Hers was a sad ordeal. Fatuma,22, had witnessed her father turn her mother into a punching bag. The man of the house was fierce and bitter always. So fierce that whenever he came home everyone had to find a place to hide. At one time, the head of the house had a case in court, which landed him in jail for several years.
All his children danced in jubilation. Asked the reason for the jubilation, the last born in Fatuma’s family,Selemani,13, said; “my father has been jailed for two years, at least I now know there will be no one to beat my mother.”
Such stories are very common in the society we live in today, no wonder there are women who have vowed to never get married, lest they suffer in the hands of ruthless partners like their mothers.
Recently in Dar es Salaam, a woman was punched and pushed out of a speeding car by her husband. Worse still, her husband did not bother to check whether she had been hurt or not but sped off as fast as he could.
It is due to such acts that recently, stakeholders from civil societies held a consultative meeting to ponder on Gender Based Violence (GBV) and women’s rights in the new constitution. The session which was coordinated courtesy of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) was quite an experience. Representatives from 80 organizations from different parts of the country shared some horrifying experiences on GBV.
Meshack Ndaskoi, who is the Director of gender development at the ministry of Community Development Gender and Children, said recent research conducted in 10 countries in the world on women’s health and GBV indicated that at least 48 percent of women admitted to have experienced GBV by their male counterparts. Also 52.3 percent of men, both educated and non-educated believed it was okay to beat their spouses.
Ndaskoi attributes the problem to a low level of awareness among women of their rights as well as lack of legal services where women can go to seek assistance.
For her part, the Director of Capacity Building and Empowerment at the LHRC, Advocate Imelda Urrio attributes the prevalence of GBV to some bad laws in the country. She cites section 66 of the Law of the Marriage Act 29 of 2002, saying the section bars cruelty to partners but does not specify the punishment to a partner who defaults.
“Our country does not have specific laws to protect women against psychological torture, nor is there a mechanism that can provide legal assistance to victims of GBV, let alone shelter. This is a real setback,” says Urrio.
She sees the need to introduce shelter centers where victims of GBV would stay while waiting for a permanent solution to their problem.
“There ought to be a special program to counsel victims of GBV while also making sure the country does away with oppressive laws on marriage, inheritance issues and outdated traditions,” says Urrio.
So much has been said and done, but for sure, shelter centers are vital for the safety of the victims as they await legal remedy. It is absurd to allow a victim of GBV to return to the tormentor and expect them to be safe.
It’s about time something was done to fully emancipate a woman and to completely do away with GBV. Let spouses change and treat each other with love and respect and not with hate and bitterness. After all, you swore “to love each other till death do us part.”