By Sibusisiwe Marunda
Those who follow media reports will agree with me that there has been a spike in violence cases between intimate partners over the past few months. These have been numerous, but I will cite a few that caught my attention.
A video recently circulated of two men taking turns to beat up a woman for infidelity and there is a child crying and pleading with the men to stop beating up her mother.
There was also one where a woman is beating up her husband for drinking and staying out late and there is a child holding the man down.
The one that I found most shocking was the one where a man is beating up his wife while a female relative is filming the scuffle and she is heard directing where the woman should be beaten.
Most women facing such nasty experiences are being punished for alleged infidelity.
Some of them are being paraded naked for the world to see.
I don’t condone infidelity, but I am very doubtful that beating and publicly humiliating the mother of one’s children will solve the challenge of infidelity.
The nation seems to be gripped with violence and perpetrators seem to be so proud of it they want it recorded and circulated on social media.
The COVID-19-induced lockdown appears to have made things worse and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission reported that domestic violence cases increased by more than 100% during the lockdown period.
Men taught violence is acceptable in marriage
As I sought to understand the cause of such barbaric behaviour, I was reminded of one unfortunate truth about masculinity.
For a very long time there has been an unquestioned acceptance that a man had a right to beat up his wife if he feels justified.
It’s actually considered part of normal marriage practice for men to assert their masculinity by beating up their wives and rarely an accepted reason for divorce.
What is sad is that studies have shown that some women share the same belief.
Men, therefore, struggle to deal with conflict in any other way other than violence. Relatives of husbands also think they can beat up their daughter-in-law if they feel justified.
The lack of empathy by the woman who was filming while her uncle was beating up his wife was very disturbing.
She shouted at the woman being beaten up to confess so that the beatings would stop, meaning she actually believed the beating was justified.
To protect her uncle from committing murder she shouted: “uncle don’t kick the head.”
Again, she was not questioning why her uncle was beating up his wife. Women, on the other hand, seem to be fighting back and incidences of violence against men in intimate relationships are surfacing.
This violence does not and cannot lead to anything other than anarchy and dysfunctional families.
Impact on children
The biggest tragedy about violence in families is that it impacts on children.
I am particularly haunted by the video of a mother who was making her son hold down his father as she beat him up.
The father pleaded with the son to let him go and the son shouted: “you should give up beer.”
The fact that he held down his father while he was being beaten by his mother will haunt him for life and even turn him into a wife abuser.
This childhood trauma will also be carried by the child whose mother was being beaten by two men for alleged infidelity.
Clearly children pay the highest price for violence between couples.
Can we afford the price?
The basis of marriage is supposed to be love and it’s one of the most voluntary relationships that one can ever have in one’s lifetime.
So, how then do we get into a space where we beat and kill each other as if we are being forcibly held in the relationship?
Is separation a bad idea if the alternative is to maim and kill each other?
If for some reasons it’s not working, we owe it to ourselves and to our children to take an honest look and make some hard decisions.
In writing this paper, I am aware that there are numerous reasons why many people will find it difficult to walk away from a failing marriage or an abusive one.
I, however, I am also wondering what is better walking away or finding oneself in a position where you are being paraded naked on social media, beaten up and subjected to gross humiliation.
When these videos go viral on social media, children of the parties involved will see them and in my view nothing can be worse than one’s child seeing their parent in such a degrading state.
By staying in violent relationships, we expose our children to emotional abuse and teach them that violence is part of marriage or love and the experience will inform their view and conduct in relationships.
Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we can afford the price that we and our children pay for such relationships.
- Sibusisiwe Marunda is the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative Zimbabwe country director. She writes in her personal capacity.