The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Violence Not the Solution

opinion

The assault on radio and television personality Tinopona Katsande over the weekend marked yet another sad day for Zimbabweans who had for long been advocating a violence-free society. It raised the alarm and exposed the horrific nature of gender-based violence that continues to increase in the homes of many Zimbabweans across the wide spectrum of society, while many turn a blind eye to this vice.

Tino, known in entertainment circles as Tin Tin, was brave enough to come out in the open, to talk about her nightmare at the hands of a man who had been professing undying love for her, just a few minutes before he allegedly changed into a ravaging monster.

She posted her pictures on social networks bruised, savaged, harassed and looking traumatised.

Looking at her social position, it was indeed a brave decision that many women and men have not been able to make as they continue to suffer in silence, while living in the most violent and vicious relationships.

Unfortunately for Tino, her heroic efforts in acknowledging that she was a victim of gender-based violence were met with skepticism. Although a lot of people came out in her support, she was not spared from vitriolic comments from both men and women, who blamed her for angering the boyfriend.

The same night that Tino was bashed, a woman in my neighbourhood was beaten up in full view of neighbours, her son-in-law and my five-year-old daughter after she reportedly forgot to lock the gate on her way to the shops.

Her screams and pleas for forgiveness did not deter her furious husband.

As the crowd swelled, a few people could be heard encouraging the man to mete out instant punishment on the woman, saying that was the language women understood!

Sadly, this is the situation Zimbabwe continues to find itself in, where people are keen on justifying violent acts, giving a series of euphemisms veiled as excuses, instead of condemning violence in the strongest terms.

Some are daring and accuse the victim, arguing that "there is something she could have done to warrant such a beating".

My heart bleeds when I notice that the levels of gender based violence continue to rise at an alarming rate at a time the country should be embracing other forms of conflict resolution having realised the negative impact violence has had in Zimbabwe and the region.

Projections are already showing that this year's statistics may surpass 3 141 cases of domestic violence that were recorded last year, if no mitigation measures are put in place to rein in perpetrators of violence regardless of their biological make-up and level of understanding.

Seven people even lost their lives at the hands of their partners, while others were maimed, disfigured and left with life-threatening complications.

More people are now spending productive time trying to solve gender-based violence or seeking redress at the courts, at a time when they should be working towards self-actualisation in their homes, career, family and other spheres of influence.

This is because gender based violence now manifests itself in different forms and has actually become the country's major social vice, cutting across the social strata. It is common to come across a 79-year-old man, beating up his wife of 40 years over trivial issues.

While a lot of people may want to turn a deaf ear to the problem arguing that it is as old as prostitution and cannot be dealt with overnight, it is, however, without doubt that a lot can still be done to bring this animal to a sudden halt.

The Domestic Violence Act seeks to reverse the grim picture of domestic violence in all its virulent manifestations.

At its inception - the law scored successes, only to fade in between as the generality of people turned blind enough to tolerate the old age custom of wife bashing in order to whip her into submission.

I just don't know how the lineage of our grandfathers used to discipline our grandmothers, but it's clear that they never used to pummel them into submission, nor coerce them with brutal kicks as is the case now.

They had strong conflict resolution strategies within the family unit and the community at large, where issues were brought to the family court and other convenient and suitable channels to try and work out a solution.

For fear of reprisals and stern punishments on perpetrators of violence, not many people were keen on using violence to resolve differences, let alone beat up someone for whatever reason.

As a result, gender based violence cases were relatively low, a situation that I yearn for and wish for as Zimbabwe joins other countries in commemorating 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence.

While it is a noble idea that a lot of people get involved and make serious commitments to end gender based violence during this period, what the country needs are sustained efforts to keep the message alive.

The actions, awareness programmes that are being done now should not be a one-off event, but should be sustained throughout the year to get the message across that gender based violence is deadly and viral like any other life-threatening conditions and should not be tolerated.

Let us build a violent-free society for our children, who will then grow up knowing very well that a knife is nothing more than just a kitchen utensil and should never be used to resolve a problem, as what is the case today.

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