Vi­o­lence sani­tised in name of mar­riage

The Manica Post - - Feature / Opinion - Cather­ine Murombedzi

ZIM­BABWE joined the rest of the world in com­mem­o­rat­ing 16 days against gen­der based vi­o­lence.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Un­der-Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral and Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of UN Women on the In­ter­na­tional Day for the Elim­i­na­tion of Vi­o­lence against Women (Novem­ber 25, 2018), in Ot­tawa, urged all com­mu­ni­ties to lis­ten to the miffed voice of the abused women.

“This year's United Na­tions theme for the In­ter­na­tional Day for the Elim­i­na­tion of Vi­o­lence against Women is ‘Or­ange the World: #HearMeToo'. It aims to hon­our and am­plify voices, whether a house­wife at home, a school­girl abused by her teacher, an of­fice sec­re­tary, a sportswoman, or a boy who is an in­tern in a busi­ness by bring­ing them to­gether across lo­ca­tions and sec­tors in a global move­ment of sol­i­dar­ity. It is a call to lis­ten to and be­lieve sur­vivors, to end the cul­ture of si­lenc­ing and to put the sur­vivors at the cen­tre of the re­sponse,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Per­son­ally, I have wit­nessed oc­ca­sions where vi­o­lence is given a place in the name of mar­riage.

Vi­o­lence is sani­tised and be­comes some­thing we have grown up with and get used to.

How many times have women cried out for help only to be told that it is nor­mal that men are sup­posed to dis­ci­pline them?

Last Satur­day we held a bridal shower for a niece who is ty­ing the knot in De­cem­ber. Friends, aun­ties and even the pas­tor from her church talked of sub­mis­sion.

“Al­ways be hum­ble, sub­mit your­self to your hus­band. The man is the head of the house, be a good wife, do not ar­gue with your hus­band,” was the mantra of the day.

The pas­tor went a gear up. She idolised the hus­band as a “gift from God”.

“If your hus­band chides you, it is be­cause you have done some­thing wrong. A trained woman does not stand up to her hus­band. If he slaps you on one cheek, give him the other cheek,” my niece was ad­vised.

“I do not per­mit a woman to teach or to ex­er­cise au­thor­ity over a man rather, she is to re­main quiet,” the pas­tor said quot­ing 1 Tim­o­thy 2v12.

“Do not de­stroy your new home be­cause the bi­ble says: “The wis­est of women builds her house, but the fool with her own hands tears it down,” (Proverbs 14:1).

The pas­tor twisted the bi­ble to suit her ad­vice. Sadly, peo­ple lis­ten to their church lead­ers.

For me that was a very sad oc­ca­sion. The bride was get­ting into a union as a sec­ond class ci­ti­zen, sen­si­tised to ac­cept abuse.

I felt that abuse was so­cialised to be the norm in mar­riage. Vi­o­lence was given a place with the woman asked to sub­mit to her hus­band.

Bar­bra Ngazi, an ac­tivist from Chegutu spoke of the need to lis­ten to the vic­tims rather than ques­tion them why it hap­pened.

“The fo­cus must change from ques­tion­ing the cred­i­bil­ity of the vic­tim, to pur­su­ing the ac­count­abil­ity of the per­pe­tra­tor. Those who have spo­ken out have helped us un­der­stand bet­ter just how much sex­ual ha­rass­ment has been nor­malised and even jus­ti­fied as an in­evitable part of a woman's life,” said Ngazi.

Ngazi spoke of women who had to take con­tra­cep­tion in hid­ing.

“Some women have no power over their bod­ies; fam­ily plan­ning is the hus­band's do­main with the woman a pas­sen­ger. She is not al­lowed to de­cide how many chil­dren she wants to have. In the end, women take con­tra­cep­tion in hid­ing.

They place the tablets in mealie-meal bags, in the gar­den or any place in­ac­ces­si­ble to the hus­band,” said Ngazi.

“Women are beaten up and do not re­port to the po­lice for fear of be­ing chucked out of the homes. Women on long-term med­i­ca­tion are also stopped from tak­ing med­i­ca­tion with dire re­sults. Women are raped in the home, they can­not refuse the de­mands of the hus­band even when ill, this is all vi­o­lence,” she added.

She called on the po­lice and ju­di­cial in­sti­tu­tions to take re­ports se­ri­ously, pri­ori­tis­ing the safety and well be­ing of women and girls.

“The way women are in­ter­ro­gated is sad. In courts one gets to feel that the sus­pect is the wronged part. No won­der some women have re­mained silent af­ter abuse and rape,” she said.

“Af­ter be­ing beaten up, the vic­tim is of­ten asked, ‘what had you done wrong?' which si­lences the vic­tim”.

Last year the UN Trust Fund to End Vi­o­lence against Women ben­e­fited over six mil­lion in­di­vid­u­als to the 500-mil­lion-Euro EU-UN Spot­light ini­tia­tive.

It is the largest sin­gle in­vest­ment in the elim­i­na­tion of vi­o­lence against women and girls world­wide, to work on safe ci­ties and safe pub­lic spa­ces.

Women also suf­fer psy­cho­log­i­cal, rather than phys­i­cal abuse which is not vis­i­ble to many peo­ple. Many women have or are cur­rently suf­fer­ing some form of abuse from their hus­bands, or boyfriend or part­ners, or their em­ploy­ers.

The 16 Days of Ac­tivism for No Vi­o­lence Against Women and Chil­dren is an in­ter­na­tional aware­ness-rais­ing cam­paign.

It takes place ev­ery year from Novem­ber 25 to De­cem­ber 10.

Let us hear the miffed voices of women and girls. We have failed to ex­plain to young peo­ple the con­cepts of con­sent, sex­ual as­sault and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Young women who ex­pe­ri­ence vi­o­lence con­tinue to be blamed and stig­ma­tised, all in the name of sub­mis­sion

In Zim­babwe we have wit­nessed a re­mark­able con­flu­ence of events where women have been mur­dered in Harare and Gweru. More un­re­ported cases go un­no­ticed.

It's of­ten taken for granted that vi­o­lence against women is some­thing that we will in­evitably out­grow as a so­ci­ety — a hang­over from past, more un­equal times.

But the WHO re­port de­tails that even amongst young women between the ages of 15 and 19 years, 29.4 per­cent ex­pe­ri­ence vi­o­lence.

Sex­ual vi­o­lence, at the hands of boyfriends or part­ners, is rampant.

Sadly when women talk of abuse, the com­mu­nity sani­tises it and blames the vic­tim.

Let us open our ears to the si­lenced cry­ing voices. ◆ Feed­back:cathymwauyak­[email protected]

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