Gender Based Violence; nurtured in our homes
A week rarely passed without seeing her face swollen, and her usual explanation to the inquisitive neighbours was that she had bad vision at night and normally ran into dangerous objects within the house.
What a lame excuse it was and the women in the neighbourhood knew exactly what she was going through but none raised a voice. They could hear her scream for help every night, but no one was willing to rescue the woman from the daily punches she received from her husband. It would be termed marriage interference if anyone came to her rescue.
Eventually she let the cat out of the bag after losing all of her front teeth from heavy blows and her beauty was no more. Her face was covered with indelible marks all over.
With hope that the marriage counselors would find a lasting solution to her matrimonial problems, she rushed to seek help, only to be told, “icupo kushipikiska (marriage is about endurance), “a woman should always be submissive to her husband.” They sent her back to her matrimonial home.
Four years later, the woman died of internal bleeding after intense beatings by her ‘beloved’ husband. Silently she was no more with no one to take her husband to task over her death.
This may sound like a grim fairy tale but this is the reality in Zambia today. Gender-based violence continues to be a problem with the number of reported cases on the rise. According to official government figures, one in five women has experienced some form of violence in their lives. Of all the forms of violence, spousal abuse or domestic violence is the highest form of abuse reported.
Most cases have gone unreported because our society is shrouded in a culture of silence. Victims fear stigma and lack socio-economic security. Women have themselves to blame for this continued barbaric trend that has been allowed to freely blossom in our society because they act duplicitously. Women who have left their matrimonial homes are called all sorts of names by fellow women for failing to serve their marriages. Marriage counselors who are mostly women have based their teachings on submissiveness, endurance and secrecy in marriage.
Last month, a public apology by the former Zambia Airforce commander’s wife made sad reading. The woman was forced to publicly apologize for causing a stir when she caught her husband cheating with a young lady despite him threatening to kill her (the wife) in full view of spectators. To serve her marriage the wife apologized through the media and took the blame for the husband’s threats to kill her.
Another sad incident was when the now current defense minister battered his wife. Her relatives reported the matter to the police, only for her to withdraw from the case.
These are women in the limelight who are supposed to publicly condemn violence and take a strong opposition to such acts but their actions are contrary to what is expected of them.
The two incidents are but a few examples of women who have sided with their abusive husbands, although some have made bold decisions to free themselves from such abuse.
Last year the Zambian government enacted the Anti Gender Based Violence Act which calls to enact and enforce legislation prohibiting all forms of GBV; this helps to discourage traditional norms of abuse including social, economic, cultural and political practices, but for this to work the solution lies with women themselves.
If all women stand firm, support each other with strength and bravery, and refrain from name calling when one denounces an abusive man, then no man will raise his hand against a woman.
Let us unite and wipe out gender based violence, it only through unity that this vice can be stamped out, Yes we can.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.