We do not want to admit that the issue of violence is more than just beating up women and children; it is more than raping and sexually abusing them. It goes deeper than psychologically damaging them.
We need to begin to look at the real face of violence- society. You and I. It is high time we admit that our society has a skewed look towards violence itself. When a man beats up his spouse, we tend to endorse it as ‘discipline’ and immediately ask what had caused him to beat her up.
In other words, we try to justify the beatings. When a woman beats up her spouse, we tend to see the man as emasculated. In other words, we take back the violent act and align it back into male territory.
Society also helps in the breeding of conducive grounds for violence. We frown upon divorce and disintegrating marriages so much that we inadvertently force couples to stay within relationships that no longer work for them.
We frown upon people who co-habit such that they do not feel they have any right to report any abuse being perpetrated upon their bodies. We are so quick to judge others harshly but expect everyone to understand us when we wrong others.
We have a warped sense of moral fibre that condones the rape and abuse of ‘prostitutes’ and yet we forget that the moment there is a transaction around sex, it becomes a commercial activity warranting to be termed ‘prostitution’- the buying and selling of sexual intercourse using whatever currency.
We also have this idea of what a rapist and sexual abuser looks like such that we deny it when our husbands, fathers, uncles, teachers, nephews, sons and brothers stand accused of such acts.
Such is our sense of family that we strive to protect it at all costs, including denying our daughters and womenfolk the right to seek legal justice when they are violated. ‘Shhh,’ we tell them, ‘he did not mean it’.
‘’You are such a liar and a naughty one, you only want to cause trouble.”
“What were you doing in that kind of dressing/ at his house/ office/ at that time of the day/ night?”
“If we report this, who will look after our family?”
“You are a young woman now, you are obviously having sex, you must have enjoyed it”
“He is your boyfriend/ husband/ husband to be he’ll pay damage when he comes to pay lobola, so don’t make a fuss about it”
“He is the pastor/ prophet/ reverend/priest/ elder/ deacon/ preacher, he is a man of God and was helping you/ cleansing you, shh”
How can your own husband rape you when you are married to him and you even stay under the same roof and share the same bed? Shhh!!”
I could go on but I think that we have got the picture. There are all sorts of scenarios whereby rape and abuse of women is nullified and the woman is even attacked for daring to speak out.
Many a woman will not even dare report that their husbands rape them (by the way, rape can be a once off event…when she agrees to have sex with him, it is for that occasion that she agrees to, any other time, he has to get her consent! That is the law, thankfully).
Anyway, before I digress, we have such a warped sense of what marriages should be that we are willing to mourn at a funeral of a spouse who was murdered by their partner.
(Please note that I said spouse because I am aware that men are not the only ones killing their wives but that there are some cases whereby wives have killed their husbands.)
Our society would rather walk around and meet in churches and all the other social meeting places flaunting their marital status as if it were some high breed horse that has won all the major horse races and the Queen of England is now no longer speaking to Queen Margrethe because they both want that horse for the races.
Meanwhile, this so-called high breed racehorse on this winning streak is full of horse shit, literally, up its mouth because that is what it prefers to snack on to look so glossy and refined.
Yes, that is what I will compare those men and women who opt to parade their fake (broken down) marriages in which they suffer untold of abuse simply because they do not want to be shunned by society should people know what is really going happening…they are great looking thorough-breds that are feasting on horse shit to look and maintain their winning streaks.
It is not only in marriages and relationships that we see the abuse of women but within our very homes. How many Zimbabwean households have maids and gardeners who are under age and meant to be in school?
That is abuse! Plain and simple. We want to cry out against China and the other eastern countries that use children in their manufacturing plants yet we are forgetting that we are equally guilty of doing the same in the very same households from which we chant and type away at online petitions against child labour.
How many men have paid for sex with underage children off the streets? Ignorance is no bliss when it comes to law. That we have underage young girls on the streets soliciting for money through offering sexual favours is a huge problem as it is.
They can look and sound ‘mature’ and ‘knowledgeable’ in the sexual intercourse department, hell, they can even say that they are old enough but the reality and the harsh truth is that; that is statutory rape!
Can I ask again: who looks like a rapist? Ndiani akanyorwa pamhanza kuti ‘Ini ndinobata chibharo’? (Who has written across their forehead, ‘I am a rapist’?)
It is even in those leafy suburbs where the ‘madam’ asks her relatives to get her ‘Musikana mudiki, asingazondinetse, wandinogona kuraira zvandinoda. Vakuru vanonetsa.’ (Get me a young girl whom I will be able to train how I want my household run. The older women are a problem.)
Shame on us. It is from those ‘poorer’ households where amai nababa sit together and discuss sending their young girl to work so that she can supplement their income with her maid’s salary.
From Chishawasha Hills to Domboramwari all the way across the country to corners such as Dete, koSkhobokhobo and in all levels of income and societal status, we have women abused in all manner of ways.
People are outraged when ministers, members of Parliament and senior (read stupid) political and society figures are accused of sexual violence. Do we honestly think that when these people ascend societal and political ladders they leave their penises and sexual urges in our hands? Really?
Let us be very real and begin to address abuse of women as it is, abuse. I am persuaded that had it been men who would be half as abused, we would not even be having campaigns, they would have nipped it in the bud. Look at what they do to women who are accused of crimes of sexual violence.
They pull up the whole ‘you-are-supposed-to-be-a-mother-to-this-person-therefore-….’ Card. I would like to see society getting angry at men who let go of the paternal baton and bring in fear within society. I would like to see men and women holding the humane baton and beginning to treat each other with love and respect.
#VAW must end. Violence has no space in our society.
By Rutendo Tapiwa Chigudu an award winning literary and performing artist/feminist.