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If I had married that man, I would be dead by now!

14 Sep 2020 at 17:58hrs | Views
The level of violence in Zimbabwe is alarming: domestic violence accompanies the life of a married woman daily. Daily we read depressing news about the growing number of cases of femicide. Today again it is reported a woman was hacked to death by her husband in Kezi district of Matabeleland. However, this death is not unique or an isolated case; nationally, the  rise of women beaten to death, knifed, strangled to death, shot short range by partners and spouses or boyfriends has become natural to us and there is less reaction of women and the general populace to decry this scourge as abhorrent. We have become accustomed to such reports of femicide hence our mild reaction to it.

Femicide is persisting at a level that is unacceptable. The shocking death of a woman in Kezi left neighbours and villagers dumbfounded and cold. There are reasons why femicide is now prevalent in our society: Domestic violence is intricately linked to our medieval traditions we still uphold. Politicians must legislate to ban lobola/roora tradition because that is the root cause of domestic violence and femicide in our societies: it gives men a sense of entitlement to the body of a woman. Violence is considered corrective in homes, a weapon used against woman to submission. In the age of enlightenment, women should reject this cruel tradition it stifles development in girls and women.

If I had married the man who was match-made for me by a friend, I would be dead by now taking into consideration the shocking rise and casualties of femicide. How would I go along with being packaged as a second-class person in a marriage unit and agree to this setup for whatever reason? Firstly, I will make it clear to whoever that there will never be property transaction in the form of a bride price in my name. Second: I will never subject to or adhere to hierarchical strict authority by a husband/partner for the sake of preserving a marriage institution. Thirdly, I will never accept or tolerate poverty in a marriage, a man's incapacity to afford to adequately support the home is a sure recipe for divorce: I will quit the marriage quickly because it is established that stresses and chronic misunderstandings in homes all border on poverty that produces domestic violence.

A man who thinks he can beat me because I should be disciplined; this is another recipe for divorce. A man who thinks I do not deserve respect because I am a woman, but he demands absolute respect and obedience from me, is no starter, no time should be wasted in such a marriage. Women are beaten by their husbands for perceived failure to fulfil their duties as wives: I will forfeit that marriage. I will never subject to customary law. My argument is that; my grandmother was not packaged: instead, she was given cattle I could not count to take to her marriage: there was no transaction of bride-price in her name. I can never subordinate to customary laws. Women are akin to property of the husband: the concept of marriage as an institution persists of this notion that women are subjects of the men they are married to. Miriam Makeba's lyrics confirm that you: "never marry that BOY without cows." I believe if the man realized that I am a threat to Ndebele traditional lifestyle he would harm me: I will be dead by now and will be part of the femicide statistics: Zimstats.

Well, it is good to talk about oneself. I wonder still if I can give a young girl my personal opinions about marriage as advice to take with to her marriage. Marriage is a very emotive institution: there is nothing like a proper advice to give a young woman who is about to marry. But what we should discourage women of all ages is matchmaking of failed, divorced men as alternative to single life. Domestic violence is a killer in Zimbabwe: records of deaths of women and girls who have perished in domestic violent are alarmingly underreported as femicide. Domestic murder or femicide is not in the mouths of the general populace in our societies: a cause to be concerned about.

Finding clues on the causes of conflicts leading to death in some cases is mostly widespread poverty and destitution in the homes. The poverty levels especially in rural areas have been exacerbated by the Covid 19 that puts strain in already fragile home setups. Women and girl children are under great pressure to perform in their home duties: bring bread and butter on the table every day. This obligation is emphasized mostly on the woman more than the man in the home. Marriage is sacrosanct, the revered institution in our societies: women would like to see themselves getting the epithet of a good woman even at the expense of herself. Some married men are violent in homes if there is no decent meal but make no effort to assist the wife to provide that decent meal desperately needed by all. They are violent again if there is no reproduction in the home. Sterility is blamed firstly on the woman's inability to conceive. Reasons for a Zimbabwean man to become violent are numerous, one cannot count them.  

Violence against women is psychological: women are put under pressure to get married. The local traditions do not recognize and accept preference to personal development first and foremost. Respect is given to a woman who is married and not an unmarried woman. Hence women tend to give in to this blackmail, find themselves married to a man sometimes not of their choice but the choice of somebody else, a friend or relative. This is the area or a space where advice should be given to girls to empower themselves first before they can marry. Academic achieving always results in women getting less children and more on making the best out of their careers as working women, contributing immensely to the communities.  

There is a trend in our societies of match-making unmarried people: the woman is told fake stories about the prospective husband-to-be. Match-making criminals because a woman is put under pressure to societal recognition should be termed as violence against women. A woman has no chance to know the man she is to marry: is the husband-to-be violent? Is he a criminal, is he a paedophile? What about health status: is he HIV/AIDS positive: STD? These pertinent details are hidden from her until she is locked up in a marriage and is then forced to cope with everything including DOMESTIC violence.

Violence in Zimbabwe is economic. Women put themselves in serious situations when they think getting married to a rich man means happiness and success. In retrospect, a rich man can be mean. He treasures his riches more than the woman; he sees women as akin to his accumulation of wealth. Curiously, the woman will be hooked up and overwhelmed with the husband's riches to the point of overlooking dangers and evident violence in the relationship. A rich man calls the shots in the home, these are men who will get more girlfriends and will not hide a secret about other side relationships. In worst-case scenarios, married women are told to pack and go if they cannot cope with the man's infidelity. Refusing to leave leads to femicide. Women should learn to make wealth for themselves: never depend on the wealth of a husband.    

Women and girls in Zimbabwe experience sexual violence. It has become normal to force young girls for virginity testing, child marriages are still prevalent, and societies oversee and overlook such violence on girl-children. Stresses imposed by poverty and destitution send many young girls into early marriages to reduce the responsibility of feeding her. Sexual abuse of under-aged girls is prevalent: societies are getting used to such occurrences, some cases are not reported to the authorities if the paedophile is a breadwinner. Several babies and small children who are sexually abused do not survive sexual assault: they die. Again their death is not correctly reported as violent domestic death, but some children mortality disease will be used as cover as the cause of death. Our politicians should legislate to criminalize women who cover up paedophiles at homes. Here our Legislator Honourable Priscilla Mishihairabwi-Mushonga is found wanting. We ask her to do what she knows best.

Violence on women has serious repercussions: apart from deaths, it has effects on health and other social deficits. Battered women have no self-esteem and some of them suffer from depression and anxiety leading to abuse of drugs and alcohol: in worst case scenarios they commit suicide.

Source - Nomazulu Thata
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