By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D. Professor of Sociology
My 22 year old niece was about to complete her studies at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka so she could graduate with a Diploma in Gender Studies. But she was left with one more last hurdle; she had to do an internship. She was attached for a month to one of the 8 Gender Based Violence (GBV) One-Stop Coordinated Response Centers located in hospitals. These centers are in Livingstone, Mazabuka, Kabwe, Chipata, Kitwe, Ndola, and Lusaka has 2 centers. What she told me in our casual conversation after she completed her internship is that she had personally attended to 24 cases of gender based violence.
She said 12 cases were very severe and 12 were average to mild. The examples of 2 severe cases was a 2 year old girl who was brutally defiled by her uncle. The other case was a woman who had been brutally raped and dumped. My niece said she was emotionally drained but learned a lot. I was stunned that such Gender Based Violence is very wide spread to epidemic proportions in my otherwise beautiful country of Zambia. What has happened? Why are so many Zambian men beating up women, raping, and some even defiling very young girls?
Incidence of GBV in Zambia
According to a GBV survey conducted in 6 countries, the highest incidence of GBV was in Zambia with 89% of those women surveyed in Kasama, Kitwe, Mansa, and Mazabuka reported having experienced or been victims of Gender Based Violence. In the same survey, “86 percent of women in Lesotho, 68 percent of women in Zimbabwe, 67 percent of women in Botswana, 50 percent of women in the some provinces of South Africa studied and 24 percent of women in Mauritius have experienced GBV.” (Chanda, 2014) According to another “2007 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey, 47% of women in Zambia have experienced physical violence since age 15 – 77% by a current/former husband/partner – and one in five have experienced sexual violence in their lives, 64% of which is perpetrated by an intimate partner.” (CARE, 2013, p.2)
Why are these incidents of Gender Based Violence very high in spite Zambia’s enactment of a landmark Anti-Gender Based Violence Act of 2011? Since then there has been a public campaign to stop GBV through concerted efforts to treat victims, and for communities, organizations, police, health workers and judiciary to be involved in the fight.(Chanda, 2014)
The Zambian papers have frequent reports of such Gender Based Violent incidents. This article will explore the definition of gender based violence, possible causes of GBV in Zambia, and the author will recommend solutions that both include and go beyond those proposed by many institutions, organizations and government.
Definition of Gender Based Violence
Gender Based Violence is not only a serious public health social problem in Zambia but all over the world. The vast majority of victims are overwhelmingly girls and women. Although some men are victims of GBV, they constitute a much smaller number. The public may have the mistaken assumption that GBV, also called Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), only happens when extremely unstable drunk men or husbands beat up or rape their wives after a drunken night out. Gender Based Violence has wide a definition that includes many abusive behaviors that men direct at women and girls. Sexual and Gender Based Violence is “physical, mental, or social abuse that is directed against a person because of his or her gender role in a society or culture.” (ASAZA SGBV Training Manual, n.d., p.9).
The GBV includes sexual violence, Femicide (female killing) is quite common in Asian countries like in India and the Middle East; Battery is common in Zambia and worldwide; property grabbing after the death of a spouse; rape in and outside marriage. Marriage is not a license to force an intimate partner or wife to have sex when they don’t want to. Sexual harassment is a form of GBV; beating of women perceived to be improperly dressed especially at bus stations of urban areas; forced prostitution, engagement in pornography, sexual cleansing, trafficking in women and children for immoral activities, and finally forced abortion.
Causes of Gender Based Violence
The causes of Gender Based Violence are so many that they are multifaceted. The dozens of factors that cause GBV are both intertwined and may overlap. These may include poverty, unemployment, changing gender norms in which men’s dominance in marriage and relationships is being challenged, history of family dysfunction and violence in the GBV perpetrator and victim’s family background, male personality disorders, and lack of or poor legal or police action against GBV perpetrators.
This is what may make finding one or two effective explanations and solutions that can solve the entire problem very difficult to identify. The causes of GBV can be categorized into those that are Societal, Community, Relationship, and Individual. (ASAZA SGBV Training Manual, n.d, p.27).
Proposed Solutions to Gender Based Violence (SokoRelaNdi)
Gender Based Violence in Zambia both the physical and the verbal type or psychological intimidation especially of girls and women cause horrific harm to thousands of children and women, imposing havoc in families and communities creating untold life of suffering. All forms of campaigns, policies, and strategies to combat and eliminate this serious problem should be supported. But since most of the overwhelming evidence including surveys suggest GBV is deeply embedded in the Zambian society, I propose a comprehensive national approach.
This approach is most likely to eliminate or reduce the problem to a greater degree after many years as it will more likely result into transforming the entire Zambian culture from children in the home, marriages and families all the way to the national institutions. A problem of the GBV magnitude that is apparently deeply embedded in the Zambian society cannot be easily be solved using piece meal approaches much as the existing policies and strategies may be implementing very helpful programs.
The new comprehensive program should go by the very Zambian sounding acronym: SokoRelaNdi. This stands for Society, Kommunity, Relationships, Individual. “Community” is spelled with a “K” instead of the English “C” as this makes it very Zambian. “Ndividual” as a Zambianized word sounds very close to the English “Individual”.
The use of this new acronym, the programs and policies will draw attention to the reality that Gender Based Violence is both wide spread and needing comprehensive action by all 13 million Zambians at all levels. For example in SoKoRelaNdi, “Societal” or “Society” would mean GBV can be eliminated by creating more jobs lowering unemployment on the level of Zambian government. “Kommunity” means communities should create more shelters for victims of GBV.
The same would apply for “Relationships” and “Individual” components of solving the serious problem of GBV. The program would start with ministry of Gender Development, The President, Schools, Churches, towns, compounds, villages, and the way to families in rural and urban compounds.
The media would lead the publicity. Everyone and all organizations would find a way of acting to reduced and eliminate Gender Based Violence (GBV) under one or some of what is represented in SokoRelaNdi. Zambia had at least 4 national Development Plans since independence in 1964. Gender Based Violence needs similar serious comprehensive national policies if we are going to eliminate Gender Based Violence as a nation.