Gender Gender

Stop blame game in justifying violence

ONE disturbing thing I have noticed in the last few weeks of my handling this column is the feedback I have been getting from my male readers.
Disappointing to say that most of the responses I have been getting indicate that women are to blame for the rise in gender-based violence in marriages or intimate relationships.
Men do openly write to me indicating that their partners fuelled the violence that sometimes results in an end to the relationship.
I should mention that there are a lot of myths and stereotyping, and should such continue, then the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) will not be achieved.
Myths and stereotypical attitudes about GBV shape the way in which society perceives and responds to violence perpetrated against women.
Such myths and attitudes are harmful as they tend to blame the survivors for the violence, rather than holding perpetrators responsible for their behaviour.
From various comments I have had from both women and men, myths can inflict additional harm upon women who experience violence.
Given the devastating effect violence has on women, efforts have mainly focused on responses and services for survivors. However, the best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root and structural causes.
Prevention should start early in life, by educating and working with young boys and girls promoting respectful relationships and gender equality.
Working with youth is a “best bet” for faster, sustained progress on preventing and eradicating gender-based violence. While public policies and interventions often overlook this stage of life, it is a critical time when values and norms around gender equality are forged.
We have a number of legislation that protects the rights of women and girls to which Zambia is a part and the need to prevent GBV is vital.
Prevention entails placing a strong focus on prevention through the promotion of gender equality, women’s empowerment and their enjoyment of human rights.
It also means making the home and public spaces safer for women and girls, ensuring women’s economic autonomy and security, and increasing women’s participation and decision-making powers—in the home and relationships, as well as in public life and politics.
This can only be done if we plant a seed of dialogue in the youth and boys. I think involving men and boys helps accelerate progress in preventing and ending violence against women and girls. They can begin to challenge the deeply rooted inequalities and social norms that perpetuate men’s control and power over women and reinforce tolerance for violence against women and girls.
Awareness-raising and community mobilisation, including through media and social media, is another important component of an effective prevention strategy.
Gender-based violence is a pervasive problem throughout Africa. This fundamental violation of women’s rights has devastating consequences for women and men, their families and the broader community. GBV increases women’s vulnerability to reproductive health problems, negatively affects their general well-being and decreases their ability to freely participate in their families and communities.
GBV also hurts children, men and families by creating a culture of fear and mistrust that leads to a lack of intimacy and safety within familial and intimate relationships. Communities also feel the negative consequences of GBV, which is a drain on the strength and development of micro and macro-economic systems.
We need to continue striving to engage the whole community from women, men, youth and children at the grassroots to community leaders and professionals within local institutions.
There is urgent need to start addressing gender-based violence as a community’s responsibility instead of making it a ‘women’s issue’ and use multiple strategies to reach out to all sectors in society.

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