Women for Change (WfC) adds its voice in condemning the recent grave Gender Based Violence (GBV) occurrences which have been resulting in death of intimate partners.
WfC would like to reiterate that any form of GBV, against a woman, girl boy or man is wrong and should be condemned in the strongest sense.
This rise in the vice points to the need for all sections of society in Zambia to step up their vigilance and actions towards fighting the scourge.
It is acknowledged by various stakeholders that GBV is caused by multiple factors and more often than not takes place in homes and hidden places and therefore only a combination of actions at all levels of society can reduce and eventually wipe it out.
GBV is caused by a number of factors that include exposure at individual level, especially as a child to GBV. Further, an environment might contribute to GBV prevailing if services that are supposed to curb the vice are unavailable or farfetched. This is compounded by poverty, ignorance of the law, bad cultural practices that tolerate GBV and gaps in existing legislation meant to address GBV.
For instance if an area is poverty stricken it’s members who in most instances are unaware of the laws and rights will be exposed and tolerate GBV from those wielding power and are comparatively economically sound. Further if the environment is lacking key services like nearby schools or water, weaker members of society such as women and girls are exposed to GBV. For instance long distances are covered by women and girls to fetch water or access schools thus presenting an opportunity for assailants to attack them.
Some of the above factors are common in Zambia, many adults who today perpetuate GBV grew up in homes where GBV was prevalent. Further, the majority of GBV survivors are poor or unaware of the law, while others due to lack of counselling services meant to aid them leave abusive relationships or help them make legal and fair decisions when faced with the vice have been harmed or have harmed their perpetrators because the services are not easily available.
Moreover the rural community is mainly governed by customary laws which tolerate GBV and to an extent are weak in terms of bringing the culprits to book.
Another factor that contributes to high GBV prevalence is the continued shielding of GBV perpetrators by family members, community and institutions like schools to save face of the perpetrator, family or institution while the survivor suffers.
At times, assailants in an attempt to silence the survivor do corrupt them or their families and threaten to harm them through use of witchcraft.
The above factors therefore point to the apparent need for action at every level of the Zambian society to curb GBV.
To this end WfC is calling on families and communities to be vigilant and report GBV incidents to law enforcing agents and ensure to protect the survivor and not the culprits or family name.
As regards the traditional leadership, we urge them to develop stiffer rules and punishment for GBV culprits and increase counselling services as was before when we used to hear of nsaka or some form of micro court where culprits where reprimanded and punished for misdeeds in the community or family level for less serious GBV cases.
To address the ignorance on legal protection for GBV survivors, we call on all actors to increase sensitisations in all parts of Zambia to improve knowledge levels of the laws. And to ensure that the knowledge is used, the relevant services must be brought closer to the people while government must consider upscaling counselling services to all health institutions as part of medical services.
For instance, WfC has established about 13 Anti-GBV onestop village-led Shops in rural parts of the country where trained community facilitators provide both legal advice and counselling services to fellow members of the community. In addition, these also carry out sensitisations in their communities as a preventative and corrective measure. They also collaborate with Victim Support Unit of the Zambia Police to ensure justice for survivors.
Further, those enforcing the law and constituting the justice systems in Zambia need to ensure that such cases are fully addressed and that the law is applied fully.
We are confident that if all stakeholders play their role fully, GBV will be a thing of the past or will be brought under control like other national problems.
Lastly we wish to reiterate that that GBV is a harmful act and must be condemned regardless of the gender involved and therefore culprits must be brought to book.
Lumba Siyanga, Executive Director, Women for Change