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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Index of articles surrounding the debate of the Domestic Violence Bill
Violence Bill - will it free women?
Video Fair (IVF)
Extracted from IVF Newsletter: Issue No 9 (Sept - Dec 2006)
November 01, 2006
of articles surrounding the debate of the Domestic Violence Bill
violation or abuses are often overlooked and deemed secondary to
other "mainstream" human rights abuses. Only a handful
of countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
have specific Domestic Violence Acts in place. These include Mauritius,
South Africa, Namibia and Seychelles.
(Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe) have domestic violence
laws pending. In the remaining countries domestic violence is covered
under laws such as "common assault" that are inadequate
for dealing with this complex violation of women’s rights that invariably
takes place in "hidden" places like the home.
In Zimbabwe for
example, gender based violence prevalence and gravity has intensified
and in recent years, the violence has taken atrocious forms such
as the rape and the sodomy of young children in the misguided belief
that this will cure HIV & AIDS infection.
"It is important
to note that the gender and power dynamics that help perpetuate
and condone gender violence are central features driving the HIV
& AIDS epidemic," said Musasa
Project, a Zimbabwean non-governmental organization that deals
with gender-based violence.
and meaning of violence is connected with power. Due to socialization,
in most societies, especially African societies, social, economic,
political and interpersonal power remain with men and power is socially
is defined as any act of violence that results in or is likely to
result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to
women or men, including threats of such acts, coercion or an arbitrary
deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.
In an effort to
address this global problem, the Women’s Global Leadership Institute
participants in 1991 chose November 25 to December 10 as 16 days
of activism which has since then become an international campaign
adopted as an organized strategy by individuals and groups around
the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against
in its report on Global AIDS epidemic that 17 million of over 38
million HIV positive people worldwide are women, three quarters
of these living in Africa.
Africa, women and girls already make up almost 60 percent of adults
living with HIV according to UNAIDS.
According to statistics
by Musasa Project about 55 percent of domestic violence in Zimbabwe
goes unreported and in the majority of cases reported no action
. . . are only a tip of the ice-berg. Reasons for not reporting
vary from socialization which encourages that a person should not
hang their dirty linen in public to lack of specific legislation
to address the abuses they face," said Musasa.
destroys women’s health. Due to the biological make up of women
and their inability to negotiate safer sex because of their lower
socio-economic status in society makes women vulnerable to HIV infection.
Gender based violence can also render women incapable of controlling
their fertility rate and cause them to experience poor health.
Violence on women
also has negative implications on the development of a nation. Women
constitute the majority of the world’s poorest group of people largely
due to lack of or limited access to education. Thus lack of access
to and lower levels of education narrow the scope of the economic
activities women can engage in. This can result in women in engaging
in unremunerated labour. According to the Zimbabwe’s
Women Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) women do two thirds
work yet only earn five percent of its income and own less than
one percent of its assets. Thus gender-based violence impedes women’s
full participation in society largely by handicapping their ability
to contribute to economic progress.
of violence are stress, divorce, and loss of property, hospitalization,
permanent injury, unwanted pregnancies and disfigurement.
The yet to be
assented Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill in Malawi has important
aspects like orders for protection, occupancy and tenancy. It also
gives powers to the police to enter homes and apprehend the culprits
if there is domestic violence. It provides for payment of fines
as high as K1 million (USD 7,500) and custodial sentences for culprits,
depending on the gravity of the abuse.
psychological torture and economic abuse are also incorporated in
the Bill. This is commendable since it will also help protect the
more vulnerable parties from HIV. It also provides for counseling
for both perpetrators and victims in Malawi.
with the support of the women’s movement in Zimbabwe has successfully
lobbied for the Domestic Violence Bill, which is expected to be
introduced in Parliament soon.
The Bill seeks
to protect women, men and children, including domestic workers who
might find themselves victims of abuse by their employers.
It states that
a victim of domestic violence is entitled to apply to the courts
for a protection order, which prohibits the perpetrator from further
abusing the victim. The culprit is liable to a fine or custodial
penalty if they breach the order.
Under the Bill,
the police officers have the right to arrest without warrants where
a person is about to commit domestic violence where there is reasonable
suspicion that the person is about to commit or has committed domestic
A 2005 study by
the Gender and Media in Southern Africa (GEMSA) noted that only
four countries (Lesotho, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe) had passed
Sexual Offences Acts. These acts recognize rape in marriage; a critical
factor in the era of HIV & AIDS, where one of the largest categories
of those newly infected is married women who are faithful in their
relationships while their husbands are not.
The study also
looked at the provision for the administration of Post Exposure
Prophylaxis or PEP to survivors of sexual assault. Only four out
of the twelve countries in the study (Mauritius, Namibia, South
Africa and Zambia) had policies requiring that health facilities
administer PEP, a course of anti-retroviral drugs that can help
to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection, after a sexual assault.
policy and legal provisions, lack of public education for survivors
of sexual assault to seek this treatment, which has to be taken
within 72 hours of the assault, is one of the most disturbing findings
of the study, given the fact that Southern Africa has the highest
rate of HIV & AIDS infection in the world. It is also disturbing
that debates about this issue have been confined to policy and legal
provisions, rather than to the human rights of women, and the Constitutional
obligations of the state, in situations where women are exposed
to the danger of the deadly virus as a result of coerced sex,"
said the study.
affairs account for the greater cases of violence (44%) and yet
multiple sexual relationships are a key driver to the HIV epidemic
in Zimbabwe. Even UNAIDS confirms marriage is proving to be a serious
risk factor for HIV infection for women. Studies in Kenya and Zambia
have shown that younger married women are at a higher risk of HIV
infection than their unmarried counterparts. Relative interference
account for 14 percent of gender based violence and cultural practices
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