Monday, May 30, 2011

Zimbabwe Women's Affairs Deputy Minister Majome Says 'Time for Zero-Tolerance of Violence Against Women'

Time for zero tolerance to violence against women

Saturday, 21 May 2011 21:53
By Fungayi Jessie Majome, MP
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Recently, horrific stories of gruesome domestic violence against women have made headlines in our nation’s newspapers.

The extent of cruelty of the torture on these women has shocked even the most indifferent among us. Before the ink had dried on the stories reporting the young woman whose husband tortured her with a red-hot iron, stuffed salt and hot curry powder into her sensitive and intimate body parts and proceeded to rape her, our papers were screaming with headlines about the hardworking Chitungwiza woman whose husband savagely hacked her with an axe. The sheer butchery and brutality of these acts would make even the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recoil had they been meted upon animals.

What is most disturbing is these stories are merely two out of a magnitude of endemic proportions. Domestic violence is so endemic that it happens in almost every home. Only a few cases are ever reported either in the media or to the police for various the reasons.

This under-reporting shows that our society has disconcerting levels of comfort with domestic violence; we seem to wallow comfortably in its filth littered with the blood, broken bones and teeth of women survivors, and often with the graves of those who do not make it. If we allow these headlines to persist by not dealing decisively with domestic violence against women, we will certainly reach a level of numbness about it. It is time for effective measures to end domestic violence. It is now time for zero tolerance to domestic violence.

To end domestic violence we need to understand why it happens in the first place. What kind of man raises his hand, his axe or whatever weapon against his wife or intimate partner? It is simply a man who has low self-esteem, is so insecure in himself and his lack of achievement in life that he feels he must take it out on what he thinks is weaker and less worthy than himself. Unfortunately, his wife and intimate partner is, in his unstable and warped mind, just that. A man who raises his hand against his wife or intimate partner is at his wits’ end — his mind has failed to go over matter; he is weak and has failed to control his emotions so that his mind can work over the issue.

A man who is the opposite, i.e. who is confident, secure and sure of himself will not use violence against a woman or anyone for that matter to “solve” any problem. He knows that he is capable of addressing any problem that may confront him, real or perceived, without the need to turn his wife or intimate partner into a scapegoat punch bag. A whole and complete man has no doubt that a woman, including the one he lives with, is a full and complete human being also endowed with full human dignity, equality and freedom, whatever her faults, and will respect her as such, and therefore not treat her with cruelty or even death. In order for domestic violence to be locked up in the museum with other primitive relics of the pre-historic past, we need to accept the simple truth that there is no excuse for domestic violence. None whatsoever! Neither hail nor high water. There is always an alternative to solve whatever domestic problem may confront a couple, and in fact violence will not solve it at all but simply spawn its own web of problems. A marriage certificate or a lobola receipt is not a licence to pummel one’s spouse or intimate partner.

Our resolve to end domestic violence should be hardened by considering how it hurts more than the victim or survivor; and how it also dehumanises the perpetrator. Domestic violence is a personal issue and more. It is an economic issue, a social issue, a health issue and a security issue. The opportunity cost of treating women’s bones broken by domestic violence is the human and financial capital set aside for public health which could treat childhood diseases, prevent maternal mortality, Aids and malaria. The mental health of victims, those they live with, and of witnesses is compromised by exposure to domestic violence. The biggest casualties of this are children who may be scarred for life by these experiences. Victims and perpetrators of domestic violence are withdrawn from the labour force for a time or for good.

Women victims and survivors of domestic violence are either temporarily or permanently disabled from their socially beneficial roles of caring for the young, the elderly and the sick, thereby causing short, medium and long-term economic losses. Recurrent and chronic physical attacks on 52% of the nation’s population clearly pose a threat to national security. Rwanda monitors gender-based violence in its routine security statistics in acknowledgment of this fact.

Sexual violence against women is another manifestation of a lack of respect for the worth of women as human beings. The rape of a woman of any age, from zero to 100 years of age and beyond, is a travesty of her bodily integrity, inviolability and her human rights. Our society is also unacceptably tolerant of sexual violence against women. We should not be shocked when a man vandalises an elderly woman’s hut in order to rape her, or removes a two-year-old baby’s nappy in order to rape her. It is not the age of the child’s private parts that matters, what matters is the ultimate violation of another’s body.

The reason why a little girl of five years of age, or a grandmother of 80 is raped is because when that happens we are repulsed by the age of the victim and not the dastardly rape itself.

By that, our society is communicating the message to rapists that they should choose older or younger victims respectively, and not desist from rape itself altogether. What age, one might ask, is ideal for rape? As long as we do not vociferously communicate the unequivocal zero tolerance to rape, girls in their nappies and grannies will continue to be raped, not to mention those of ages in between.

It is high time we all emphatically communicated zero tolerance for violence against women at personal, family, community, societal, government, law and law enforcement levels.

Jessie Majome is Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development.

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