Editor's Comment

Step up GBV fight


GENDER-BASED violence (GBV) has continued to be a menace to Zambia’s society. It must be fought with even greater verve.
It is common knowledge that a day hardly passes without a GBV incident.
While gender-based violence affects everyone, women are the most affected. Women are more likely than men to be assaulted, injured or raped.
It is disturbing that last year alone, over 25,000 GBV cases were recorded and 19,700 of these were girls and women. This represents an increase of 12.1 percent from 22,073 in 2018.
The cases could be more, considering that there are many of these incidents that are not reported.
Data from the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) indicates that from the age of 15 years into adulthood, almost half of all women have experienced physical violence.
While statistics may look like mere figures, gender-based violence has devastating effects on victims, families, organisations and the nation as whole. This is why it must be countered by every means possible.
GBV, which can manifest physically, verbally or emotionally, is a violation of human rights as it undermines the dignity and well-being of the individuals affected.
Exposure to violence, as well as the acute stress it causes, can damage the health of GBV victims.
Victims of GBV are also likely to suffer injuries, mental disorders, illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and other such illnesses.
Medical experts say GBV is also usually associated with functional disorders such as chronic pain in victims.
It has also been established medically that violent relationships can trigger premature labour and birth and lead to low-birth-weight infants in cases where the victim is expecting.
GBV can also affect social behaviour of victims leading to alcohol and substance abuse.
Psychologically, victims of GBV are left traumatised, eroding their self-esteem. In extreme cases, victims may go into depression and end up committing suicide.
It has also been established that sexual violence increases the risk of girls and women to contracting HIV and STIs.
At family level GBV takes its toll through divorce and delinquent children. If families break down, society cannot stand. This is because families are the foundational units of a strong society without which it crumbles.
It is an established fact that most children who are exposed to violence tend to become delinquent.
Families where GBV is prevalent are also likely to spend more on medical bills due to injuries and other health complications that result from the violence. This hinders the ability of families to progress thereby perpetuating poverty.
Organisations are affected, too, because victims of GBV may not perform their duties to the optimum due to the psychological and physical effects and absenteeism. As a result, companies are robbed of productivity.
At national level, Government spends more on healthcare and psychosocial counselling services.
Through GBV the country is also robbed of productive citizens through death or chronic health complications which incapacitate victims.
The list of the devastating effects of GBV is certainly long, justifying why this scourge must be fought ‘tooth and nail’.
Over 25,000 cases is too exorbitant a number where human life is threatened.
As society, we need to drastically deal with factors that continue to perpetuate this scourge in a civilised era.
It is known that most women who are victims of GBV are economically vulnerable. This is why they are ready to take any amount of abuse at the hands of those who provide for them for fear of losing the benefits.
Women certainly need to empower themselves as opposed to depending on their spouses. Overdependence makes women more vulnerable to GBV.
Some cultural beliefs which teach women to be submissive and persevere in marriage at all cost have largely contributed to the scourge. Women have died at the hands of abusive husbands in the name of perseverance.
Traditionally, women are also taught not to wash dirty linen in public. This belief has hampered the fight against GBV because some victims believe that reporting their spouses, is washing dirty linen in public.
On the other hand, the increase in the number of GBV cases recorded could mean that more people are now reporting as opposed to the past when they kept such incidents under wraps.
However, Zambia’s target should not only be for more people to report cases but to eradicate the scourge.
One way is to sensitise members of the public on the repercussions of GBV.
It is also important to inculcate values of love, self-control, reconciliation, dialogues and peace among members of society.
Inculcating such values should be deliberate, consistent and entrenched from childhood.
With more morally upright citizens who respect the rights of others, vices like GBV can be drastically reduced, if not eliminated.

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