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New face of domestic violence

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By Lincoln Towindo and Diana Muringisi
THE term “domestic violence” is often associated with the image of an irate man viciously bashing a helpless woman into submission.

Such terms often stir gender activists into action as they bay for the blood of the alleged perpetrators. In the past, screaming newspaper headlines announcing such cases of domestic violence were very common but things seem to have taken a new twist in recent years. Reports show that there is a surge in cases where the formerly abused have become the abusers and while the erstwhile husbands are now the victims.

Cases of women appearing before the courts facing accusations of perpetrating domestic violence against their spouses has become widespread. Experts say that reported cases of domestic violence against men have been on a gradual rise in the last decade. This has sent many tongues wagging and questions are being asked as to whether Zimbabwean women are fast becoming the modern-day spouse bashers.

The national chairman of men’s rights advocacy group, Varume Svinurai/Vhukani Madoda, Mr Freddy Misi, said men have always borne the brunt of abusive spouses but it is only in recent years that they gathered the courage to come out in the open.

“Because of the stereotypes that society has taught us, men are presumed the ‘stronger’ sex and are not expected to suffer at the hands of the ‘weaker sex’. This has been the general rule since time immemorial,” said Mr Misi.

“Due to the extensive awareness campaigns on gender rights that have taken centre stage over the last decade, we have witnessed that men who have been suffering in silence for a long time are now coming out in the open and reporting the cases to the authorities.”

Mr Misi bemoaned the “wrong mindset” that still prevails in the law enforcement agencies, saying that the authorities are often accused of laughing off reported cases.

“The challenge still remains with the police who sometimes laugh off men who have mastered enough courage to come out in the open and report cases of abuse,” he said.

“Some men are told to go back and fight their own battles in their bedrooms. This stance is wrong.”

Mr Misi said concern still lingers over the Domestic Violence Act, which he says does not give the police power to investigate a reported case. He said the Act should be amended to give police powers to investigate a case instead of the provision whereby they are only mandated to arrest and bring a person to court for trial. Mr Godfrey Mutimba of Glen Norah, who was a victim of spousal abuse for over six years, said the horror he endured for the duration of his marriage and the humiliation he was put through by his neighbours and the police when he eventually reported his case was unbearable.

“You can only imagine the humiliation I went through when I had to vacate my role as head of the house due to the thorough beatings I received almost daily from my ex-wife,” he said.

“The neighbours were also unforgiving in their scathing remarks about my ordeal.

“After gathering enough courage, I decided to make a report to the police, where the officers laughed at me and told me to be man enough and fight my own battles.”

Police spokesperson Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said while the statistics of reported cases were not readily available, there was a surge in the number of domestic violence cases against men that were being reported.

“I can confirm that in recent years, there has been an upsurge in the number of reported cases whereby males are violated by the women,” said Supt Mandipaka.

“It is not that there were no cases of abuse in the past, it just boils down to the fact that men found, and still find it difficult to open up about such issues.”

Supt Mandipaka said the change in the status quo was due to the fact that men are now more informed and aware of their rights and are finding it easier to come out in the open in search of protection by the law. He shot down allegations that police were not attending to reports of abuse by men, saying that the force was professional and did not discriminate.

“The police force is very professional and does not discriminate on gender grounds,” he said. “We offer no preferential treatment to anybody.”

According to some social scientists, domestic violence against men is not only physical, but can also be emotional. This, they said, can also take place when a woman denies her husband conjugal rights as a form of punishment. They also identified the situation where some women turn their children against the father as another form of domestic violence which is often overlooked.

A sociologist at the Midlands State University, Mr Tawanda Neshamba, said statistics are not a true reflection of the situation on the ground since many other cases of men who are abused go unreported. “There has always been a lot of men who get beaten up by their spouses, but do not scream to the whole world that they have been beaten up because even if they do, very few would listen because they are naturally expected to be able to defend themselves,” said Mr Neshamba.

“Likewise, you will find that the statistics on the ground only refer to the men who own up to the fact that they are being abused, but not to the actual number of those being abused.

“There are actually more cases of men being abused by their wives than the ones being handled by the police.”

A cultural expert at the University of Zimbabwe, Dr Vimbai Chivaura, bemoaned the futility of trying to address the scourge through legislation. He said that people should revert back to the tried and tested cultural means of combating domestic violence.

“The law cannot end domestic violence,” he said.

“It can actually worsen it and lead to the breakdown of families. For example, a simple altercation that can be resolved through communication could deteriorate when one resorts to the law.”

Dr Chivaura said people should revisit the values with which to build and enhance good relationships between men and women, either at the workplace, in the family or in marriage.

“There are several sources of good values, for example, if one is a Christian, the Bible should guide you, and if you are an African, the philosophy of hunhu should be your source of values,” he said.

But cases of men seeking protection from the courts after being abused by their wives continue to rise. Only last month, a Harare man, Petros Dickson, approached the civil court in search of a protection order against his wife, Patricia Hari, after she allegedly gave him a thorough hiding. He had to flee the matrimonial home because of the persecution. Dickson told the court that their minor child also fled from Patricia’s violent behaviour.

In another case at the same court, another Harare man was also seeking a protection order against his wife after being scalded by boiling water when they failed to resolve their domestic differences. -The Sunday Mail

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0 # Dharamutata 2011-07-17 13:45
Vakadzi ivava vanoda mazihofori evarume vakaita seni.
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