Tony Ogunlowo is a writer who comments on topical issues affecting our country and its citizens. In this commentary, he shares his concerns that domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions in South Africa, and why our government needs to address this and put the protection of women higher on its agenda.
Despite the fact that we’re living in the 21st century, the ugly issue of domestic violence against women (and sometimes men!) is on the increase and growing to epidemic levels.
The main perpetrators of this crime are some men who believe that God gave them a pair of fists for the sole purpose of beating up their spouses: to them it’s their only way of asserting their superiority, authority or masculinity.
This is wrong.
Domestic violence is on the increase and the figures are alarming
A recent UN study found that up to 38% of women, in Africa, are physically abused by their partners on a regular basis. These figures however do not reflect women who are emotionally abused which is another thing altogether. Constantly shouting at, cursing, intimidating or depriving your partner of certain things is considered emotional abuse.
A real man doesn’t raise his hand against a woman – whether he’s provoked or not
Unfortunately the mindset of the average South African man is often different. He considers himself a real man for physically abusing his partner, and sadly society and some religions actually condone this.
An abused woman who runs to the police or her family for refuge is often sent back to her abuser ‘to beg him’ whilst some religions, believe that a woman can be abused and subjugated by her husband – within reason(?). Unfortunately when this is allowed to continue it doesn’t end well: a great many end up physically scarred for life or being killed.
A marriage or relationship kept together by the fear of violence is not a relationship but bondage
The sad thing is that many women have been forced to fight back, and on many occasions have fatally wounded (or poisoned) their abusive partners leading them to be charged with first degree murder as police forces sometimes don’t know the difference between involuntary manslaughter due to prolonged abuse and a first degree homicide. As far as the authorities are concerned, a murder is a murder.
Many women keep quiet about domestic abuse because of the stigma associated with it: everybody wants to be seen in a happy marriage. As a result, the happy smiling couple you see outside may not be really happy when they get back home.
The abused wife keeps her mouth shut (and bruises covered) because she doesn’t want anybody to know about her ‘shame’. In doing this her silence will cost her more abuse – or even her life – as we’ve seen in many cases.
When you marry a wife you are not buying a slave or a dummy you can beat black and blue when it suits you. Even giving your wife the odd ‘dirty slap’ is classified as domestic violence.
Abusive men need to know that their partner is not a punch bag
If you want a punch bag there’s one down in your local gym or boxing club or as the old adage goes ‘pick on somebody your own size’. Go and fight Anthony Joshua if you’re man enough! A man who beats up his wife is a coward, period!
Rather than resort to violence, a wise man will find other means to resolve a situation that might otherwise end in a physical altercation
Everybody’s mindset needs to change. Society needs to know that: it’s not okay for a man (or woman) to beat up their partner; abusive partners need to undertake anger management counselling or should be locked up; religious and tribal leaders need to stop preaching that it’s OK for a man to punish or abuse his wife; the police need to stop turning a blind eye to domestic abuse cases and should learn to treat them like any other crime; families should learn how to protect their abused daughters and not just send them back to their abusive partners because ‘people will talk’.
The government also needs to step in to fight this almost invisible crime: there are a few refuge centres out there for domestic abuse victims, but not enough. More need to be set up and adequately funded as this is an ongoing crime that won’t disappear overnight. Also, tougher prison sentences should be introduced to deter would-be abusers.
Follow Tony on Twitter: @Archangel641 or visit //www.archangel641.blogspot.co.uk