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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Index of articles surrounding the debate of the Domestic Violence Bill

  • Domestic Violence Bill must pass through unopposed
    Janah Ncube
    October 20, 2006

    The Domestic Violence Bill currently being debated in Parliament has been under construction and consultation for over six years now, and has finally been tabled for what should have been safe passage into law. Instead it has triggered off a turf war.

    Zimbabwean women have clamoured for this Bill for such a long time now in the face of many forms of brutal violence in the very place they should feel safest - their own homes. The women's movement has indeed done the country proud by relentlessly campaigning against violence perpetrated on women. They have called for a law to protect families, women and children from the senseless beatings, killings, rape, incest, child molestation that haunt most of Zimbabwe's families today.

    Studies show that one in every three women in Zimbabwe has experienced some form of domestic or sexual assault.

    Daily newspaper reports as well as cases before the magistrates' courts everyday reflect a shocking rampancy of the violence perpetrated against women and the girl child in Zimbabwe today. The culprits come from all walks of life; the rural, the urban, the educated, the rich, the poor in tattered clothes, the everyday man you encounter on the streets of Harare or at the Growth Point. The same man instils fear, pain and much humiliation on the very people who prepare his meals and generally take care of him; the very people he should protect.

    The biggest crime and scandal of our lifetime as a nation is that we have allowed these depraved actions to be perpetrated with impunity. Despite the fact that this issue has been continuously discussed as one of the numerous problems faced by the country, it is pitiful to note the emotional and loud outbursts being made by a minority of men bent on sustaining the humiliation that women have endured over the ages. Women have not taken this while lying down, though. Rather, through their boldness and courage they have stood up to such bullying by continuing to press for this bill and turning out to march in protest.

    I am truly disappointed by the unfortunate statements that are being naively and ignorantly uttered by such men as Timothy Mabhawu, Member of Parliament for Mabvuku and Tafara. I just cannot bring myself to honour this man as he dishonours himself, his mother, his wife, his daughter and his sisters. So I have no reason to address him as 'honourable'. As a member of the MDC, he supposedly represents a "better life for all and an alternative agenda for change that brings a new beginning for Zimbabwe". Which Zimbabweans does he represent, I wonder? He fools himself into believing he is now representing God. What blasphemy!

    Even more disappointing is the reported convergence of opinion between some opposing male parliamentarians across party and factional lines within the MDC, to oppose the Domestic Violence Bill. If their objective is to perpetuate the desecration, plundering and destruction of women's bodies and lives, then Zimbabwe is truly doomed as long as they sit in such national assemblies.

    It is extremely sad that we live in a society where we actually need a law to protect women in their own homes and the force of state apparatus such as the police to provide protection to those harmed by a member of their own family. It is particularly sad to think that there are men who think, like Mabhawu, that their rights, privileges, status and their powers are derived from killing, beating, raping and torturing women in their own families. In some way, Mabhawu has done this nation's men-folk a favour; he has provided them with an opportunity to reflect on their convictions, their values and their beliefs when it comes to the treatment of the women in their lives.

    What drives a man to raise his hand to his wife and to stab or shoot her to death? What sickness causes a man to have an erection at the sight of his two-year-old sister or niece? What kind of man molests his 13-year-old student? The list of horrors women and girls suffer in our society is long.

    We must applaud the insistence on the part of the media in continuously exposing these hideous crimes against humanity, and the brave fight by the women's NGOs and Padare. We must celebrate the resoluteness of the Ministry of Women's Affairs under the able leadership of Honourable Minister Opah Muchinguri in rescuing this Bill which had been shelved somewhere within the Ministry of Justice's filing cabinets, and advancing it with the support of women's NGOs to the stage of the current parliamentary debate.

    Now the onus is on our legislators. This Bill provides them with an opportunity to debate about the state of a society where 60 percent of female murder victims die at the hands of their husband or lover. They should reflect on the thousands of young girls whose prospects of a good and happy childhood or a successful future are shattered by rape which they cannot even talk about. They are national leaders with the power to make a difference through the law. How have they allowed, for a long time, today's slap to become next week's kick, which then progresses into a shove and a slam against the wall in three months time before, ultimately, turning into a murder in a year's time?

    Our parliamentarians must allow the Domestic Violence Bill 2006 to pass unopposed. They owe it to the many dead, maimed, crippled and scarred women and girls. They owe it to those women sexually harassed, rapped, molested and violated by their fathers, uncles, grandfathers, lovers, boyfriends, husbands, teachers, headmasters, bosses or workmates. They owe it to their daughters and granddaughters including those yet to be born. They owe it to the well-being and future of our nation.

    Indeed, a law by itself is not the end of gender based violence; it however is the end of a period where impunity reigns. This soon-to-be law will not change the opinions of Mabhawu and the like-minded. However, legislation can regulate behaviour, penalise and consequently restrain a husband from beating his wife to pulp. This law can empower and protect families to stop hideous crimes perpetrated in their midst.

    This law empowers the community to take responsibility for the crimes blatantly perpetuated in our midst yet without recourse. It will be an avenue for justice, for security, for protection and citizenship empowerment. Legislation has proved that with the state upholding it, social norms eventually conform to it and this would mean elimination of domestic violence in our lives.

    By enacting this Bill into law, we advance our country and our people to a new era that creates new possibilities for our families, communities and our nation. We will have chosen to assert the dignity of our mothers and sisters and refused to be part of a system and a society that allow barbaric violence in our homes and on our persons.

    This would be a legacy to be proud of.

    *Janah Ncube is a political activist working with an international NGO as the Pan- Africa women's rights and gender advisor.

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