24 January 2013

Tanzania: When Men Join Hands to Fight Gender Violence

Gender- based violence remains a thorn in the flesh for Tanzania and the world over, despite efforts by various sectors to end the social anomaly. In fact, no end is insight for the cancer that continues to spread like bush fire.

However, more men are beginning to see the light and are now in the forefront of condemning such barbaric acts. In this country, the government put in place an environment conducive to curb the problem.

The Sixteen Days of Activism 2012 Campaign, that was officially launched by the Deputy Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Ms Angela Kairuki, coincided with that of the revised police Form number three (PF3), that according to her, will also be used as evidence in court to help those affected to get justice.

She pointed out that the review of the Police Form number three (PF3) is a development expected to help women affected by gender-based violence (GBV) get immediate attention at hospital. And, Kairuki asked police to educate the public on changes in the form, adding that the older PF3 form had weaknesses.

But, Africa seems to be joining hands in trying to mitigate GBV. An African Ministerial Meeting to discuss enhanced collaboration and informationsharing among and between regions in Africa on strategies to End Violence Against Women and Girls was recently held at the United Nations Conference Centre.

The gathering is a preparatory meeting for the 57thsession of the CSW to be held in March 2013 in New York. It brought Africans together to speak with one voice on the issue of Violence Against Women and Girls. And, the increased involvement of men in Africa when it comes to GBV is a huge step towards the right direction.

In Zambia, OXFAM recently came up with an initiative called 'I care about her' aimed at bridging the gap in the fight against GBV by bringing men on board. The organisation is working with Young Women's Christian Association and Women's Lobby who have men's networks aimed at meeting the objectives of the I care about her initiative.

The campaign which started last year has also put up billboards with different messages in various places of Lusaka, Mongu and Kafue. OXFAM Zambia country director for the' I care about her campaign' Nellie N'yangwa said the initiative aimed at tackling GBV by heavily involving men because they are the perpetrators.

"It is vital to recognise that though cases of GBV are perpetrated by both sexes, men encompass the majority of abusers. "The fact that many abusers justify their acts of violence is worrying and just downright scary," Ms N'yangwa said. The other vital sector that OXFAM has identified in the fight against GBV is the justice framework both judicial and traditional which Ms N'yangwa says consists of mainly men.

"The people who are mandated to provide justice also have attitudes; the police, courts are key players hence the need to change their attitudes then women will receive more justice," she says. Ms N'yangwa said OXFAM was carrying out campaigns with organisations such as Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and Women's Lobby who have men's networks.

She said it was very interesting to note that people call and sometimes even go to the OXFAM offices to report cases of abuse which they refer to the police. Ms N'yangwa said that the billboards have proved to be effective in that sense adding that the panel discussions on television and radio have also generated a lot of debate.

Meanwhile the Network of Men against GBV in Malawi, Zambia and Kenya country representative Nelson Banda said previously, men were not active in the fight against GBV despite being the main perpetrators. "There are men who are good, so it is vital to use them to influence others in communities, churches and schools in changing mindsets," Mr Banda said. He said there was need for more men to stop being silent against their fellow men who are perpetrators.

He said men should be role models to young boys as doing so would enable the youth to respect the values of women. Golden Nachibinga, coordinator for the Men's network of the Women's Lobby is encouraging its members to encourage men to be role models in their homes and communities.

"Men have a responsibility to protect their families. Children and older women look to protection from their fathers and sons and it is vital for men to realise that they have that role," Mr Nachibinga said. It is the majority of men who are in authority, traditional and legal justice systems, and the street men who rip a woman's clothes. Therefore, why not join and support the 'I care about her 'campaign.

GBV deep rooted The problem of violence against women continues unabated despite the fact that the 19th century rights of men to "physically chastise an errant wife" may no longer exist, and a host of conventions, declarations and resolutions against gendered violence may have been enshrined in international law. Violence against women continues to corrode the fabric of society in every country of the world.

In homes, workplaces, and public spaces; in times of conflict and peace; through explicit and criminalised (though rarely prosecuted) acts, and through implicit and culturally-sanctioned practices, violence against women prevails and is widespread. This violence can take physical, sexual, and psychological forms and has or will affect an estimated one in three women in the world.

This figure is even higher in Africa where legal and institutional mechanisms to prevent violence and gender discrimination are weak in many areas, armed conflicts have perpetuated the use of rape as a weapon of war, and numerous groups maintain traditions of forced early marriage and female genital mutilation.

But no country in the world, let alone continent, has come close to eliminating gendered violence or extinguishing its roots, which lie firmly embedded in, and nurtured by, normalised cultures of discrimination, domination and objectification. This is why, while enforceable laws are a step in the right direction - even if, as in the case of marital rape, it took the likes of the UK until the 1990s to take the necessary steps - they are far from sufficient.

Ending physical, sexual and psychological violence also requires accompanying drives to tackle the more hidden economic, institutional, and cultural assaults faced by women and girls. In the words of Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, "eliminating violence against women necessarily encompasses measures to empower women to stand for their own rights, make decisions on their lives and participate fully in the life of their communities".

This struggle will no doubt take much time, continue to encounter fierce resistance, and require unrelenting efforts from the grassroots as well as political and cultural leaders. But it is something in which we are all inescapably implicated. To quote Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women: "This is not just a women's issue, this is a responsibility for all of us.

This violence is an outrage and it must be stopped. Time has run out for complacency or excuses." It is high time the perpetrators of GBV are brought to book and a no nonsense approach adopted in a bid to end the problem.

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