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The brutal murder and rape of yet another South African woman, Uyinene Mrwetyana (19) from the University of Capetown at the hands of Luyanda Botha (42) has left a heavy cloud hanging over the heads of many women in Africa and in the world. Prior to her horrific and untimely death, Uyinene has visited the Claireinch post office in Capetown to inquire about her parcel. She was served by post office employee, Luyanda Botha.
He informed her that there was no electricity and that the card machine was not working; given the load shedding being experienced in South Africa, such a response was not an anomaly. He additionally advised her to return later and when she did, she was alone with him in the post office.
Luyanda Botha is reported to have “locked the door assaulted her, penetrated her vagina and she fought back. When he heard her screaming he took a scale inside the post office and hit her. He then dumped her body in Lingelethu West. Blood was found inside the post office and on his shoe when he was arrested.” He is said to have wrapped her body, burned it and buried it in a shallow grave. He confessed to the murder and led the police to the site where he had dumped her body. Gender based violence is a universal story which is prevalent in many parts of the world including Zimbabwe.
An article by UNFPA reports that, “Evidence from the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) (2015) shows that the overall prevalence rate of GBV is at 35 person, with 14 person of women aged 15-49 having experienced sexual violence and 25 person reporting experiencing physical violence since the age of 15. Among married women, 45 person reported experiencing physical, sexual and emotional violence by their current or most recent partner.”
In a country such as Zimbabwe, where we have the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, Criminal Code, Domestic Violence Act, Trafficking In Persons Act, Administration of Estates Act among many other laws whose aim is to prevent and protect people from difference acts of gender based violence it appears that there remains a discord in the way society views gender based violence.
This story is one of many stories of African women who have perished at the hands of men due to gender based violence. Gender based violence; a concept whose roots are deeply seated in gender inequality entails acts of brutality and violence against women and a blatant disregard for human rights.
These acts of violence are not only limited to physical force and infliction of physical pain, but can be found within many facets of society including sexual harassment, harmful cultural practices, economic abuse, stalking, intimidation and even malicious damage to property as stated in the Domestic Violence Act.
Under the Istanbul Convention, acts of gender-based violence are emphasised as resulting in ‘physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’ What can be derived from these descriptions and explanations on gender based violence is the systemic influence which feeds the insatiable monster that it gender based violence.
It is about a people’s way of life which chooses not to value women’s lives and the consequences are felt far beyond women’s physical bodies. The effects condition a people into perpetuating acts of violence as they have been normalised and in some circumstances due to various reasons, the men are not held accountable for such acts.
In many reports which involve acts of rape or femicide, just as was discovered in the Uyinene investigation, the perpetrators of gender based violence are often repeat offenders. It is not unusual to discover as was done with Luyanda Botha, that he was convicted of armed robbery and had reports of sexual violence being levelled against him by other members of society.
Many women in Zimbabwe are known to be holders of protection orders against their spouses or partners, reports of domestic violence would have been made to the police; sometimes there are multiple reports and withdrawals of same, the men who commit these acts of violence have prior convictions involving assault or even sexual violence. Similar cases such as that of State vs Robert Tevedzayi where he killed his wife using his hands, a hoe, an axe and a metal bar reveal that the woman had initially reported the matter to the police but was dismissed and advised to settle the matter amicably as a family, are a reflection of cyclical and repetitive nature of domestic violence.
In the murder of Lucy Duve by Tashinga Musonza, it was also found that he too had prior criminal charges which involved physical violence. This shows evidence of the enabling and societal protection that perpetrators of domestic violence are often awarded.
Whilst the law is in place, there is need for societal support in some of the following ways;
We have to go beyond the act of only encouraging reporting of cases of gender based violence by actually lending women our ear. Women must be heard and believed when they report that their lives are in danger.
The narrative around gender based violence continues to carry a myopic view often articulating how many women have been victims of gender based violence and offering statistic of prevalence of such inhumanity. This is no longer enough. There is a need to expand the narrative by not only focusing on the women who are victims but including the men who are perpetrators. A simple google search will more often than not, give detail on the woman and no name of the aggressor. To find names such as those of Luyanda Botha one has to dig deeper into the depths of the internet simply to find his name although it must be admitted that this name was easy to find on Twitter. What ought to be realised herein is that there isn’t enough conversation holding men to account for gender based violence. Instead of merely outlining the statistics of prevalence of rape or domestic violence, there must be an additional note on who is actually inflicting this violence and the answer is men.
Men must form part of the narrative around gender based violence if we are to realise a safer environment for girls and women.
There must be inclusion of youth in conversation and strategies around responsive and protective measures against gender based violence especially because of the role that social media currently plays in society. There are many other forms of gender based violence which will be overlooked if we insist on using the same methods of intervention.
There needs to be focus on rehabilitation of offenders in an attempt to curb the possibility of them being repeat offenders.
Section 25 of the Constitution states that; “The State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must protect and foster the institution of the family and in particular must endeavour, within the limits of the resources available to them, to adopt measures for — the provision of care and assistance to mothers, fathers and other family members who have charge of children; and he prevention of domestic violence. It is a collective effort and it starts by holding society accountable.
For feedback, questions and comments please feel free to email – firstname.lastname@example.org. Look out for the next article in this column next week and the Kwayedza every Thursday. For a 24 hour response to Gender Based Violence issues, call our toll free number 08080131: hotlines 0776736873/0782900900