GBV: The new silent menace of abused men

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 07:34:34 +0000

ZAMBIA joined the rest of the world in the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (GBV) on November 25, an annual campaign that for more than 20 years has aimed at eradicating violence.

Gender-based violence can be defined as all acts perpetrated against women, men, girls and boys on the basis of their sex which cause or could cause them physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm.

GBV violates the human rights of an individual, disrupts families and undermines socio-economic development of a county.

Domestic violence is the key gender-based problem in Zambia and actions to eradicate the vice largely address women’s and girl’s vulnerabilities.

This year’s 16 days of activism against GBV theme “Orange the world: Raise money to end violence against women and girls”, is one indicator that much attention is given to women and girls than to men and boys, thereby sending a wrong signal that only women and girls are vulnerable to GBV.

Such a one-sided approach casts a shadow on the plight of the men and boys who are usually silent about their predicament.

While news of violence and crimes against women and girls are reported extensively in the media, there is a growing number of men and boys who are silently facing physical and psychological violence at the hands of their family members and spouses.

Notwithstanding the fact that women and girls are more vulnerable to violence, side lining male victims could have negative consequences on the efforts towards preventing and eradicating the scourge of GBV.

Zambia has largely remained a patriarchal society; for a man to admit being harassed by a woman is humiliating and, in a way, shameful.

Even worse is the fear of humiliation by a husband who wants to go public and declare being abused by his wife.

Domestic violence against men in Zambia is not well recognised by the law enforcers with the generalised perception that men cannot be victims of violence.

In many instances, male victims of GBV would rather not report such cases to the police and other law enforcement agencies for fear of being ridiculed.

Joseph Phiri, a Lusaka dweller who confesses to have on several occasions fallen victim of both verbal and physical violence by his wife, thinks reporting her to the police is taboo.

He says that even if he was to report the matter to the police, they would not take it serious.

“My wife always suspects me of cheating on her because I have a child with another woman. So she insults me and sometimes hits me with any object.

“She once hit me with a glass and was cut; I could not go to the hospital because I would need to explain my injury: I felt so embarrassed. Reporting her to the police is even worse because they will be the first ones to laugh at me,” he said.

Like women, men also find it hard to cope with abusive marriages and relationships and in reality the situation is worse for men because they cannot easily share their experiences.

There is a silent but factual increase in the number of men who are physically or psychologically abused by their spouses.

Those silent men who are beaten, denied sex and food, and locked out of homes, also need help. Some become perpetually unhappy, lose friends, become insecure and eventually lose their minds.

Others resort to spending most of their time in bars to drown their sorrows and end up being alcoholics with the end result of a broken marriage, street kids and increasing the risk of HIV infections and early death.

Gender activist Gladys Mutukwa has bemoaned the increasing numbers of men being battered by their wives.

She has encouraged men, who are GBV victims, to rise to the occasion and break the silence by sharing their experiences and reporting such cases to law enforcement agencies.

Ms. Mutukwa notes that being silent could be fatal, emphasising on the growing trend of women killing their spouses.

“The number of men being battered by their wives is very alarming; men also need to come out in the open and talk openly about this issue the way women are doing. Keeping quiet is no solution, it can even be regrettable because nowadays men are even murdered by their spouses,” she said.

It is also important to note that violence is increasing with scenarios where women, especially those with significant incomes and flying careers, undermine men’s sense of worth.

In some homes, women torture their spouses with constant criticism, belittling their husband’s abilities and competencies. Some women have mastered the art of manipulation of feelings and emotions to induce guilt, subvert husband’s relationship with the children and repeatedly make and break promises.

It is now clear that effects of GBV, either engineered by men or women, can be devastating and long lasting.

Any man or woman living in an abusive environment leads to disillusionment and sometimes self-destruction.

Maybe rather than addressing GBV symptoms through depicting the woman’s face of gender violence, we need to seriously address the causes.

The solution is likely to be found in a harmonized and collective approach that deeply addresses the concerns and issues of both women and men.

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