Source: The Standard
FIFTY-YEAR-old Anna Nyoni's married life has been a nightmare.
She remembers no bliss in her seven-year marriage, just beatings from her husband which has left permanent scars all over her body. Her relatives and friends have on several occasions told her to persevere to keep her marriage, saying the battering will end as it was common in most marriages.
Though she cannot take the beatings anymore, Nyoni has no knowledge of where to get professional assistance. Nyoni is one of the several thousands of women in Zimbabwe who suffer at the hands of their husbands but have no knowledge of where to seek recourse or any other form of assistance.
A recent report by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, in collaboration with some non-governmental organisations (NGOs), says women suffer in silence because they are ignorant of the laws that can protect them against gender-based violence (GBV).
The ministry came up with a national strategy and public campaigns on issues of GBV, which are meant to enhance women's capacity to protect themselves against domestic violence.
However, gender experts say that little is being done to sensitive the ordinary woman about the issue.
In interviews carried out by The Standard, it emerged that some women were unaware of laws that protected them against domestic violence.
"What I know is that domestic violence exists in homes, but I was not aware that there is actually a law on domestic violence," said Sithabisiwe Gumbo.
Some said they only got to know about such laws when it happened to a relative or a close friend.
"In most cases, one gets to know about these things when they are directly affected by the issue," said Nomsa Dube.
"Otherwise, if nothing of that sort happens, I never bother to find out whether or not there are laws about domestic violence."
Domestic violence is considered the most pervasive and widely tolerated form of GBV in Zimbabwe. Gender experts say the practice is hidden in silence to protect the integrity of the family.
Gender experts say, like HIV, domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, class, economic status or religion.
The Domestic Violence Act (DVA) of 2006 makes provision for the protection and relief of victims of domestic violence and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to domestic violence.
According to the Act, domestic violence means an unlawful act, omission or behaviour which results in death or the direct infliction of physical, sexual or mental injury to any complainant.
It mentions types of domestic abuse as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal, psychological abuse, economic abuse, forced virginity testing, pledging of women or girls for purposes of appeasing spirits and sexual intercourse between father-in-law and newly married daughter-in-law.
Domestic violence cases on the rise: Musasa Project
Statistics revealed by Musasa Project at a one-day media briefing in Bulawayo recently, showed that cases of domestic violence were on the increase.
The organisation aims to enhance the development of women by making government authorities and the public aware of the illegality and non-acceptability of violence against women and through taking action to reduce the incidents of the crime.
Musasa Project says there were 3 193 cases of domestic violence reported in the country in 2009.
The number increased to 7 628 in 2010 while 2 536 cases were reported and in the first quarter of last year.
"We believe that these figures are not the real representation of domestic violence, as there are more cases that actually go unreported," said Musasa Project regional manager for Bulawayo and Midlands, Lindile Ndebele.
"Most women always prefer to suffer in silence; hence we can safely double these statistics to show the real picture and extent of domestic violence in the country."