MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka
THERE is a saying that if you are not a victim of gender-based violence (GBV), then you are affected by the vice.
True to these words, many families have witnessed GBV from close relations and in most cases they find that they have little or nothing they can do about it.
Love is complex and sometimes it is difficult to advise a woman or man who is in love. This is regardless of whether or not the one in love is being abused sexually, physically, emotionally or psychologically.
Jane Chisi, 35, who is among the many GBV survivors this year, recounts how she was mistreated by her former husband.
The recollection of the abuse still brings tears to Ms Chisi of Matero in Lusaka who was bedridden for five years after her husband allegedly battered her following a domestic dispute. The couple was together for more than five years.
Her husband, who is on the run, is believed to have been physically and emotionally abusive to her, but she was so overwhelmed with love she hoped a new day would bring out a better person in her husband. She stayed with the hope that one day he would change.
This means Ms Chisi, like many other women out there, was in a marriage where she was a victim of abuse, yet she concealed such ill-treatment for fear of losing the marriage.
Her younger brother, Chijele Chisi, said the family observed that Ms Chisi was being abused but turned a blind eye, especially that Ms Chisi was always defending her husband.
A reflection of the incidences of GBV in 2017 makes one wonder whether various stakeholders did enough to put an end to the vice.
The year 2017 has seen an increase in the number of GBV cases. According to the Victim Support Unit, January to September saw an increase to 16,000 from slightly over 10,000.
VSU national coordinator Collins Hikalinda said it is disheartening to realise that cases are increasing despite robust campaigns against the vice.
Mr Hikalinda has called on various stakeholders engaged in the GBV fight to introduce a deliberate study to establish the reason behind increased GBV cases.
However, Mr Hikalinda has attributed the increase to awareness campaigns which have made the public realise that they can report cases of GBV.
Ministry of Gender Permanent Secretary Felix Phiri says to curb the vice, anti-GBV fast-track courts in Kabwe and Lusaka have been established to ensure that perpetrators face the law.
It is reported that the fast-track courts dispose of 30 cases in two weeks.
And Zambia Law Development Commission senior research officer Sharon Williams says the courts will not only reduce extended appearances of survivors in the courts of law, but also promote a fast and fair justice system.
More fast-track courts are expected to be opened in provincial centres.
“The setting of the fast-track courts is such that the set-up is like any other court, only that the victim and the perpetrator will not be in the same court when giving evidence. Sometimes, victims get intimidated when they see their alleged perpetrators,” Ms Williams said.
“We looked at countries that have achieved a milestone in addressing issues of domestic violence. That is why we picked on fast-track courts as the best practice,” she said.
And going forward, Chief Justice Irene Mambilima said the Judiciary should ensure that GBV cases should have corroborating evidence from the plaintiff and the prosecution team.
Justice Mambilima said the evidence is aimed at protecting both the victim and the perpetrator; to avoid people being accused falsely.
Like Justice Mambilima states, it is indeed painful to see one who is obviously guilty walk away because of lack of evidence.
Such a person will walk to freedom with the likelihood of targeting the next victim.