22 November 2012

Zambia: Commemorating 16 Days of Gender-Based Violence Activism

THE Anti-Gender Based Violence Act is aimed at providing protection for victims of gender based violence by keeping them away from abusive situations, counseling and rehabilitating such victims ensuring that they do not return to the old life.

This law also provides for the creation of Anti-Gender Based Violence committee and Anti-Gender Based Violence fund. Anyone who is a victim of gender-based violence can use this Act to seek protection.

Gender activism goes beyond the sixteen days of the celebrations as women worldwide reflect on their experiences and daily life encounters during this period which runs from November up to December 10.

The sixteen days is characterised by a lot of activities and sensitisation by Government, anti Gender activists and civil society organisations that play a key role in addressing gender based cases.

Gender-based abuse comes in many forms and as society it is our duty to curb the vice and protect the victims from harm's way.

Abuse is behaviour that harms or is likely to cause harm to the safety, health or well being of a person and includes economic abuse.

It is an offence not to provide necessities for your dependants and family, and the law will not spare such perpetuators.

Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse include insults, threats, possessiveness which comprises a person's privacy, liberty, integrity or security and behaviour that may cause mental injury to children if they witness it.

Through the Anti-Gender Violence act a victim can get help after reporting the matter by going to the nearest police station or by making an application for a protection order in a magistrates court.

Complaints can be made by the victims themselves or where the victim is a child or has mental disability, any person who has knowledge of the violence and acting in the interest of the child or person with disability can make a complaint.

The only and best medicine to cure Gender Based Violence is for victims to speak out and let go so that they are set free.

In doing so Gender Links Zambia media facilitator Madube Pasi Siyauya has created a platform for gender based victims to get sensitisation messages and campaigns against violence through various media workshops.

Mrs Siyauya explained that her organisation is disseminating information through the media which acts as a platform or conduit of information to the masses, local authorities who have data on the community at the grass root level.

She said Zambia was not making the Anti-Gender Violence Act a reality because most rights were still not recognised like was the case with victims obtaining free medical reports in government institutions.

"The Act states that victims of GBV should seek protection and where need arises for physical abuse one is eligible to a free medical report, but this is not so, hence most victims that look up to the perpetrators as bread winners tend to withdraw their cases due to financial constraints," she complained.

Mrs Siyauya was a facilitator at the Monze district Council in Southern Province where her organisation carried out GBV sensitisation with Local authorities, the councillors and traditional leaders.

"Zambia is not making strides in implementing GBV cases as evidenced by the increased number of reports on emotional, physical and psychological cases," she said.

She explained that government should implement a channel to ensure that the GBV Act is active not institutions that will victimise victims.

She said Genderlinks shall always take government to task and key stakeholders held accountable to the commitments they made to reduce levels of GBV in the SADC region.

She advised the media to be sensitive when reporting about gender -based violence stories which she described as being unfairly treated as victims are not protected.

Mrs Siyauya reminded that Gender links has launched a GBV research which will help determine how Zambia was fairing on its reporting on GBV cases.

Monze Victim Support Unit Coordinator Hildah Silowa attributed the high numbers of GBV in the district to polygamous marriages which are part of the tradition in Southern Province.

Ms Silowa explained that polygamy was no longer a tradition but a problem to the community as her office has received a number of complaints from wives that have cried foul after husbands abandoned them whenever a new wife came into the picture .

She said her office receives close to 10 GBV cases daily from areas around the district and these are cases from Gwembe, Pemba and Monze.

She explained that her office together with the local authorities and the traditional leaders were carrying out sensitisation programmes using village headmen moving from one area to another reaching out to the villagers.

Ms Silowa said economic abuse was another form of GBV that was becoming rampant in the district because most husbands that have more than one wife have stopped playing their role of providing basic necessities for their families.

And GBV survivor Gertrude Mweemba could not hide her excitement on how free and happy she was after leaving her polygamous marriage.

Ms Mweemba who resides in Chief Mwanza's area said she was happy that she had since left her matrimonial home where she was the fourth wife and bore the man two kids.

"When he married me I was wife number four and he said he loved me , but after some years together I realised that I was fending for myself and the children, I decided to move out," she said.

She has called on other women in the province that stick to such marriages to get financially empowered and live a better and healthy life which is also HIV and Aids free.

"After living the polygamous marriage I started a small business of selling fish which I bought from Kafue for reselling here in Monze, the sales provided for my family and I was able to educate my children," she said

Ms Mweemba said polygamy was not safe and most women in it were not happy as portrayed because their husbands do not love them equally, a situation that made her abandon the marriage.

She observed that men take advantage when a woman is not empowered economically and that affects her well-being because one is forced to cling to the relationship without necessarily being happy just doing so for the sake of the children.

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