In the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, I have decided to stick with the theme and write about gender violence. I am no fan of such commemorations, but if they raise awareness on one of mankind’s most inexplicable and barbaric acts, then why not.
My post will not be about the savagery of men, but rather of a society has ingrained a belief that men should beat them up, probably as a show of love. My post will be based on the latest statistics from the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey, held every five years. These stats were released two years ago.
A thoroughly disturbing trend is that at least a third of all the female respondents have been victims of physical and sexual abuse and with such a high percentage it seems abuse has become the new normal.
For example, 40% of the women in Zimbabwe believed that their husbands were justified to beat them if they burnt food they were cooking. Quite bizarre that women can think this way, it could also show that they are psyched by society to think in that manner.
Now the strangest part of the survey is that only 5% of the men thought a woman should be beaten up for burning the food.
As long as both men and women think women should be beaten for burning food, then we are yet to start the long and torturous journey towards ending gender based violence.
Fair enough in some households food is hard to come by, but assaulting a woman, or anyone for that matter, is pushing it to the extreme.
Violence has become institutionalised in our family set ups that we believe women should be beaten up for even the slightest of transgression.
It becomes more outlandish, it seems some women were taught that they should never argue with their husbands. One in five women believe that their husbands should pummel them for committing the heinous crime of arguing with them.
Conversations in such households must be extremely dull; one way, no dissent, no argument, nothing but a woman sat in the corner nodding furiously and lapping at every word that comes out from her husband’s mouth, even if she completely disagrees with it.
At least 20% of the women believe that their husbands should beat them up if they go out without telling them, while a sixth say if they neglected their children, then their husbands should thrash them.
About 18% of the women agreed that if they denied their husbands their conjugal rights, then again, the husband should be allowed to assault them. In such situations, marital rape is a phrase that does not exist and women should suffer in extreme silence.
One in two women said their husbands had the right to assault them if the committed an infidelity. Some may feel this is right and give all sorts of justifications. If she can commit infidelity before she is assaulted, what can stop her from doing so after, only this time she will be more careful not to get caught.
In my native Ndebele language we say “a knobkerrie does not a home build”.
As we commemorate these 16 days of activism, I believe the narrative should move towards educating both men and women that violence is not the answer.
It is not enough to just blame men, but there should be a move towards changing societal norms and beliefs. It is not enough to talk about laws and rights without seeking to change the value system that perpetuates gender violence.