Sauce for the Gander is not the answer

As we draw closer to the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, with the global theme “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”, reports of domestic violence have been featuring in the local newspapers over the past few weeks, brought to prominence by the high profile case of Tinopona Katsande who was beaten up by her boyfriend, Brian Munjodzi. What raises great interest is that increasingly men are being reported as victims. Having men reported as victims of domestic violence is a fairly new phenomenon in Zimbabwe as victims are usually women and men the perpetrators.

For example, it is reported in the media that Marjory Mugwagwa beat up her husband, Million “Save” Chihwande, after having caught him with a commercial sex worker. What is not clear from the report is whether Million reported the matter to the police, or that it happened in public and the police were called to break up the fracas. Whichever the case, it highlights that men are also victims of domestic violence.    Our patriarchal cultural and religious system has resulted in men enforcing their physical strength over their women as a way of subjugating women.

However, now that men are coming out and reporting that they are battered by their intimate partners as well is the gender work coming full circle?  The answer is hardly. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure gender equality and put an end to domestic violence against women.  It is encouraging to have men report domestic violence against them as it shows that the violence is across the board; it does not discriminate on grounds of sex, race or class. However, let us not focus on just the men as was with the case of the ‘female rapists’ that made headline news earlier this year. It is important for us to address the issue; what are the major causes of domestic violence, why is it increasing, what is being done about it, what more needs to be done, and by whom, or what is not being done?

We are living in a society that is fraught with violence; it may not be overt but there are tensions that exist as a result of the unresolved political violence of 2008 and before. Violence in the public arena worsens violence in the private space; if a person is a victim in public and tries to address it through the proper channels, i.e. the police, and does not receive redress, they are unlikely to report a violation that happens in private, in the home.   The government created the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, but it has done little to bring communities together in its 4 years. The Organ is encouraging Zimbabweans to forgive the wrongdoings of the past and move forward, but, without acknowledgement of wrong doing, how does one expect forgiveness? As in Million’s case, the police counselled the pair and they have since reconciled, we as Zimbabweans need to come up with agreed workable solutions to end the culture of violence; be it through counselling, traditional methods, or acknowledgement and compensation. We need to do this with urgency as our children are being raised to associate violence with power and leadership, be it in the public arena or in the home, and this is not right.

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