GENDER FOCUS with MWAZIPEZA CHANDA
STRONG words need to be backed by strong actions if the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) is to be won.
Zambiaâ€™s landmark enactment of the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act of 2011 should have marked the extinction of heinous acts of violence against women and girls because it clearly spelled out how victims, communities, organisations, police, health workers and judiciary personnel dealt with perpetrators.
The Anti-GBV Act branded Zambia as a pioneering nation in the GBV fight but sadly three years later – we have the distinction of topping the list of GBV perpetration in a survey of six Southern African Development Community (SADC) by non-governmental organisation Gender Links.
The studies found high levels of GBV in all six countries surveyed, with the highest incidence in Zambia: 89 percent of women in Zambiaâ€™s four districts of Kasama, Kitwe, Mansa and Mazabuka had experienced GBV in their lifetime. Meanwhile, 86 percent of women in Lesotho, 68 percent of women in Zimbabwe, 67 percent of women in Botswana, 50 percent of women in the some provinces of South Africa studied and 24 percent of women in Mauritius have experienced GBV.
In the first six months of 2014, Zambia recorded over 8,000 cases of GBV against women and men, girls and boys.
Minister of Gender and Child Development Inonge Wina in her official launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence said the theme From Peace in the Home, to Peace in the Nation: Stop GBV, Empower Women and Men reflects the necessity of peace as a pre-requisite for ending GBV.
â€œIt is important that we all go back to the starting point – which is the family. The family is a significant foundational structure, teaching its members the values, traditions and practices that shape our attitudes and behaviour.
â€œZambia has received international acclaim for its ability to resolve civil and political strife and avoiding war within its borders for the last 50 years. Surely, it is possible for us to stop the war that rages within the home,â€ she said.
â€œWe want a violence-free nation where children are safe from defilement and not forced into child marriages; where the girl-child is free to learn and excel in her education and become a productive member of society; where women and men work together as equal partners in development without fear of discrimination and where families respect, love and care for one another.â€
With the kick-off of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV, the womenâ€™s movement in Zambia have unveiled a booklet entitled Gender Based Violence: What To Do, that clearly outlines what should be done to ensure perpetrators are brought to book.
This book will be distributed in schools, churches, health facilities and public places to ensure community members are empowered with information to identify and eradicate GBV incidents.
The simplified guide uses images and simple language to advise how the various cases of GBV such as sexual assault and mental torture should be handled.
However, despite all the efforts being made, cases of brutal wife beatings still continue to be recorded and sadly, very many men go unpunished.
Recently an officer from the Zambia Police Victim Support Unit during a public television programme said police are faced with many challenges in the fight against the vice, as many GBV cases are withdrawn by complainants themselves.
Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) president Lucy Lungu says there is too much impunity in the handling of GBV cases. I cannot agree with her more.
Impunity is defined as â€œexemption from punishment or loss or escape from finesâ€ and in the international law of human rights, it refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice and, as such, itself constitutes a denial of the victimsâ€™ right to justice and redress.
GBV is a crime! There is a law that guides the nation on how to deal with the cowards who choose to use their fists to deny women and girls their dignity.
Ms Lungu said in an interview that it was unfortunate that many violent men went unpunished for the crimes committed against women.
â€œThe withdrawal of GBV cases should not be allowed. As YWCA we work with the Ministry of Justice and Police to ensure such cases are prosecuted.â€
She insists that while counselling would provide an avenue for reform and empowerment for victims it was important for GBV cases to go to court to ensure that perpetrators realise GBV is a punishable crime.
I know it is hard to report a family member, and in many cases your lover, to the police but it is necessary if we are to stop the madness. Car thieves, poachers, fraudsters and murderers all have the day in court and GBV perpetrators should not be spared.
Abusive women should equally not be spared – I believe the judiciary is well-equipped to mete out even-handed sentences to perpetrators of GBV.
Through partnerships between the womenâ€™s movement, government wings, the police services, church bodies and non-governmental organisations better services have been made available to survivors.
The 990 hotline provides counselling and advice to victims of GBV while several shelters and safe houses, legal advice, police protection and health services are more readily available nationwide.
Ms Lungu adds that the 16 Days provides an opportunity to raise awareness because we should not take it for granted that everybody knows what to do in response to acts of GBV.
The launch and distribution of the GBV: What To Do book will hopefully help more members of society become alive to the fact that there is a way to end GBV and bring peace into the homes.
With community involvement survivors of GBV will be able to find various interventions to break the chain of pain and domination.
If we truly intend to reduce the number of GBV cases being recorded in the country we all must make sure that we play a part in encouraging family members, friends and neighbours to report acts of GBV to the necessary authorities.
There is no way we can claim not to know how to fight GBV, do your part to ensure that criminals are prosecuted.
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GENDER FOCUS with MWAZIPEZA CHANDA