Mrs. Virginia Muwanigwa, a gender rights advocate in the Republic of Zimbabwe. Muwanigwa commented on a recent study dealing with the culture of gender-based violence in Zimbabwe., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
How culture promotes domestic violence
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 21:19
RURAL women have come out tops in justifying any form of violence perpetrated against them by their husbands, an indication that cultural beliefs are still strongly linked to domestic violence despite having the Domestic Violence Act in place, the recently published Multiple Indicator Monitoring Survey 2009 has revealed.
Women from the country's 10 provinces aged between 15 and 49 years who took part in this survey were asked questions to assess their attitudes towards whether husbands are justified to hit or beat their wives or partners when they are angered or annoyed for a variety of reasons.
The five reasons included when a wife goes out without telling her husband; when a wife neglects children; when she argues with him; when she refuses to have sex with him and when she burns food.
For the predominantly rural areas, Mashonaland Central province had the highest proportion of 71 percent of women who justified domestic violence with Midlands being the lowest with 56 percent.
Harare and Bulawayo provinces had relatively low proportions of 36 and 38 percent respectively.
With regard to domestic violence for child neglect, rural areas had a greater proportion (42 percent).
For predominately rural provinces, Mashonaland Central had the highest proportion of 47 percent of women who believed that wife beating and child neglect was justified, whilet Matabeleland South had the lowest with 33 percent.
Bulawayo and Harare provinces had relatively low proportions of 20 percent and 21 percent, respectively.
Thirty-six percent of married women believed that wife beating for child neglect was justified compared to those who were formerly married or in were never married or in a union 33 percent.
A total of 36 percent of women from Mashonaland Central Province believed that wife beating for going out without telling a husband was justified but this decreased with the age, education levels and household wealth.
Matabeleland South had the lowest (22 percent), Harare and Bulawayo with 10 and 11 percent respectively.
It seems women from Mashonaland Central are quieter when it comes to arguing with husbands as Matabeleland North Province took the lead with 34 percent.
Mashonaland East came out last (23 percent).
Harare and Bulawayo had relatively low percentage 8 and 7 percent respectively.
Concerning domestic violence for refusal to have sex with a husband, rural areas had greater proportion (25 percent) with urban areas trailing with 8 percent.
Once again, predominately rural provinces, Mashonaland Central had the highest percentage of 28 percent, Mat South the lowest with 9 percent.
Bulawayo stood at 4 percent and Harare at 7 percent.
Most women in rural areas would accept being battered for burning food as a form of punishment.
Again, Mashonaland Central Province had the highest number (18 percent) of women who would accept to be beaten up for burning food. Mat South had the lowest (7 percent), Bulawayo and Harare 3 percent each.
Of all the provinces, Harare (74) and Bulawayo (69 percent) had the highest proportions of women who knew about the existence of the Domestic Violence Act.
Social protection and community development expert Mr Musekiwa Makwanya said the reason why women in rural areas are accepting domestic violence as a way of managing issues is because they have internalised it.
He said women end up accepting different forms of domestic violence because of socialisation which clearly stresses it as being caused rather than being a tool of social control.
"The only way to undo that psychological problem is to try and educate the women on acceptable ways of communicating differences and disagreements within families.
"Domestic violence has become a victim mentality and coping mechanism to accept that women who are beaten up are in the wrong," he said.
He said this submission by women to be beaten up for neglecting children clearly shows the role of women as the only people who should care of children.
"This is an outdated way of parenting and speaks of the role of men being absent," he added.
He revealed that accepting domestic violence puts children in vulnerable and harmful situations.
"Any situation of domestic violence places children at the risk of significant emotional and physical abuse. These women also fail to realise that accepting the conditions place children at risk.
"There is need for a multi-agency approach where social workers should respond to social protection and police enforce domestic violence law.
"Other agencies such as schools and the traditional leaders should embark on a massive awareness campaign in order to change these attitudes and expose criminal behaviour," he added.
Gender activist and Humanitarian Information Facility Centre director Mrs Virginia Muwanigwa said the issue of socialisation as women were growing up has led to their acceptance of domestic violence as a form of punishment.
She said: "As we were growing up, there were certain expectations of what women should do when married. Domestic violence was not seen as a major problem and aunts would try to counsel their nieces if they were beaten up for failing to conform to standards accepted."
Mrs Muwanigwa added that domestic violence has been used as a form of punishment for too long and people only realise that a woman has been in a bad situation when she dies from beatings.
"There have been incidents where women have died as a result of domestic violence. This is when the woman suddenly becomes valuable as her relatives start claiming cattle as a way of appeasing the dead. This is very unfortunate," she said.
A senior citizen, Mr Albert Murombo (85), said women, especially those from rural areas still accept domestic violence as a way of admitting that they have wronged their husbands because of many reasons, chief among them lack of economic empowerment.
"Most rural women are over-reliant on their husbands for survival and end up submitting themselves to through beatings over petty issues like burning a pot of sadza. This could also be an indication of the economic situation in rural areas where most women do not own anything besides a set of pots and other kitchen utensils," he said.
Mr Murombo added that cultural beliefs and total submission has resulted in women accepting whatever their husband does to discipline them.
The MIMS was designed by Government to collect information on a large number of socio-economic and health indicators required to inform the planning, implementation and monitoring of national policies and programmes for enhancing the welfare of children and women.
The research was conducted by the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (Zimstat), formerly the Central Statistical Office, in April and May 2009 with the financial support from the United Nations Children's Fund.
The MIMS is a nationally representative survey of 12 500 households, 12 488 women aged between 15 to 49 years and 7 499 children under five years. It allows for customised version of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) Round 3.
These are such issues that should be addressed as we approach the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence beginning on November 25 to December 10.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership in 1991.
Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasise that such violence is a violation of human rights.
This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World Aids Day, and December 6, which marks the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organising strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.