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Men can put a stop to gender violence and AIDS - FAMWZ
Caroline Gwature, Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe (FAMWZ)
November 14, 2001

More than half of married women in the country have been or are being battered by their husbands and other male relatives.

Yet only a handful are courageous enough to go and report to the police to see the law take its course against such inhuman acts.

Some have blamed the different cultures in the world which portray a man, even a male child, as a symbol of authority and women always having to respect and at times, fear this power.

This is more so in the African culture whereby a woman cannot make a decision whenever there is a male because their opinions are regarded as far less important compared to that of a man.

From an early age women are taught to assume the role of subservience, which results in most girl children who have been abused not reporting their cases to relevant authorities, or if they did, they are ordered to shut their mouths in order to protect the breadwinner in the family.

This scenario has prompted women in the world to set aside 16 days during the months of November and December, to conscientize the world on the negative impact of violence against women.

This annual campaign has come to be known as the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence" and is celebrated throughout the world.

From November 25 to December 10 women's groups in every region of the world, organise public events and actions as part of the international campaign of 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign has been observed in Zimbabwe since 1991 and the campaign for this year will run under the theme "Violence, Women and HIV/Aids."

This year's celebrations will focus on the men as an important tool to make a difference in the fight against gender-related violence.

The period is viewed as a forum to attract the attention of women, policy-makers, legislators, and the society at large on the issues of violence against women and girl children.

Zimbabwe has no statutory instrument that protects women from violence although it is signatory to several international conventions that are against violence especially to women and children, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The co-ordinator for the campaign, Eunice Takawira said the theme was chosen to highlight the fact that violence against women makes them less able to decide on what they want for themselves.

"Because of the way we were brought up, women are unable to negotiate condom use, demand monogamy and protect themselves from forced encounters," she said.

"High prevalence of extramarital and multi-sexual partner relationships highlight that most men are opting to ignore the HIV/Aids prevention public education campaign messages placing themselves and their families at risk of contracting the deadly virus," she said.

Men who abuse their partners, she said, choose to control every aspect of the woman's life by subjecting her to everyday torture.

"This control goes beyond livelihood; their rights and privileges as human beings are restricted and this impinges on the woman's reproductive and sexual rights resulting in forced intercourse when he has other sexual partners or has an STI including HIV/Aids."

The campaign aims to make women aware of what action to take and who to go to when confronted with violence.

Activities organised by the co-ordinating body, Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), have been lined up for this year's mass campaign scheduled to kick off next week.

Mobile theatres and the distribution of educational material and an exhibition in the capital's major road have been lined up before the official launch of the campaign on November 23 in Harare.

The 16 Days of Activism will also include the Aids Day on December 1 and the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, where a man gunned down 14 female engineering students at the University of Montreal in Canada for being feminists.

Some male organisations like the Padare will be taking part in the campaign as a response to calls for men to take part in the fight against violence on women, as they are the ones who can indeed make a great and meaningful difference in the lives of women and children.

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