A study of gender violence and its effects on married women : a case study of women at three centres in Lusaka district - YWCA, WLSA and National Legal Aid Clinic for Women
Mtonga, Wazilinda Elizabeth
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Violence against women is widespread and global but is hidden as most of it goes on unreported. Violence is tolerated and accepted by most societies and cultures world wide and Zambia is no exception. In Zambia, violence has been exacerbated by some aspects of the customs and traditions, socio economic difficulties and to some degree, by law.This study was undertaken to analyse, describe, and establish the effects and patterns of gender based violence experienced by married women, and given these patterns and effects, explains its existence and suggest ways of mitigating it. This study was undertaken in May and June, 2006. Data was collected qualitatively using interview guides. A sample of women was drawn from three centres; YWCA, WLSA and National Legal Aid Clinic for Women. A sample of 40, consisting of 32 women and 8 key informants was used for this study. The study identified common forms of violence as wife battery, abandonment, infidelity and tolerance of gender violence by the law. Other specific forms that emerged during the interviews were forced sex, forced child bearing, mental torture and rape. The reasons for this violence were due to a number of factors. Husbands were obsessed with jealousy and suspected that their wives were committing adultery. There was also lack of communication between couples. Some aspects of cultural and traditional practices like paying bride price also led to abuse. There also was poor enforcement of the law as the law enforcers are biased and reluctant to prosecute perpetrators. Other reasons were the husbands' need to control their wives and difficult economic and social conditions. The impact of this violence caused emotional, psychological and mental damage to all involved, scarring and shattering the lives of the victims. These women experienced low self esteem, depression, abuse of children and risk of HIV/AIDS. These effects led to suicide attempts, miscarriages, disfigurements, insanity and compromised the women's health as they could not negotiate for safe sex. The interviewed women, women's NGOs, government and international community have recognized mitigation of violence as one of their obligations. The women felt they need to be empowered with skills and funds to reduce their vulnerability. The NGO women's organizations help by offering counseling, advocacy, lobbying, legal advice, litigation, shelter for battered women and gender sensitive training to schools, communities, police and judiciary. The government has created the VSU to apprehend and prosecute offenders without bias. It has also a gender policy which is under GIDD. GIDD formulates and implements projects and programmes aimed at reducing and eventually eradicating gender violence. The international community under the auspices of the UN is funding programmes and projects. UNAIDS and UNIFEM are funding gender violence and HfV/AIDS programmes. The European Union and CARE are funding YWCA in most of its operations including a 'one stop shop' for gender violence victims. Though a lot has been done in raising public consciousness about the significance and severity of violence, its magnitude is not yet known as most of it remains unreported. The government needs to be more committed in the implementation of policies that will help in the mitigation of this violence. Government must take a leading role by coordinating the efforts of these NGO's and the international community. It should increase funding especially to the YWCA that is doing a tremendous job but is being hampered by non availability of funds. Government should also strengthen the VSU and commit to gender violence mitigation by changing laws and enforcing existing laws. It should also commit to change aspects of traditional and cultural beliefs that cause gender violence. This will make progress possible even for a problem as entrenched as gender violence.