Zambian Solutions to Gender-Based Biolence

Vice-president Inonge Wina says the Government is concerned that cases of gender-based violence (GBV) have shown no signs of declining despite the enactment of the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act in 2011.

She also said that it was worrying that the nation had one of the highest early child and forced marriage prevalence rates in the world and was ranked number 20 globally.

This is the information which was revealed recently in a speech read for her by Justice Minister Ngosa Simbyakula during a GBV lawyers’ meeting.

Ms Wina disclosed further that according to the 2013/14 demographic survey, 43 per cent of women aged between 15 and 49 years old had experienced physical violence in their life span.

At this age, girls are expected to be pursuing their education but as things appear, many girls may turn out to become teenage mothers, thus perpetuating the poverty levels affecting many families since the young mothers would be deprived of the opportunity to pursue their education.

The young mothers with lack of experience on parenting matters, as themselves are still children, might become victims of GBV.

With this scenario obtaining, it is showing that more brutal forms of GBV are on the increase in the rate of the scourge affecting the nation.

But Ms Wina said that the Patriotic Front (PF) Government was committed to addressing the many different forms of gender inequalities.

In addition, she revealed that the Government had provided policy direction and guidance on gender and child-related matters and had facilitated the development of a number of instruments as well as policy issues.

To amplify on how bad the scourge has affected the Zambian society, one does not need to search very far as daily in the local media there is never short of a story on GBV.

One wonders whether this is becoming a way of life.

It buffles one’s mind as to what has gone wrong with the menfolk who are the majority perpetrators of these heinous acts.

To say the least, girls are no longer safe at all, not even with close male family members – including their own biological fathers.

God forbid something needs to be done here to stop this scourge from spreading like wild fire.

Here is what Professor Tembo, who is based in the diaspora, is stating on the matter:

My 22-year-old niece was about to complete her studies at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka so she could graduate with a Diploma in Gender Studies.

But she was left with one more last hurdle; she had to do an internship.

She was attached for a month to one of the eight Gender Based Violence (GBV) One-Stop Coordinated Response Centers located in hospitals.

These centers are in Livingstone, Mazabuka, Kabwe, Chipata, Kitwe, Ndola, and Lusaka has two centres.

What she told me in our casual conversation after she completed her internship is that she had personally attended to 24 cases of GBV. She said 12 cases were very severe and 12 were average to mild.

The examples of two severe cases involved a two year old girl who was brutally defiled by her uncle.

The other case was a woman who had been brutally raped and dumped. My niece said she was emotionally drained. Obviously, my niece learned a lot.

I was stunned that such cases of GBV are very wide spread to epidemic proportions in my otherwise beautiful country of Zambia. What has happened? Why are so many Zambian men beating up women, raping, and some even defiling very young girls?

Incidence of GBV in Zambia

According to a GBV survey conducted in six countries, the highest incidence of GBV was in Zambia with 89 per cent of those women surveyed in Kasama, Kitwe, Mansa, and Mazabuka reported having experienced or been victims of GBV.

In the same survey, “86 per cent of women in Lesotho, 68 per cent of women in Zimbabwe, 67 per cent of women in Botswana, 50 per cent of women in the some provinces of South Africa studied and 24 per cent of women in Mauritius have experienced GBV.” (Chanda, 2014).

According to another “2007 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey, 47 per cent of women in Zambia have experienced physical violence since age 15 – 77 per cent by a current/former husband/partner – and one in five have experienced sexual violence in their lives, 64 per cent of which is perpetrated by an intimate partner.

Why are these incidences of GBV very high in spite of Zambia’s enactment of a landmark Anti-Gender Based Violence Act of 2011?

Since then, there has been a public campaign to stop GBV through concerted efforts to treat victims, and for communities, organizations, police, health workers and judiciary to be involved in the fight against GBV (Chanda, 2014).

The Zambian newspapers have frequent reports of such GBV incidents. This article will explore the definition of gender based violence, possible causes of GBV in Zambia, and the authors will recommend solutions that both include and go beyond those proposed by many institutions, organizations and Government.

Definition of GBV

GBV is not only a serious public health social problem in Zambia but all over the world. The vast majority of victims are overwhelmingly girls and women. Although some men are victims of GBV, they constitute a much smaller number. The public may have the mistaken assumption that GBV, also called Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), only happens when extremely unstable drunk men or husbands beat up or rape their wives after a drunken night out. GBV has a wide definition that includes many abusive behaviors that men direct at women and girls. Sexual and GBV is “physical, mental, or social abuse that is directed against a person because of his or her gender role in a society or culture (ASAZA SGBV Training Manual, n.d. p.9)”.

The GBV includes sexual violence, femicide (female killing) is quite common in Asian countries like in India and the Middle East; battery is common in Zambia and worldwide; property grabbing after the death of a spouse; rape in and outside marriage.

Marriage is not a license to force an intimate partner or wife to have sex when they don’t want to. Sexual harassment is a form of GBV; beating of women perceived to be improperly dressed especially at bus stations of urban areas; forced prostitution, engagement in pornography, sexual cleansing, trafficking in women and children for immoral activities, and finally forced abortion.

Causes of GBV

The causes of GBV are multifaceted. The dozens of factors that cause GBV are both intertwined and may overlap. These may include poverty, unemployment, changing gender norms in which men’s dominance in marriage and relationships is being challenged, history of family dysfunction and violence in the GBV perpetrator and victim’s family background, male personality disorders, and lack of or poor legal or police action against GBV perpetrators. This is what may make finding one or two effective explanations and solutions that can solve the entire problem very difficult to identify. The causes of GBV can be categorized into those that are societal, community, relationship, and individual.

Proposed solutions to GBV (SokoRelaNdi)

GBV in Zambia is of both the physical and the verbal type or psychological intimidation especially of girls and women. It causes horrific harm to thousands of children and women, imposing havoc in families and communities and creating untold suffering. All forms of campaigns, policies, and strategies to combat and eliminate this serious problem should be supported. But since most of the overwhelming evidence including surveys suggest GBV is deeply embedded in the Zambian society, I propose a comprehensive national approach.

This approach is most likely to eliminate or reduce the problem to a greater degree after many years as it will more likely result into transforming the entire Zambian culture from children in the home, marriages and families all the way to the national institutions.

A problem of the GBV magnitude that is apparently deeply embedded in the Zambian society cannot be easily solved using piece meal approaches much as the existing policies and strategies may be implementing very helpful programs.

The new comprehensive program should go by the very Zambian sounding acronym: SokoRelaNdi. This stands for Society, Kommunity, Relationships, Individual. “Community” is spelled with a “K” instead of the English “C” as this makes it very Zambian. “Ndividual” as a Zambianized word sounds very close to the English “Individual”.

The use of this new acronym, the programs and policies will draw attention to the reality that GBV is both wide spread and needing comprehensive action by all 13 million Zambians at all levels. For example in SoKoRelaNdi, “Societal” or “Society” would mean GBV can be eliminated by creating more jobs, lowering unemployment on the level of Zambian Government. “Kommunity” means communities should create more shelters for victims of GBV. The same would apply for “Relationships” and “Individual” components of solving the serious problem of GBV.

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