25 November 2006

Zimbabwe: First Lady Slams Domestic Violence

Harare — WOMEN are their own worst enemies in cases of domestic violence because they encourage the practice by allowing their sons to abuse their wives, the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe has said.

Amai Mugabe made the remarks when she officially launched the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence in Harare yesterday.

This year's celebrations are running under the international theme: "Celebrating 16 years of 16 Days: Advance Human Rights -- End Violence Against Women" while the local theme is "Changing Attitudes, Practices and Behaviour that Promote Gender-based Violence".

"Women are the worst enemies because at times they invite the violence. If their daughters- in-law come complaining, they turn a blind eye but when they see their sons they encourage them," she said.

The First Lady said such women actually tell their sons that beating up their wives is the best way to control them.

She said it was time parents educated their children on the ills of domestic violence by inculcating the best expected behaviour towards a spouse while they are still young.

"Charity begins at home," she said.

Amai Mugabe's message was supported by music icon Oliver Mtukudzi, who besides bringing life into the audience with his popular song Tozeza Baba and Katekwe dance, also encouraged family happiness.

"Let us enjoy to see our families happy. I have many daughters whom I expect to be happy in marriage," said Mtukudzi.

A male survivor of domestic violence narrated his ordeal, drawing laughter from the gathering.

The man told a harrowing story of how he has lived with his cheating and abusive wife.

The man has resigned to fate and hopes he will be saved by divine intervention.

"We were laughing because we were saying don't be abused because you are a man. We should not laugh when people open up. What lessons will we be teaching our children?" she said.

In an apparent reference to a speech by Tafara-Mabvuku Member of the House of Assembly Mr Timothy Mubhawu in which he equated men to God and women as lesser human beings, Amai Mugabe said the legislator was trying to take the nation 50 years back.

"If that is the image of God (Mubhawu) I will run away when God comes," she said.

The First Lady referred to such utterances as demonic and not befitting in a nation that preaches equality between men and women.

"We all represent God. We eat and breathe the same air," she said.

The First Lady had no kind words either for men who have multiple sexual relationships.

She referred to the men as dolls that are used by everyone.

She said if God intended women to be trampled upon he would have created them from the bone under the foot, to be kicked from the knee bone and to be followers of men from the backbone.

But God wanted men and women to be equal and he created women from the rib so that men and women can walk side by side.

Amai Mugabe urged advocacy groups to take the message of the fight against gender violence to all parts of Zimbabwe and ensure those who are illiterate are educated on the campaign.

"This campaign will be meaningless unless it also touches and transforms the lives of women and men in the countryside," she said.

Amai Mugabe said celebrations against gender violence in Zimbabwe had coincided with the debate on the Domestic Violence Bill.

"The Bill, among other things, seeks to bring harmony to the family structure and the society at large and this campaign should certainly celebrate this achievement," she said.

Cases of gender based violence, she said, were still prevalent in Zimbabwe, citing cases of murder of spouses and child sexual abuse.

"I certainly hope that the advent of a legislative framework will somehow bring relief to those who have long borne the brunt of domestic violence," she said.

The celebrations were attended by senior Government officials, staff from the various United Nations agencies, gender-based groups, politicians and schoolchildren.

Oliver Mtukudzi, Louis Mhlanga, Sam Mataure and Sam Mtukudzi thrilled the audience with music related to gender violence.

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