Locked down with the abuser: Perspectives on Sexual and Gender Based Violence

By Keith M Matshazi

The lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic has led us to revive our Youth for Innovation Trust Whatsapp Seminars as to engage with the youth and tackle pressing issues while maintaining social distancing. This week on our Sunday Growth Talks we looked at Gender Based Violence and Sexual Abuse. What is Gender Based Violence and Domestic Violence in our understanding today? :  Someone said Domestic Violence is the existence of unhealthy ways of interacting within the home that result in physical, emotional or other forms of violence and it becomes gender based when it is due to gender perception. Violence can be words, actions; manipulation or negligence. Someone went further to say GBV can be the fear of experiencing any forms of violence and GBV is perpetrated on a particular gender/person based on the perception that he or she is insubordinate.

What are some of the harmful cultures that protect GBV? And how can we guard against them?: Child marriages, patriarchy, social gendered roles and women empowerment were cultures touched upon as having the greatest harm in housing GBV. However patriarchy was noted to equally violate men and women alike. An example of expectations assuming that men is homogenous and should provide as well as protect was given, it was further stated that such comparisons lead to belittling men that do not conform to those expectations. The issue of patriarchy princess was raised, for example, paying for every bill incurred collectively.  Someone said patriarchy has been used to undermine the feminine gender, where women and children are treated the same leading to physical and psychological abuse but someone argued that patriarchy has always favoured women over men and gave an example of  ‘ abokhulu’ favouring women and blamed toxic masculinity for misusing ubuntu and culture. In addition, patriarchy was said to be centred on the value of family and household set up, where certain chores are assigned to a specific gender which is not practical in our modern day set up where both genders have to go to work and fend for the family. In conclusion everyone agreed that everyday language usage should change, doing away with statements like ‘what kind of a man can’t do this and that or it’s you duty as a woman to do this and that’. We also agreed to meaningfully engage both victims and perpetrators as to tailor make solutions that work best for both parties through conversations.

We then asked our participants why abuse and violence against women and children is still a big thing in Bulawayo and Zimbabwe.Someone blamed financial dependency as women are often provided for by men as well as the stigma attached to broken families where women are often the barriers of that stigma hence they choose to stay in an abusive environment. Someone highlighted that high level of stress and pressure to provide for the family can trigger frustration in men leading to men being abusive at home, while one participant  blamed culture, as African aunts advice other women to stay in marriages because  ‘umendo uyabekezelwa’ and men will always be men. The issue of women on women abuse was another angle raised in this discussion, circling on those women that target married men to split homes. Someone added that some women enjoy abuse, for example, where a man beats his wife and the family goes and report him but it’s the same woman that goes the next day to drop the charges, but someone disagreed and blamed the men who manipulate and isolate woman keeping them away from any support system as to have total control.

We then talked about the current lockdown situation and how vulnerable groups can cope; people were advised to constantly check on their loved ones through social media or phone calls as to maintain our support structures during this lockdown. The story of Mganwini woman who axed the husband to death because of a misunderstanding involving a remote control and an article on women complaining about too much sex during the lockdown were used as examples to highlight the increase in domestic abuse. It was concluded that consent is key and people should communicate with their partners, confide in people they trust and make use of available online platforms to report any kind of abuse. Lastly we looked at how GBV affect families and communities and how men can be solution makers instead of being perpetrators. The issue of broken homes was brought up and the cycle of abuse happening when the kids become adults, as GBV yields more GBV. Someone suggested men should be involved in solution building through men’s engagement meetings once a week to talk about their issues as men., avail more platforms for men to talk about their vulnerabilities and how to deal with hyper masculinity in a safe and non judgmental space, this can be online or have a centre like Sisonke in South Africa that solely deal with men issues and encourage counselling in men to talk through their issues.

In conclusion, GBV is everyone’s responsibility, and talking about issues that affect both genders due to patriarchy, societal gendered roles or any other reasons in a non judgmental space without the blame game can improve the relations between genders. We have to understand that we different genders and important and valued in our own right. Until our next discussion, stay safe and sanitize.

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