The Sunday Mail
There is a substantive reason why the United Nations devotes 16 days to activities geared towards the decimation of Gender Based Violence every year.
In fact its eradication needs to be pursued all year long.
Economies have failed to reach their potential because of GBV in part, while societies have not progressed to the extent that they should because of discrimination and the violence perpetrated on women and men, the former being more on the receiving end.
The development discourse of this country, the continent and the world at large has been hamstrung by the effects of GBV on women and children mostly.
Constricted access to health and education, family instability and effects of GBV negate efforts to foster economic growth, social harmony and broadly, the creation of a conducive environment for people to express themselves, their talents, innovation and creativity.
GBV is a vile phenomenon and an indictment on our relations as a people. In the majority of cases, the violence is perpetrated against women, but that does not say men are not victims as well.
They are, but research has shown they usually suffer silently because of their social construct that says they should always present a strong and brave image.
Statistics reveal that one in three women have been abused at some point in their lifetime and this figure has gone up since the advent of Covid-19.
The disease and the attendant lockdowns and other daily living challenges have seen an escalation of domestic violence.
Research has shown that about two in every three women have experienced some kind of violence under the Covid-19 environment or at least know someone who has.
The sad reality being that only one in 1o cases report such incidents to the police.
This rise in cases is attributable to the stress that the pandemic induces a significant decline in revenue streams and the constant association between partners.
The Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey states that about 51,3 percent of girls aged 19 and below have their first sexual experience forced against their will.
When humanity resorts to violence to solve issues, it is found wanting. Humans are uniquely equipped to deal with matters soberly, rationality and prudently.
We are different from animals which do not have the reasoning and emotional capabilities.
It then boggles the mind why people harm each other using all manner of weapons such as knives, guns, axes and bare fists to inflict pain.
The inevitable question becomes: how do we get to these levels?
The genesis is in socialisation. Men, particularly, are infused with a belief that they have to be strong, and not be vulnerable, not to lose, to deal with issues decisively, to derive pleasure in winning and never to be challenged by women.
They have to win in all situations, they have to assert their authority, however, that may happen.
A significant number of them view violence as a way of resolving issues.
Men fight over the pettiest of issues, including over beer or ladies of the night in the pursuit of establishing their authority and boosting egos.
Women are also complicit in some instances. Often there are festering wounds, pressure accumulating underneath, unbeknown to their partners.
We end up hearing of boiled water or cooking oil being used to scald the males in the dead of the night.
A good number are in prison on account of these acts, regardless of how justified one would have felt at the time. The law is the law and it applies indiscriminately.
Gender Based Violence in all its forms needs to be eradicated from society. We have heard the President speak against it.
Physical fights, early child marriages, forcing young women onto husbands as is practised in some religions, are issued that need to be tackled to alleviate and ultimately end GBV in the country and the world at large.
Zimbabwe has been applauded by the UN for is efforts in fighting GBV, but more needs to be done to save lives and foster a freer and equal-opportunities society.
So what are the solutions? How do we ensure it dissipates or is entirely obliterated from our midst?
“However, despite these efforts, significant gaps in the protection of women and girls from discrimination still exist in law and in practice.
“This research comprehensively examined the laws of Zimbabwe and concludes that a number of legislative actions must be taken to bring the laws of Zimbabwe in conformity with its obligations under international law,” read a report on Mapping and Analysis of the Laws of Zimbabwe from a Gender Perspective done by the UN Women Zimbabwe.
In her solidarity message in commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, the First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa also lamented the rise in GBV cases, particular those of teenagers being married off.
“This is why in Zimbabwe we have chosen to run with the Theme ‘End Violence against Women and Girls Now; No to Child Marriage’. I urge women, men, girls and boys in our communities, workplaces and other establishments to make good use of my National BBV call centre to report cases, seek information and receive support,” she said.
As society and families we need to start by raising our children as equals without any discrimination. We give them equal confidence in all they do, irrespective of gender.
It is important that we inculcate in them that violence begets violence and is not a sustainable way of solving issues, guiding them to exercise restraint in their actions.
We also tell them that we are different from animals, which act on instinct, that we have been endowed by our Maker with immense reasoning capacity and it would be unfair to put that to waste.
We go on to impose deterrent sentences on perpetrators.
There is a joke that it would appear that cows are more protected than the girl child because of the more harsh sentences on theft of cattle. This takes us to the necessity to ensure the requisite legislation is put in place.
There are some too who wrongly refer to the bible to justify their dominance over women.
Their argument being that a woman came from a man (Adam and Eve) story and, therefore, it is a God-ordained right to dominate, even if it means violently.
So all sectors of the populace need to play an active role to disabuse many from the notion that GBV can be justified.
The pulpit needs to educate congregants that love is the basic conduct for regulating livelihoods and that violence flies in the face of this basic principle.
Our schools need to preach equality and non-violent forms of resolving issues.
Furthermore, women should be empowered so that they are not entirely dependent on men. They need to have their own means of survival, complementing that of their husbands. They do not need to stay in abusive relationships too when push comes to shove.
So, here we are ,confronted by a vice of huge proportion.
One which impacts on our social fabric and overall well-being. It is up to us to act and it starts with identifying the causes, then analyse what perpetuates it. Finally what the solutions are.
Beyond that, we look at whether we are truly implementing the measures that address this retrogressive phenomenon.
In God I trust.