Seychelles: GBV study includes focus on men

Date: November 25, 2016
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By Kevin Chiramba

Henri*, a calm man in his late fifties employed as a security guard in the market in Victoria, the capital, endured years of verbal, emotional and physical abuse from his wife. She ran the family business, was unfaithful, and insulted and punched him. Once she threatened him with a knife. He endured as much as he could, then sought help from the Family Tribunal and finally divorced her two years ago.

This unusual gender bender quoted in an article by Mercedes Sayagues titled “Problems In Paradise” is amplified in the preliminary findings of the Gender Violence Baseline Study launched by Gender Links (GL) and the Government of Seychelles on the 25th November – the start of the Sixteen Days campaign.

For a long time gender violence research has focused on violence against women and girls (VAWG) in patriarchal societies where male dominance, values and culture fuel violence against women.

It is important to state that the study found that more women (54%) than men (35%) suffer intimate partner violence in Seychelles. But the preliminary findings of the first GBV indicators study that looks at women and men’s experiences and their perpetration of GBV shows that in this Indian Ocean Island GBV is far from being a one way street.

The Seychelles GBV Indicators study is the seventh in a series of baseline studies that GL has undertaken in South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Lesotho. The six earlier studies focused on women’s experiences and men’s perpetration of violence. At the insistence of Seychelles, the Indian Ocean nation of islands that has strong matriarchal leanings, GL reviewed the methodology to include women’s perpetration and men’s experience of violence.

During data collection, the male enumerators faced a daunting task of interviewing men who were not keen to disclose their experiences preferring to be interviewed by women enumerators instead.

It appears from the results of this study that men also tend to underreport GBV. When patriarchal societies position men as aggressors and women as victims it makes it extremely difficult for male victims to come forward.

The research, conducted by the Gender Secretariat of the Ministry of Social Development, in collaboration with Gender Links, shows that the most common form of violence against men in the Seychelles is emotional violence 29%, followed by physical violence 12%, economic violence 9%, and sexual violence 3.3%. About 40% of women reported that they perpetrated some form of intimate partner violence, 33% perpetrated emotional violence, 19% physical violence, 7% economic violence, and about 3% perpetrated sexual violence.

It is surprising but also encouraging to note that female perpetrators opened up and admitted to perpetrating violence against men.

Violence against men by women in Seychelles is not limited to partner abuse. The study also reveals that like their female counterparts, men also suffer violence from non-partners as well as in public spheres.

Ten percent of male respondents reported having experienced non-partner rape, 7% reported experiencing sexual harassment at school while almost 9% reported sexual harassment at work. In some societies the idea of men being raped or sexually harassed is complete taboo.

The research findings support police records which suggest both an increase in violence against men as well as a greater willingness of men to seek help. Such statistics demystify the usual narratives that only women get battered, men are never victims and women never attack.

These  statistics provide an impetus for the gender secretariat and other stakeholders in Seychelles to call for an end to all forms of gender based violence  irrespective of who commits it and who is the victim. Botswana, which is repeating the Baseline study in 2017, has taken a leaf from Seychelles and expanded the methodology to include violence against men.

It’s a wake up call to other countries in the region like Zimbabwe that do not recognise rape of men by women. Section 65 of the Zimbabwe Constitution defines rape as “an offence commited when a male person has sexual intercourse or anal sexual intercourse with a female person without her consent, and with reasonable knowledge that the female person does not consent to the act.” This leaves no room for legal recourse for male victims.

In the words of Mark Brooks, Chairman of the ManKind Initiative UK, “Domestic abuse is a crime against an individual, not a crime against a gender. Those that hold that view are clinging to an old-fashioned, politically correct view of the world that has no place in the 21st century when equality for all victims solely based on need has to be the answer.”

(Kevin Chiramba is a senior programme officer at Gender Links who has played a key role in the GBV indicators studies. This article is part of a special series being offered for the Sixteen Days of Activism).

Author: Kevin Chiramba