24 December 2012

Zambia: Gender-Based Violence - Is Increased Male Involvement the Panacea?

IT is an established fact that Gender Based Violence (GBV) is not only detrimental to survivors, but also an impediment to the realisation of most if not all of the much orchestrated development goals.

Domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and children and several harmful traditional and cultural practices that include child marriages are some forms of gender based violence.

One aspect of GBV that is now a global phenomenon is violence against women.

According to the United Nations General Assembly, "Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life amounts to violence against women.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) 2011 report estimates that at least one in every five of the world's female population has been physically or sexually abused at some time in their life.

Scholarly reports suggest that violence against women arises mostly from the patriarchal systems that over time have exerted control over women and children's lives.

Since offenders are predominantly male, active involvement of men in anti gender-based violence work is critical to ending violence against; and for sustainable solutions to the challenge.

And for men to be effectively engaged in curbing violence against women, there is need to employ measures that explore issues of masculinity without making them (men) feel emasculated.

It is for this reason that the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) through its men's network, is running the transformative masculinity programme along with other initiatives aimed at preventing and mitigating violence against women in particular and GBV in general.

With the support of community leaders and human rights activists, the men's network has reached out to hundreds of men and boys through trainings and sensitisation programmes.

Drama shows and focus group discussions that seek to explore retrogressive cultural practices are some of the approaches that have been used to reach out to communities in Lusaka's Linda Township and Rufunsa area.

"For a long time boys have been socialised to think that they should dominate over women and girls. Through transformative masculinity, men and boys are mentored, taught and guided to respect every human being. This has been done through Insakas and campfires, along with other sensitisation arrangements," explains Raymond Hanvwala, network coordinator.

He also points out that "the Good Husband Campaign is one of the programmes we are undertaking in under transformative masculinity.

This programme equips men with knowledge and skills necessary to prevent altercations that would result in violence.

Since its establishment in 2004, the network has made notable strides in curbing GBV. Over 50 per cent of women that reported their problematic spouses have testified that their spouses have since changed for the better in Linda Township,"

Points of discussion under transformative masculinity include conflict resolution in the home, anger management and communication skills.

He also explains that the network saw it prudent to conduct anti-gender based violence sensitisation programmes in Linda Township because of high incidences of GBV in the area.

"Only a few years back, the area registered the highest number of deaths resulting from spouse battery. But recent reports indicate a decrease in incidences of violence generally. This it is an indication that stakeholders' efforts are bearing fruit. It is only hoped that such interventions are replicated, more so in areas where violence against women and girls is rife," says Mr Hanvwala.

And Zambia Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) has proposed that toll free lines specifically aimed at tackling issues of gender based violence be put in place so that the public can access information about GBV at any time and regardless of their locality.

Zambia YMCA programmes manager Jonas Ngulube said there was need to have multi-faceted and cost effective approaches when dealing with issues of GBV.

Mr Ngulube said introducing toll free lines could encourage people to be forth-coming and report incidences of GBV or get information on how to prevent it altogether.

It should be noted, he said, that some people especially men, might find it easier to talk to a counselor over the phone.

It would also be an effective way of reaching out to the masses with information on GBV.

And a Zambian artist, Chewe Katebe said most cases of violence were as a result of bottled anger and that was why a lot of people that commit violent acts regret afterwards because they acted out of intense frustration.

Katebe, a stand up comedian and actor asserts that "Introducing toll free lines would help in ensuring that both women and men have access to information that can help prevent and mitigate acts of violence.

For women and girls, it would be easier for them to report incidences of violence without going through the perceived bureaucratic processes that have contributed to high numbers of unreported incidences of GBV, and survivors have continued to suffer in silence.".

He also said that most men are cultured to think that seeking guidance or counsel is a sign of weakness.

That was why very few men would go to a police station or any establishment concerned with issues of GBV and report an incidence of violence particularly if one is a survivor.

Therefore, toll free lines for GBV would come in handy because at a press of button, one would be able to talk to a counselor among other services.

The country has continued to record an increase in the number of cases of violence against women and girls as evidenced by records from Zambia Police Service's Victim Support Unit for the past number of years.

Recent reports indicate that a total number of cases reported in 2009 to the police across the country were 8,261.

The number rose to 8,467 in 2010.

The increase was even more extreme in 2011, which recorded 11,928 cases of GBV.

By the end of June this year, more than 9,000 cases had already been reported, indicating that the statistics for this year are likely to surpass all previous ones.

This is despite many measures that have been put in place by Government and other stakeholders to curb GBV.

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