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Curbing GBV in Southern Province

“I WILL never beat a woman because I have now learnt that it is a crime to do so, and anyone who batters his wife can go to prison for five years or even more,” says 32-year-old Evans Simwale, a bricklayer of Kamunza township in Choma.
He was recently sentenced to 60 days community service for assaulting his wife.
Mr Simwale was in August this year slapped with a community service sentence after the court convicted him of a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
On June 23 this year in Choma, Simwale assaulted his wife Miriam Moyo and occasioned her actual bodily harm.
Entering his plea before Choma magistrate Mbololwa Mukela, Simwale, who had been remanded in custody for about two weeks, admitted having whipped his wife following an argument.
Ironically, his wife applied to withdraw the case against him on grounds that she was facing challenges to support her three children from the time Simwale was apprehended.
“If my husband remains in custody, my children will suffer because I don’t work and when schools open next term, I will not be able to pay school fees for them,” Ms Moyo said.
However, Magistrate Mukela rejected the application.
“This case relates to gender-based violence (GBV), and working as a magistrate, these issues are very close to my heart. I cannot tolerate this kind of behaviour from a husband because doing so will render me unfit for my job…I will not allow you to withdraw this case.
“As much as I sympathise with you, I won’t allow the withdrawal of this case so that he [Simwale] can learn how to live in harmony,” Magistrate Mukela ordered.
In mitigation, Simwale asked for the court’s leniency because his children and dependents would suffer if he was slapped with a custodial sentence.
The magistrate, who acknowledged the accused’s sense of remorse over his actions, sentenced him to 60 days community service or in default, 12 months simple imprisonment.
“I sentence you to 60 days community service from 07:30 hours to 12:30 hours from Monday to Friday,” she said.
With less than 20 days left to conclude his 60-day community service sentence, Simwale has vowed never to lay a hand on a woman because “I have now learnt that wife battery is a serious crime”.
“I have also learnt that the law is there to protect women from being beaten or abused,” said Simwale, who was recently found resting outside the Choma Magistrate’s Court grounds where he had been cleaning.
He describes the time that he spent in remand prison as “rough enough to help me learn that beating your spouse can land you into a bad place”.
“The time I was in remand for 14 days was very bad. We used to sleep like bags of maize because of inadequate space. My body was usually aching, I was even once forced to spend nights in the toilet as punishment from the inmates…I would do anything never to go back to that place,” Simwale recalls.
His message to fellow men is never to beat their spouses when resolving marital disputes so as to avoid going to prison.
“After what I have gone through in remand prison, I would like to urge other men never to beat their wives when resolving differences. There is always an amicable way in which we can solve marital problems other than fighting.
“If you feel your wife’s behaviour is unbecoming, it is better to take her to her parents for counselling rather than fighting…because fighting will just land you in jail. I count myself lucky that the court imposed a community service sentence on me because I found people who are serving five-year jail terms for beating their wives,” Simwale says.
He also observes that there are some socially accepted norms that have contributed to gender-based violence cases such as wife battery.
A recent Zambia Police Service Victim Support Unit report reveals that there were 10,217 reported cases of GBV in 2013 in Zambia.
“Some people are brought up believing that beating a wife is a way of showing love or just a form of discipline. This is wrong because the law does not allow fighting in whatever form or for whatever reason,” Simwale says.
He has since offered to work with any organisations that are sensitising the community on the need to stop GBV in Southern Province.
And to complement government’s efforts to curb the vice, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has set aside U$S20,000 for sensitisation workshops for youth community leaders in rural parts of Southern Province on the negative effects of GBV.
Zambia National Commission for UNESCO chief programmes officer Charles Ndakala said the sensitisation is aimed at ensuring that youths learn about the evils of GBV so that they can denounce it as they grow.
He said this in Choma recently when he called on Southern Province Minister Nathaniel Mubukwanu.
“We are here because we have realised that the cases of gender-based violence are on the increase in Zambia. We thought we could start to sensitise the youth on the evils of gender-based violence before they become adults,” Dr Ndakala said.
He was flanked by Ministry of Community Development chief community officer for social development Rose Masilani and Lusaka Province community services directorate co-ordinator Collins Hikalinda.
Dr Ndakala said the sensitisation training, which will involve 30 youth community leaders from three chiefdoms of Choma, will empower the youth leaders with knowledge on the importance of gender equality and various forms of GBV.
He is hopeful that the sensitisation will be rolled out to other provinces of the country in due course.
And Mr Mubukwanu said the sensitisation is timely because government has also noticed the dehumanising effects of GBV on the victims.
“We would like to fully embrace this programme as a provincial administration. Government knows the dehumanising effects of gender-based violence, it’s not only on the victims but also the children that grow up in homes where gender-based violence is a norm or order of the day,” he said.
Mr Mubukwanu is confident that the training will help the youth grow into responsible citizens, who will positively contribute to the country’s socio-economic development agenda.