By Julia Ndlela
In IsiNdebele, there is a saying that goes ‘emendweni kuyabekezelwa’ which means in marriage, one should not give up no matter what happens. Charity Moyo (57) from Makokoba says she was in a violent relationship and was getting advice from elders that she should remain loyal to her husband. After 11 years, she realised that her marriage was getting worse and she could end up dead, so she left her abusive husband.
Charity now feels that cultural norms that encourage women to remain in violent relationships should change and that women should be encouraged to take immediate action whenever they find themselves in violent relationships.
“I was married for 11 years. My husband started to show traits of violence soon after our marriage. A few months down the line, things turned nasty and he started to beat me up even when we were discussing important family issues. At first I thought I was wrong to ask some questions or respond to questions in a certain manner.
Charity says when she realised that the violence was persisting, she thought of engaging members of the extended family. She says the advice that she got from her Uncle was disheartening.
“I always had a cordial relationship with my Uncle. I trusted that he would always have my back whenever I would fall into problems. When I visited him to report about my violent husband, he said that my husband had paid lobola and had a right to control him in any way that he wanted. ‘umfazi ukhuzwa ngenduku’ is what he said was our custom which literally meant that the only way to make a woman submissive is by beating her,” says Charity.
Charity said she was traumatised by this advice and tried to explain to her Uncle about how the beating was so violent that she was experiencing physical challenges as a result of the beating. However she says her Uncle justified all the instance of the violent encounters. She adds that her Uncle reassured her that her husband would not cause her any physical harm because he loved her and only wanted her to be loyal.
Charity blames herself for not taking immediate action. She feels that if she had left early, she could have avoided prolonged torture. She is however grateful that she left without any major physical injuries. However she reveals that the emotional pain will haunt her to her grave.
Julliet Msipha (65) from Kingsdale suburb in Bulawayo says her daughter was almost killed by her abusive husband. Juliet says she is a Christian and her beliefs discourage divorce. She says when her daughter was about to go to her husband, she taught her to respect her husband.
“A few months into the marriage, I started to hear people talking about how my daughter was being beaten by her husband. At first I did not take it seriously thinking that my daughter would tell me if she was having any challenges,” says Juliet.
One day Juliet says one of her daughter’s neighbours told her that the previous night her daughter was heavily assaulted by her husband.
“I felt my heart sink when I heard about this. I rushed home to inform my husband and request him to go and take our daughter to the hospital. To my disappointment, He said that he could not interfere in a case between a man and his wife.
Juliet says she initially agreed with what her husband was saying. However when she learnt that her daughter was sick. She decided to bring her daughter back.
“I now realise that some of these church doctrines and traditional practices are not good for women. Protecting marriage and staying for the sake of children are pathetic excuses. Some men are beasts and would not stop the violence until someone is dead. Women should freely and quickly abandon violent marriages,” says Juliet.