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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 - It's the act that counts
October 16, 2006
the index of articles on the debate around the Domestic Violence
"If we agree to
this Bill, we will be trapped. If I catch my wife with another man,
I cannot discipline her because once she reports it, it becomes
domestic violence." These words hold a frighteningly powerful answer
to the question of why domestic violence persists, and will continue
to do so in our societies, unless we re-think the beliefs and expectations
we hold about this most serious offence.
One of Zimbabwe's
Members of Parliament, Zacharia Ziyambi, offered the statement in
a sitting of Parliament for the second reading of the Domestic
Violence Bill. His comments show how people still run ropes
around the issue, refusing to accept their own actions as domestic
violence. Mr. Ziyambi would like to believe that domestic violence
begins when his wife is enabled to report such acts to the police.
But, domestic violence does not require the state's approval in
order to define it. For it refers to the gross use of one's own
power, whether physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, financial,
or otherwise, to dominate and harm another human being and thus
rob them of their inherent rights and dignity.
The point is not
to analyse jealousy and infidelity and the factors that lead to
these. Rather, it is to highlight the arrogance and unawareness
that exists among perpetrators of domestic violence. People who
hold Mr. Ziyambi's views believe that as long as the act of striking
a partner or child, or using other means to create fear and subordination,
occurs within the four neat walls of the home, the matter remains
solely their business. And so to them, the Domestic Violence Bill,
if passed into law, would serve as a pervasive Big Brother-like
structure that would impinge upon their right to privacy and 'freedom'
to discipline errant behaviour.
of other speakers in Zimbabwe's Parliament two weeks ago have been
drowned out amid the torrent of descent created by Tafara-Mabvuku
MP, Timothy Mubawu's statement that women are not equal to men and
any legislation supporting such claims would be diabolical. Women's
groups staged mass protests against his comments. But other speakers
echoed his sentiments more subtly showing that this Bill is making
many people, particularly, men, very uneasy. Unfortunately, this
discomfort is not born from concern for the loss of mutual respect
and trust that ought to form personal relationships, but instead,
from the sanctions that a criminal charge of domestic violence would
In the same session
of Parliament, Binga representative, Joel Gabbuza noted, "It (the
Domestic Violence Bill) is against jealousy and extreme possessiveness
but I have to be possessive because she (his wife) is the only asset
I love." Here, possessiveness is equated to, and understood as an
offshoot of love when in fact, real love must entail trust and respect
in order to be called such. And if women are valued as mere assets
to yield investments on bride price through servile behaviour and
childbearing - to be further disposed of if they fail to fulfill
these roles - they can never be regarded as equal partners and stakeholders
within marriages and societies.
It was refreshing,
however, to hear one male policy influencer, Justice, Legal and
Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, note that domestic
violence cannot be justified through traditional customs and values.
Chinamasa thwarted such claims and urged Zimbabweans to move away
from a system of condoning domestic violence in the name of culture.
He, and hopefully many others, realise that culture is dynamic and
as such must adapt to ever-changing environments in order to remain
viable and relevant. Gender equality and equity are values that
need to start being appreciated in homes and other social institutions
to create a culture of tolerance and respect for each human being's
individuality and security of person. Violence begets violence and
violent acts in the home must be recognised for what they are -
Violence Bill is now at the committee stage where it will be debated
in the House of Assembly. Currently, physical and sexual abuse of
women are treated as crimes of common assault in Zimbabwe.
is a trainee media professional with the Southern
Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS)
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