I have decided to dedicate this column to the hundreds and thousands of Zimbabweans who are suffering at the hands of their violent spouses, as we commemorate the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which runs from November 25-December 10 annually.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.
Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasise that such violence is a human rights violation.
This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates, including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day and December 1, World Aids Day.
However, activism against gender violence should not be event driven, but should become a sustained campaign that runs throughout the year.
Not a single day goes by without reading or witnessing a case involving gender violence.
Research has however proved that women constitute the majority of gender violence survivors, although there have been arguments to the fact that men too are affected.
Although women constitute the majority that suffer domestic violence from their spouses, men too are subjected to different forms of abuse from their partners.
The Domestic Violence Act challenges power in relationships in a very big way. We have heard of men that are abused by their wives and these are protected by this legislation.
It is alleged that men are too shy to report abusive wives as this would make them look as though they were too weak.
On Emmanuel TV recently, I watched a woman who was possessed by a demon that made her so bully that she had made her husband live unhappily.
The man unfortunately never told anyone until they both came to the Synagogue Church of all Nations for help.
The man literally wept in the church, describing how the wife had made his life miserable.
I know of one case which I personally dealt with in 2007 of a woman who was constantly beaten for having brought forth a disabled child.
This baby boy was a cabbage until he died at nine years of age.
But that was not the end of the woman’s dilemma as she was told to leave their matrimonial home a week after the boy had been buried.
More and more fights ensued as the woman resisted eviction until the man decided to change locks and left his wife in the open.
That is when I took prompt action. Although this woman had made previous reports during her 10-year marriage with no action taken against the perpetrator, I insisted on criminal action against the husband who had boasted to me saying nothing would happen to him.
“This is a domestic natter which you should leave alone. I paid lobola for this woman and just mind your own business.”
How could I mind my own business when this woman had now sought refuge in my house, eating my food and I also meeting her medical expenses as I nursed her physical wounds?
This woman had lived like a beggar in her own home and although she was a qualified beautician, she could not find work because she had to be with her son around the clock.
The abusive husband, who is also knicknamed Mike Tyson the US boxer, learnt the biggest lesson of his life when he spent four days, which included Christmas and Boxing Day in prison.
The man had apparently married another woman and now wanted to throw out his first wife to make way for the younger woman. But how why ill treat the mother of your disabled child? He said she was a curse to the family because she had evil spirits that deformed their child.
The police had initially been reluctant to record this case when I reminded them about the Domestic Violence Act which was still very new that time. I literally interpreted the Act to them.
They eventually recorded a statement after an hour-long discussion.
Everyone is affected by domestic violence and the Act speaks to us at a very personal level. We all know which form of domestic violence we perpetrate and we must stop.
I am however so pleased to say that Mabelreign Police Station has become one of the most gender sensitive police posts in Zimbabwe as they have applied this Act effectively.
Why do I say so?
Apart from my work as a journalist, I am also involved in community interventions on domestic violence and sexual abuse around the Westgate areas.
A case I dealt with last week involved a man who was causing terror for his family by creating false reports about his wife’s alleged plans to eliminate him using “influential” people from high offices. A visit to the home revealed the opposite.
The woman looked so shaken and scared to even speak with me. She said she had not been eating well for the two weeks as she would sometimes find the house locked.
As I investigated the case further, I realised that her jobless spouse was out to getting her fired from her job because he had started feeling helpless because he was no longer able to fend for his family.
He had on many occasions barred her from going to work.
“He has told me on many occasions that he wants me to lose my job so that we both stay at home. But what will my four children eat? One is disabled and the other three are in a private school. I am the person meeting all these expenses plus everything to do with running this home.
“He wants me arrested using the Domestic Violence Act so that I get locked up for months and then lose my job. What should I do?”
The woman decided to engage a lawyer and sanity is slowly prevailing as the husband realises that he too can be arrested for perjury and fake reports.
The advantage of this piece of legislation is that, while in the past it was the victim of violence that was required to make a police report, there is provision for other people to apply for a protection order on behalf of the victim.
This could be any person allowed by the victim to apply for them; a person looking after the victim who is below 18 years of age or any person representing the victim, without the victim’s permission but with the permission of the courts.
A protection order is an order given by a magistrate’s court against a person causing domestic violence in any form, which is meant to ensure that such a person does not continue to commit the violence.
This may also order the person committing the violence to pay maintenance where there is economic violence.
But we have a very sad case of Charity Mukarati Sabau who had 12 protection orders issued against her spouse Harare businessman, Dickson Kokwani Sabau but was allegedly shot and killed at their home at Globetrotter Motel in Harare.
The order may remain in force for at least five years but may be cancelled or changed by a court where there are changed circumstances, after a hearing on the matter.
Eye-witnesses allege that Charity Sabau reported cases of being violently abused by her ex-husband at Marlborough Police Station, but no action was taken till she was murdered.
So unrepentant was Sabau that during one of his court appearances, he shouted at one of his step children, Vusa and said: “I am at least alive but where is your mother?. She is dead and gone for good.”
Vusa has since dropped out of university because there is no money to pay for his tuition fees.
His younger siblings, who are his stepfather’s children sometimes don’t go school because he has no means to raise the amounts required.
This would not have happened had their mother been alive today, he says.
My advice to all women is that if a man hits you before you are man and wife, be assured that violence will continue into marriage.
Domestic violence is human rights violation, and there is absolutely no marriage worth dying for.