Violence sanitised in name of marriage
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]