INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day is commemorated on 8 March every year and Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in celebrating the giant strides that have been made advancing the rights of women and the girl child last Wednesday. Commemorations will continue until the end of the month with various organisations lining up activities to highlight the plight of and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.
Held under the theme, #BeBoldforChange, this year’s commemorations called for groundbreaking action that truly drives the greatest change for women.
There was a realisation that people needed to take bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity and assist women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over. The United Nations said International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
It said the idea behind this year’s theme was to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5: Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls; and number 4: Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning. In his message to commemorate the day, UN Secretary-General, António Guterresm, said: “On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.” Clearly, a lot of work and energy have been put into advancing the cause of women since the movement began in the early years of the last century.
In Zimbabwe, there are many organisations working to protect the interests of women and the country prides itself in being one of the leading proponents of gender parity. Gender-Based Violence is on the decline largely due to the excellent work being done by organisations such as Musasa Project. Granted, more still needs to be done to eradicate the scourge of domestic violence and other forms of abuse against women but giant strides and successes have been scored in this regard.
However, because of the patriarchal nature of its society, Zimbabwe has recorded very few cases of discrimination against men by women. Men would rather suffer in silence than subject themselves to the humiliation of reporting abuse by their wives to the police. Yesterday, we published a report which revealed that 72 percent of Bulawayo men who have gone through counselling at Enkundleni/Padare Men’s Forum have reported that their wives beat them up.
Most of the victims report that police officers worsen the situation by mocking them and asking them to bring the abusive wives to the station before they can open a crime docket.Enkundleni/Padare Bulawayo’s programme officer Mr Ziphongezipho Ndebele said there was an increase in the number of men who desperately needed protection from abusive spouses.
“In February this year about 22 men came for counselling in our gender-based violence perpetrators sessions. However, during the sessions 16 of those revealed that they were themselves victims and were suffering in silence,” said Mr Ndebele. “They also revealed they had lost hope in justice as they have been ridiculed while trying to report abusive wives. It is important that as we reflect on women’s issues on the International Women’s Day, we consider that men need protection from violent women as well,” he said.
We agree with Mr Ndebele and feel it is time policy makers considered accommodating such men in programmes meant to assist them. We contend that male victims of abuse deserve the same protection as women from society. We also urge the police to take their work seriously and be professional enough to assist men who are abused by their spouses.
We are encouraged by reports that men are coming out of their shells to report sexual abuse cases perpetrated against them by women. Statistics from Matabeleland North show that although most of the reported abuse cases are that of women, men are slowly breaking the culture of silence. According to the National Aids Council (Nac), after years of getting zero reports from male abuse victims, 26 men reported sexual abuse by women in 2016.
This is most welcome as silence perpetuates abuse since the perpetrators could feel emboldened by the power they wield over their victims. There is absolutely no shame in reporting abuse instead of suffering in silence. Female perpetrators of abuse are just as bad as their male counterparts and it is time society accepted that there are some women out there who are evil, vile and downright despicable.