Human rights abuse against women (and men) not only inflicts great harm and suffering on individuals, but also tears at the fabric of entire societies, leaving disjointed communities in its wake.
Domestic abuse wounds children as much as their parents.
Studies show that children who are abused or who witness abuse are at high risk for cognitive, emotional and developmental problems. Some end up taking adult roles of trying to protect their mothers; some may engage in aggressive behaviour in the long run – and thus planting the seed of violence in the next generation.
Domestic violence is a serious crime and it has shattering impact on development.
This is the view held by the UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr Festo Kavishe who said: “The crime of domestic violence has devastating impacts on women and children and on Zimbabwe’s development.
“UNICEF says no, no and no to the horrifying stories of women who go into a relationship with high hopes and good intentions – and find themselves trapped with men who beat, kick, and rape and at times kill them.”
In Zimbabwe the problem of gender-based violence is taken as an event not a process. Noise is made regarding the issue of GBV in the month of November when the world celebrates 16 Days of Activism against GBV
The million dollar question therefore is: what can be done to have a lasting solution to the problem of GBV?
Jonathan Mapinda, a media research analyst in Zimbabwe, says the problem of GBV has its roots in socialisation processes that view men as superior. Consequently, to bring an end to the scourge overnight maybe wishful thinking.
He states that the GBV problem has been around for as long as one would care to remember because of the socialization agents available so dealing with the problem should be likened to a revolution which needs patience.
“GBV is caused by socialisation processes that encourage violence as a means of settling disputes. Children were brought up to believe that to be a man means one’s ability to effectively use force to make other people subscribe to his opinion. So the problem should be looked at as a revolution which requires patience for it takes time to fully evaporate from the brains of some men,” he notes.
Adds Pastor David Zulu of the Christian Marching Church in Zimbabwe, “The other reason why GBV is rampant is the belief in some men that they have a God given space above women in all spheres of life while some women, no matter how learned and successful they may be, seem to believe that men are demi-gods.”
Pastor Zulu condemns violence that stems from a perceived encroachment by women into these spaces as not only unacceptable but premised on a false notion of the existence of a God-given space that should be permanently occupied by men.
According to him people should be able to treat each other equally and have respect for one another; this will go down a long way in curbing GBV.
The church is a significant institution which has a pivotal role to play in curbing GBV.
“However the church should play its role in minimizing GBV in the home. Counseling sessions on effective communication and conflict management should be given to married couples so that they develop skills on how to handle disputes in the home,” he says
Credit should be given to individuals and organisations that have gone out of their way to help prevent the deadly GBV cancer from spreading any further.
Mapinda says current awareness programmes discouraging gender based violence can help minimize but not necessarily put an end to the scourge. Those affected should speak about their problem.
“People should be conscientised that the influence of culture and the payment of lobola are not passports to abuse each other.
“Victims should also be encouraged to speak out. No one deserves to be abused. It is wrong for victims of gender based violence to hide in their shell and make violence a part of their everyday lives. Violence is also not justified. It is totally wrong for some men and women to believe that violence is justified if one wife cheats.”
The influence of culture and how it fuels gender based violence cannot go unnoticed. Culture seems to be a very fluid concept that on close examination can not provide a meaningful basis for the way people behave.
People tend to reason that practices that suit their selfish and unjust actions constitute culture while those that may challenge these unjust practices are labeled as uncultured deviants.
Paying lobola (bride price) is often referred to as a cultural practice, but those who say this usually do not disclose that traditionally this was done to build and strengthen relations rather than as commercial transactions where the woman is the commodity who has no say in the determination of her “price”.
Mapinda points out that the payment of lobola seems to give men an urge over women because they strongly believe that they “bought” their women and hence have exclusive rights over them. This will mean that women should not speak out against their husbands because if they dare do so they risk getting a beating on allegations of disrespect.
There is need for all members of society to commit themselves to changing attitudes and ending all forms of violence against women and girls.
Activism against gender-based violence should be promoted amongst all peoples and be used to condemn gender-based violence and renew their commitment and action towards its elimination.


January 2013
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