Dependency increases women’s vulnerability to domestic violence
By Bekezela Mguni
Verita Ncube was born out of marriage and her mother passed away when she was young and has since been left with her step siblings who have always made her feel like an outsider. After her mother passed on she had to start working as a maid to make ends meet and she ended up getting married at the age of eighteen because she needed financial assistance and a home since she could not live in peace with her siblings.
Verita Ncube (44), from Esigodini 60 kilometers away from Bulawayo along Gwanda, Beitbridge road says she finally decided to walk away from her marriage of 13 years after being abused several times by her husband. She says she had tried the pastors, talking to the family but nothing seemed to work, instead her husband would justify his behavior by saying Verita is the one provoking him. “On the 27th of October 2022, I prayed to God for strength while he was at work and l left”, says Verita.
‘I was happy until my husband and I tested HIV positive after he got sick. Since then he has become violent and he keeps blaming me for giving him HIV since l had been married several times before him. To add on to the salt, I have since refused having sexual intercourse with him without a condom and that has made our relationship even sour’, says Verita.
Verita says she ran away early this year and his husband sent people for her within a week and she came back hoping the husband regretted his behavior and had changed. To her surprise she says the husband began accusing her for cheating on him saying maybe she is thinking of reconciling with one of his ex-husbands that is why she ran away from him.
She further adds that her life became hell but she was denying him sex without a condom to protect herself as her husband kept getting sick and she did not know whether he was defaulting from the HIV medication. She says she practically became a child in her home, had her husband monitoring her movements and denied her to even go to church which he said was a bad influence to their marriage.
‘When I came back, I was hoping he had changed although deep down l knew it was impossible but I came back because I could not continue staying at my uncle’s house and expect him to support me. To think I even let my lastborn daughter go to work in a bid to save my marriage because sometimes he would use her to start a fight with me’, said Verita.
She says she stayed for so long in an abusive relationship because she had nowhere to go. She says she is currently hoping and praying that she finds a stay in job so that she does not overstay her welcome at her uncle’s house. She says sometimes she regrets walking away now that she has no financial backup but for her sanity she could not stay.
It is say that we still have women who are abused with the laws and organizations that are meant to protect women and we still have young children at the age of nine sexually abused. Zimbabwe enacted the Domestic Violence Act (Chapter 5:16) which aims to protect women and criminalizes domestic violence and such acts as abuse derived from cultural or customary rites or practices that discriminate or degrade women’.
I persevered until l realized that this marriage had become toxic for me. My ex-husband would sometimes accuse me of sleeping with his brothers if they stood with me if he beat me. He would came ugly names and use the fact that l had been married several times to justify his mistrust of me. All this just because l refused to sleep with him without a condom’, says Verita.
Thelma Gango (26), who is an ambassador at Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS), a public-private partnership aimed at reducing rates of HIV among adolescent girls and young women says, ‘as we commemorate 16 days of Activism, we pay tribute to Imbokodo (rock). Imbokodo for me is every woman who has survived gender based violence and the woman who has decided to take a step in fighting GBV. Women are not punching bags. Let’s end the silence. Let’s speak out against GBV’.
Thelma believes that GBV is perpetrated by the societies that we grew up in where she feels man believe women need to be beaten into order that women should not question their husband instead they should submit tom their husbands.
Sandra Matendere, the founding Director of Zimbabwe Women Against Corruption Trust on the other hand blames GBV to economic challenges. ‘When women do not have their own source of income, it increases their dependency on men. This also increases their vulnerability to gender based violence’, said Sandra.
She says that economic empowerment of women is vital to reduce the vulnerability of women to GBV and introducing stiffer penalties for perpetrators of GBV is also important. She further highlighted that GBV also affects children psychologically and emotionally as they lose concentration even at school thinking about the violence happening at home.
Sandra pointed out that the most affected by GBV is the girl child who ends up dropping out of school and the increasing number of young girls being raped is worrisome with some cases not reported.