Gender Gender

#HearMeToo – Cry sexual abuse victims

Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
OVER a third of women worldwide are said to have experienced either sexual or physical violence in their lives, according to United Nations (UN) data.
The UN further says that research indicates that the cost of violence against women could amount to about 2 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) annually.
And that this is equivalent to US$1.5 trillion.
So gender-based violence, apart from decimating and paralysing victims, also has a crippling effect on productivityand, consequently, economic output.
In Zambia, reported cases of GBV between 2012 and 2016 went up by 50 percent, indicating a worsening trend, despite the campaign to eliminate GBV reaching crescendo level.
“ In 2012, 12,924 crimes were reported; in 2016, that number had risen by 50% to 18,540 – around 50 a day, every day of the year,” Acting UN Resident Coordinator Medhin Tsehaiu said on Monday.
In 2009, 9,261 cases of GBV were reported; the figure went up to 12,924 in 2012, then shot up to 18,088 in 2015, whereas in 2016, 18,540 cases were reported; and by 2017, the number skyrocketed to 21,504.
Some people may argue that the scourge isn’t worsening, but that victims of abuse have learnt to come out of their cocoons and seek justice in the courts of law.
Well, inasmuch as people may be well informed about their right to seek redress in the courts of law, Zambia faces an uphill battle against GBV, hence Orange the World: #HearMeToo campaign for this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against GBV is timely.
For example, latest statistics by the Zambia Police indicate that Zambia recorded 6,114 cases of GBV during the third quarter of 2018, compared to 5,096 cases recorded around the same period in 2017.
I hope the #HearMeToo campaign that we are running with in this year’s commemoration of 16 Days of Activism Against GBV will rally everyone to the campaign against all forms of GBV.
The UN system is calling on state parties, non-state parties alike such as the private sector, artistes, civil society organisations, the church, academia and traditional leaders to go beyond lip service and do something to stem the roots of GBV and address its immediate consequences.
Apart from raising awareness, all stakeholders are also expected to commit more time and resources to the campaign.
Vice-President Inonge Wina, in a speech read by Minister of Gender Elizabeth Phiri at the launch of the 16-day campaign, observed that: “Although the current statistics are painting a negative picture of the situation of GBV in Zambia, it is gratifying to note that there is an increased number of victims coming out in the open to report.”
Yes, victims of GBV are coming out in numbers to report cases to the police, but some of the perpetrators of violence seem undeterred in their evil acts.
Incidences of child rape, some involving minors and young girls who are being infected with HIV and impregnated by their fathers and other fatherly figures in the family, have continued.
And sadly, because of the culture of silence, many victims of GBV stay tight-lipped while others opt not to prosecute their abusers in the courts of law.
Some victims elect not to speak out in court because of the traditional subordination of women to men in our patriarchal setting, whereas some of the victims depend on their abusers for sustenance.
As a result of these factors, some victims suffer in silence while perpetrators of gender violence get away with it.
Under the #HearMeToo campaign, we must all encourage GBV victims and survivors to have their voices heard and of course give them the necessary support.
The culture of keeping quiet about it or blaming victims must come to an end because it has allowed violence against women and girls to reach sky-high levels.
This is why in the Orange the World: #HearMeToo campaign, the UN is calling on everyone to stand in solidarity with survivors, survivor advocates and women’s human rights defenders who are working to prevent and end violence against women and girls.
In a joint statement, the heads of the UN agencies – UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women and UNFPA – are calling for solidarity in the campaign to prevent and end violence against women and girls.
Apart from raising awareness on GBV, the UN wants all stakeholders to come together and deal with the root cause of violence and eliminate it.
A lot has been done in terms of raising awareness regarding the GBV scourge and some of the victims have learnt to come out and report cases of sexual or physical abuse to the police.
Around the world, the #MeToo movement, has seen many victims of sexual abuse and harassment coming out in the open to share their stories.
Since the campaign started in October 2017, the response from millions of women and some men too shows the scale of the problem of sexual harassment and abuse around the world.
For the sake of those who may not be aware, the #MeToo campaign is a social media movement against sexual assault and sexual harassment by survivors of abuse.
Millions of women around the world have come out to share their own experiences of sexual violation after Hollywood actresses started sharing their own accounts of sexual harassment by producer Harvey Weinstein.
It all started with one exposure of Weinstein, thereafter many of his victims in Hollywood came out to share their stories under the hashtag #MeToo.
The campaign gained momentum after actress Alyssa Milano urged all women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted (by anyone) to say ‘Me too’ as a way of trying to appreciate the magnitude of the problem.
A few days later, social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – were awash with “MeToo” postings, detailing the gravity of the sexual violence scourge from millions of victims across all social strata.
However, there are still victims of sexual abuse who will not speak out because of the associated stigma and the tendency by society to blame victims.
For example, in Zambia sexual harassment and abuse continue to afflict women and girls, but we have not seen any active engagement of Zambian women in the #MeToo campaign.
Obviously, the victims are shy to come out and share their stories because ours is a typical African setting where victims of sexual violence are likely to face humiliation and shame.
However, the consolation is that Vice-President Wina wants all victims of sexual abuse and harassment such as job seekers, students and workers who have never spoken out about their humiliating experiences to do so now.
In the #HearMeToo campaign that we are running with for the next one year, Mrs Wina has assured all victims of sexual harassment that their cases will be heard when they speak out.
“ Today, there are several secretaries, female job seekers, students, soldiers, sportswomen and female trainee police officers who have suffered or are suffering sexual harassment at the hands of their bosses, lecturers, senior officers, coaches and trainers but have remained silent. This cannot be allowed to continue. I appeal to you to report and you will be heard. I repeat, you shall be heard,” Mrs Wina said.
I hope that the aforementioned victims of sexual harassment/abuse who have been suffering in silence will seize the opportunity and say ‘HearMeToo’.
Well, I would like to believe that the Vice-President will keep her word to have the cases heard and investigated so that justice could prevail.
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