Features In focus

Gender-Based Violence fight initiatives on track

SITEMBILE SIWAWA, Lusaka
SEATED on her comfy sofa watching her favourite soap opera, Mubanga could not concentrate because she could hear her repeatedly neighbour battered by her husband.
Mubanga hears this kind of noise every night and it scares her because she is able to hear the impact of the blows on her neighbour’s flesh as he hits her.
She has no idea why the couple always fighting but she assumes it is because the woman challenged her husband to ‘pray tell’ why he came home late most times.
Mubanga does not know who to call lest she was cited for interference; but she hopes a way could be found to help the woman who is physically abused almost every night by her husband.
Many people get concerned when they hear their neighbours or see couples fighting but they have no idea that it is also their responsibility to report such matters to relevant authorities as death is always certain to occur especially where excessive force is exerted.
Perhaps they do not know who to report to when they come across such challenges and also what policies and laws are in place to support the victims.
Domestic violence alias gender-based violence (GBV) includes  physical, verbal, sexual, emotional and economic abuse.
And current statistics show that reported cases of GBV now stand at 8,699 between January and June this year.
To help concerned families, neighbours and communities report cases of GBV to relevant authorities, Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Managing Programme (CHAMP) has come up with a toll-free line which among other things tries to help affected parties seek help and counselling.
The emergency support line also known as a ‘toll-free line’ (991) further aims at giving third parties the chance to report any GBV-related cases that they witness within their communities.
CHAMP learning centre manager-in-charge of the toll-free line Christine Mulenga said affected persons are free to report any GBV cases they experience. The toll free line is available on all networks with counsellors working round the clock.
“Our toll-free line not only tackles issues of GBV but it also enables young people to seek information on their sexual and reproductive rights and male circumcision,” she said.
Further to help combat GBV among young people, the American Government last year donated forensic equipment that will help in the collection of evidence in cases of defilement and rape. This equipment helps in the detection of evidence of rape or defilement. Additionally, police officers were trained how to use the forensic equipment.
The then Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu who is now Minister of Justice and Defence said the forensic equipment will see cases of defilement and rape disposed off quickly than they usually take due to lack of evidence. Previously, perpetrators of rape and defilement were let off scot-free due to lack of evidence.
The use of the Anti-GBV Act No.1 of 2011 has made it possible to fight cases of GBV. The act outlines how to file and deal with the complaints of GBV, protection order and shelter for victims to mention but a few.
However, despite the Anti-GBV Act being in place since 2011 little has been achieved because the act does not have clauses that criminalise perpetrators.
That is why Minister of Gender and Child Development Inonge Wina said that Government is reviewing the act to ensure that it has clauses that criminalises perpetrators of violence.
“At the moment, the Anti-GBV Act does not work in isolation but rather it works hand in hand with the Penal Code,” Ms Wina said.
She however expressed worry that women are still withdrawing cases of GBV once reported to the police due to poverty.
To supplement Government’s efforts, Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) provides shelter to victims and survivors of GBV. Many victims of GBV find it extremely difficult to walk away from their abusive partners because they have nowhere else to go as their survival depends on the same perpetrators.
YWCA executive director Patricia Ndhlovu said her organisation does provide shelter to victims of GBV.
However, Ms Ndhlovu added that the shelter is not enough to accommodate the many victims her organisation receives and “we are urging Government to include the building of shelters for victims in the 2015 national budget.”
Ms Ndhlovu said apart from providing shelter, the victims are also empowered with various skills such as tailoring to enable them fend for themselves and families’.
“We also help victims with legal help in conjunction with the National Legal Clinic because we have seen that women are not financially-sound to hire a lawyer to fight for them in courts of law,” she explained.
Furthermore, Ms Ndhlovu said last year her organisation introduced a good husband campaign in Lusaka and Chipata that aims at changing the violent behaviour of identified men in the communities.
“This campaign is receiving overwhelming response in the two cities and the men we identified as violent are slowly changing their violent behaviours and we have testimonies from their wives,” she narrated.
With such policies, laws and support systems in place, it is expected that the levels of GBV can be halved by 2015.
It remains incumbent upon the general community to utilise the existing policies and laws that Government and stakeholders have put in place to contribute to the reduction of GBV in the country.

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