The other 349 days...

We still need to do a lot more to deal with gen­der-based and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. We should not tol­er­ate men who still beat up women in the ‘name of love’, writes

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Gen­der-based vi­o­lence and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence know no race, class, colour, eth­nic­ity or re­li­gion. Vi­o­lence does not recog­nise the size of your bank ac­count or your fam­ily back­ground, and af­fects women from all walks of life.

In fact, re­search by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) shows that 35% of women world­wide have ex­pe­ri­enced some sort of gen­der-based vi­o­lence. Al­most one-third of women who have been in a re­la­tion­ship have ex­pe­ri­enced phys­i­cal or sex­ual vi­o­lence by their in­ti­mate part­ner – also known as do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. This means that one in ev­ery three women in a re­la­tion­ship is a vic­tim of vi­o­lence at home.

Th­ese fig­ures are as­tound­ing and yet, Africa still lags be­hind in pro­vid­ing ex­act num­bers and re­search on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence on the con­ti­nent. A lot of the re­search avail­able is based on es­ti­mates and, in some coun­tries, such as Mozam­bique, there is no re­search at all. This poses a chal­lenge on how you ad­dress the prob­lem where there isn’t suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion to show the mag­ni­tude of the is­sue.

Our gov­ern­ments and min­istries of women need to be­gin to take gen­der-based vi­o­lence and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence more se­ri­ously and en­sure that we have the right fig­ures, know the mag­ni­tude of the prob­lem and have the right struc­tures to ad­dress the is­sues.

The UN’s global 16 Days of Ac­tivism Against Gen­der Vi­o­lence cam­paign pro­vides sur­vivors of vi­o­lence with the op­por­tu­nity to open up and speak about their ex­pe­ri­ences, and cre­ate aware­ness of the mag­ni­tude of the prob­lem. How­ever, a lot more needs to be done, be­cause there are 349 more days in the year in which women con­tinue to be abused and ex­posed to all kinds of vi­o­lence. We still have men who beat up women in the “name of love”, and across com­mu­ni­ties there are those who still per­pe­trate vi­o­lence as a form of “show­ing love”.

Th­ese are the forms of cul­tural norms that the Kuh­luka Move­ment seeks to ad­dress – work­ing to­gether with men across com­mu­ni­ties, cus­to­di­ans of cul­ture, com­mu­nity lead­ers and in­ter­est groups – and be­gin to in­ter­ro­gate such harm­ful prac­tices and tra­di­tions, and ques­tion tra­di­tional prac­tices and be­hav­iours, that fos­ter an en­vi­ron­ment that tol­er­ates vi­o­lence to­wards women.

The chal­lenge we have is that not all women are speak­ing out be­cause of tra­di­tional per­cep­tions that what hap­pens in the home or in the bed­room be­tween part­ners should stay there. There are also other chal­lenges that women face: a lot of the time they are torn be­tween leav­ing part­ners and stay­ing for the kids, they are scared of los­ing fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits and, in ad­di­tion, there is a lack of or min­i­mal sup­port by gov­ern­ments and min­istries of women across a num­ber of com­mu­ni­ties in Africa.

I be­lieve that more women should be­gin to speak out about abuse. Re­search by the UN Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme shows that women have tra­di­tion­ally not spo­ken out against do­mes­tic vi­o­lence be­cause of shame (in front of neigh­bours), fear of a spouse, threat of fam­ily break­down and fi­nan­cial de­pen­dence.

Many women can at­test to this and it should not be so – our gov­ern­ments and min­istries of women should have al­lo­ca­tions and bud­gets to sup­port women in abu­sive re­la­tion­ships and en­sure that th­ese women have a safe place to go, that they re­ceive the right sup­port and, when ex­pe­ri­enc­ing abuse, can turn to a safe place where they can heal, pick them­selves up and be­gin to move on again.

It’s sad that statis­tics show that one in ev­ery three women ex­pe­ri­ences do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in their life­time. What’s even sad­der is that you never know whether the per­son you are with will abuse you. While there are tell­tale signs in some cases, with oth­ers, vi­o­lence just erupts and, be­fore you know it, you have lost an eye or a limb or even your life.

The pe­riod of 16 Days of Ac­tivism Against Gen­der Vi­o­lence pro­vides a spring­board to en­gage and speak out about abuse. The re­main­ing 349 days of Have you been a vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or abuse by your part­ner? What do you think needs to be done to com­bat this? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word ABUSE and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 the year should be used for con­tin­u­ous en­gage­ment. More needs to be done to cre­ate sup­port struc­tures for women to speak out with­out hav­ing to think about the shame that may come with speak­ing out. Women, re­gard­less of their fi­nan­cial sta­tus or their fam­ily back­grounds, must speak out against abuse and not re­main silent in toxic and dan­ger­ous re­la­tion­ships in which they may lose their lives. Machel was a vic­tim of abuse, which left her blind in one eye. She is the founder of the Kuh­luka Move­ment, a not-for-profit civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tion that aims to com­bat the vi­o­la­tion of women’s rights through ad­vo­cacy, ed­u­ca­tion and mit­i­ga­tion

There are tell­tale signs of vi­o­lence and cer­tain traits that women can look out for in their part­ners. There are things to watch out for to find out if a man is pos­ses­sive and con­trol­ling. For ex­am­ple, if he wants to con­trol what you wear or how you do your hair, or if he wants to know why you are talk­ing to “that” man.

When a woman starts a new re­la­tion­ship, she should watch out for the fol­low­ing signs: Is he po­lite to those around him? Does he en­joy be­ing at fam­ily events or among friends? A lot of abusers do not want to be around other peo­ple – they only want to be with you all the time.

Is he pos­ses­sive? How does he speak to you and oth­ers? Is he im­pa­tient and ag­gres­sive?

Does he be­lit­tle you in pub­lic? Does he make fun of you, your clothes and your ap­pear­ance?

Is he ar­ro­gant? How does he treat a waiter or a se­cu­rity guard?

Th­ese signs can help a woman iden­tify a po­ten­tial abuser. A lot of the time, prob­lems start with emo­tional vi­o­lence be­fore they be­come phys­i­cal. Be wary of men who want to iso­late you from every­one else.

I grew up in an abu­sive home with an al­co­holic fa­ther. To­gether with my mother and brother, I suf­fered phys­i­cal abuse at the hands of my fa­ther. Al­co­hol played the big­gest role in my fa­ther’s be­hav­iour.

When he drank, the house be­came a home of ter­ror, and so when I started my stud­ies, I wanted to un­der­stand the ef­fect of this kind of be­hav­iour and look at the ef­fects of the scar­ring that it cre­ates in the long term.

It is sad that we con­tinue to hear sto­ries of women who have ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fer­ent forms of abuse at the hands of the men in their lives, and it’s worse still when they ig­nore the abuse be­cause “he loves me”. Let’s be clear: this is not love – love builds you up, it does not tear you down.

There is also the per­cep­tion that emo­tional abuse, light forms of vi­o­lence such as pulling a woman’s hair, and ob­ses­sive be­hav­iour and a sense of own­er­ship of a woman by her part­ner is okay, but th­ese are be­havioural traits that even­tu­ally lead to worse forms of vi­o­lence.

The chal­lenge that we have nowa­days is that we are los­ing our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of el­ders and their valu­able ad­vice, and so young peo­ple are mar­ry­ing the wrong peo­ple be­cause they meet th­ese men and don’t in­tro­duce them to their fam­i­lies and friends un­til it’s too late.

We need to bring back the role that el­ders play in re­ally see­ing who a per­son is, and iden­tify role mod­els who will give hon­est feed­back on what they think of this new per­son a woman wants in her life.

While I am not a cheerleader of shar­ing one’s per­sonal life with girl­friends and sham­ing men in pub­lic, it’s im­por­tant that women have at least one per­son they can share their prob­lems with out­side of their mar­riage be­cause it can get a lit­tle cloudy in there, and some­one else may be able to help put things into per­spec­tive. Masondo is a be­havioural spe­cial­ist,

psy­chol­o­gist and au­thor


SPEAK­ING OUT Josina Machel, daugh­ter of Graca Machel, was bru­tally as­saulted by her boyfriend and sub­se­quently lost an eye

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