– International day for the elimination of violence against women!
By Nomazulu Thata | CEDAW and the Mirabel sisters
Today we remember the three murdered Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic. They were murdered on the 25th of November 1960, because they were fighting for justice. In the Dominican Republic they are seen as a symbol of resistance against the dictatorship. The United Nations (UNO) has therefore dedicated the November 25th to the three sisters. International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) – a day on which all women and men remember and gather strength to combat discrimination and violence of all forms against women and girls globally.
For all the many years of speeches and thousands of square kilometres of written articles about gender violence, it is still prevalent in global societies. The spotlight must shine on the dark side on how gender violence has ravaged the fabric of our societies globally, especially in the Sub-Sahra continent. The culture of silence in African societies puts the women at a great disadvantage: Under such conditions of concealing gender-based violence, it extends the suffering of women and girl-children in homes.
According to research, gender-based violence serves to perpetuate men-power and control and is sustained by absolute silence.
A “good woman” does not tell she is abused in the matrimonial home.
When women are killed by their intimate friends or partners, it’s only then, one wishes, one could have told it that the woman next door faces gender violence daily from her spouse: too late. Femicide occurs often, is if it’s new normalised event. Previously, any violent interaction from man and woman was said: no interference: it is a domestic affair, and nobody should interfere as a result, women have died in most excruciating circumstances.
World statistics about gender-based violence.
All over the world statistics report that 66,000 women are killed by their husbands or intimate partners sometimes in most brutal circumstances. The Sub-Sahara Africa has the highest rates of femicide cases the whole world! In South Africa every six hours a woman is killed by a husband or a partner or an intimate male friend. Researched reports also say that in Zimbabwe cases of femicide emanate from women who are accused of witchcraft by any member of the family. Some elderly women who may suffer from diseases like dementia go out in the night not realizing that they are undressed. When members of the family see her wondering in her birth suit, the next possible reason why she is walking stark naked is because she is a witch: She gets hacked to death by axes or machetes when such cases are heard by traditional headmen and chiefs. They support this type of killing because witchcraft is still a strong belief in African societies also a lesson to other women how witches are executed.
Even in death, violence against women in Zimbabwe, and elsewhere is ramped.
I have in mind not so long ago, a body of a woman sex worker who was murdered, her body was found alongside the road, was photographed naked, her picture was ditched on social media for all to see. She was a sex worker after all! Her scattered body showed signs of absolute raw violence. “She is a prostitute,” where the comments of her death: she must die at the pleasure of the client she served with her bare body. The man who sexually abused, and subsequently killed her confessed that it was about a dispute over missing money that cost her life. But because the life of a woman in Zimbabwe is cheap, she faced gruesome killing. This story is not a one-off case, but millions of deaths of this nature take place in societies, globally.
If marriages were classified as wars, then the battlefields are the bedrooms!
It is mostly in marriage institutions where horror of death takes place in our society. It is in marriage institutions where women are murdered, denigrated, are insulted, and are called lunatics, because there are no resources in the home to cover the raw poverty smelling at all corners of the home. It is very easy to determine what is right: just get up and run for your life it does not matter what age you are. Do not settle for less because that will cost your life dear sister and daughter and granddaughter.
In those red lights, a woman does not have the dignity worth of a human being. In those decent homes where, young girls are abused in total silence without anybody noticing anything called sexual abuse on under-aged children. It is this absolute destitution of our situation in African societies where women are to bear the brute of violence as the outlet of poverty. It is in dire poverty where young girls must face marriage to elderly men at the age of nine, ten 11, 12 13, and it goes on.
Women and girls experience raw masculine violence daily. They experience physical and sexual violence with fatal consequences: femicide is not a myth. Gender violence is directed against the dignity and self-determination of women, their human rights, physical integrity, and self-assertiveness shaping their lives. Gender violence is a dangerous form of discrimination rooted in sexism, racism, misogyny embedded, fixed, entrenched in patriarchal societies globally. Statistically, women will experience violence from their own families and neighbourhood, the perpetrators are family members at homes.
The 25th of November month is to remember global women killed in most gruesome deaths, mysterious deaths, deaths through masculine violence, and deaths at the hands of dictatorships and chronic wars in Gasa, in Ukraine, in the Congo Democratic Republic, Sudan, and several other war-torn zones in the world. We have deaths caused by neglect, death due to starvation, deaths because frontline services have collapsed: Most countries hospitals are becoming deathbeds because they lack hygienic conditions.
Various forms of gender-based violence Gender violence is a topic that must be loudly spoken about now that we once again recognize the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and girl-children. it is a time to galvanize action globally to end violence against women and girls around the Human Rights Day; a moment of activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign worldwide. Social development and public awareness in line with CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women and girl-children in Africa demands action.
Authors Newman Wadesango, Symphrorosa, Rembe, Uwence Chabaya characterized the most common and harmful gender practices: FGM or Female Genital Mutilation, marriage by abduction, child marriages and virginity tests on girls. How will virginity tests be possible in a society where every 90 minutes, a baby, a toddler, a child a girl, a young woman, a mother a grandmother is sexually mutilated, assaulted, experience sexual violence. It is therefore undeniable that rape is now the culture, an epidemic. Do the virginity testers know these facts on the ground or are they cutting the nose to spite the face?
However, the above authors omitted the commonly practiced violence against women, marital rape by a senior member of the family (perceived father of the clan) in Zimbabwean families. Marital rape is one of the worst forms of violence against women in our societies. It is not easy to recognize it immediately as it is concealed by the two men concerned. How does a young married woman carry herself in the home? This traditional practice undermines the absolute dignity of a newly married bride turning her into a mere object of sex. This traditional practice ignores the dynamic human value that is embedded in every girl and woman: it confines the woman in her words, actions, and movement in the home. What is the uncle and the nephew be saying about her, in their eye-to-eye exchange when the newly married wife moves around in her domestic duties passing them by?
Sex is used as a tool in armed conflicts especially in Africa.
Three Right Livelihood Award Laureates from Africa are speaking out to reverse the current trends of sexual violence on the continent. As the World Health Organization (WHO) reports, “about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.” The situation is particularly worrisome in Africa, where nearly one in two women (45.6%) has reported intimate partner violence and/or non-partner sexual violence. The first step to countering sexual violence is knowledge, as lawyer and Laureate Jacqueline Moudeina demonstrated when reporting the atrocities committed during the rule of former dictator Hissène Habré in Chad. Rape was one of the crimes that the ongoing trial in Senegal revealed: “One of the hardest, most painful things for a woman is to say, ‘I was raped.’ These women shared details they have not spoken of for more than 25 years. That is courage,” said Moudeina.
Somali Laureate Asha Hagi Elmi, co-founder and Chair of Save Somali Women and Children, fought sexual violence in her country by empowering its women: during the national reconciliation process, she gave life to the so-called Sixth Clan, made up only of female members. As she said: “It has always been the case in all armed conflicts that women and children are the first and last victims of war, though war is neither their desire nor their decision. Women have been killed, raped, tortured and displaced.”
We do remember too, the women who were killed in crossfire war zones. There are women who are accused of deaths of commanders because of their presence in the crossfire. There were women who got killed because they were falsely accused to be collaborators of opposite conflict. We remember the shame using sex that those women must endure because in our culture it’s a woman who is at fault and not the man. We remember women who have been killed because the man thought she was a goblin or a witch. We remember many young women who will forever remain silent from the sexual abuse meted on them because nobody can stand on their behalf and speak out against sexual abuse on women and girl-children.
Female Genital cutting is violence against babies, toddlers, children, and young women.
Hagi Elmi has also been the chair of the Somalia-National Committee on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Harmful Traditional Practice, in a country with the world’s highest percentage (98%) of girls and women who have undergone FGM over the past decade. However, it is encouraging that 24 out of 54 countries in Africa have banned FGM by law. At Panzi Hospital, Laureate Denis Mukwege and his colleagues have treated more than 45,000 women who had been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While striving to obtain international recognition for the term rape as a “weapon of war”, Dr Mukwege points his finger at men: “Over the past 100 years, women have fought for and won many rights – there has been huge progress. Now the question must be asked: should men not also make an effort in the 21st century, if only to change their mind-set?”
Although sexual violence and FGM in Africa are far from eradicated, these Laureates prove that it is possible to reverse the trends by working with the media and the international community to shed light on the crimes, and to empower all those women who have chosen to speak up and stand up against these atrocities. (Source: Right Livelihood Award Foundation)
Forms of violence against girl-children in our societies!
To be born an African girl-child is courageous if we look at the challenges the girl-child must endure at her formative years. From the onset, an African child is introduced to pain as a virtue: Hard work and pain are implicitly interwoven. This special day of CEDAW brings sad memories; unpacks scars of childhood times. At their formative years, a girl-child endures genital cutting. Some of them do not survive the ritual; they die. At their formative years, a girl-child is sent for marriage: early marriages are not a myth. The girl-child is a human component that squares up debt of the family, she is sent to the debtors’ home to be the slave labourer and automatically becomes the second wife or third wife to the man at home. The girl-children are the ones who are deprived of education in favour of boy-children. It is no surprise that communities remain backward in development when they deprive the very niche that has the potential to develop the entire community and the nation. Let us celebrate CEDAW!
Child prostitution is prevalent in African settings. In the absence of parents who may have perished because of HIV/AIDS, child-headed homes are prevalent in African societies. Girls tend to engage in prostitution to compliment the subsistence living in their homes. The African governments do not recognize street children as vulnerable niche that demand national attention: The number of street children in African societies is horrendous. Let’s celebrate CEDAW!
Child labour is the order of the day in most countries in Africa. The children are made to work in mines, agriculture, in fisheries, in domestic homes for little pay or nothing except food. Girls from poor homes are sent to live with relatives. They are made to work as payment for school opportunities, clothing, and food that is lacking from her biological parents. This is a double bind; how many girl children get pregnant from guardian fathers: they are thrown out of these homes like criminals. The fault is the vulnerable girl and not the male guardian sex advances to the girl. Let us continue to celebrate CEDAW!
Girl-children are subjected to virgin-testing in families even in the second Millennium. When we look at the cases of rape and sexual violence in our societies: the statistics say every 29 minutes a girl, toddler, young women are sexually abused. How is it possible, to still expect girls to remain virgins if the same societies are sexually violent towards them? The selective morality in African communities is the problem: young men are encouraged to have sexual intercourse at early ages of their lives to practice it; but will expect chastity in girls. We shall continue to celebrate CEDAW.
Girl-children are targeted by HIV/AIDS sick men who think they can cure the virus by sexual intercourse with a virgin. Virginity is still present in babies, toddlers and in young girls. There is a growing misconception about rape of young girls that it can cure HIV/AIDS! This HIV/AIDS cure culture of rape has desensitized HIV/AIDS infected men to even rape babies, toddlers, and young girls to get cured. Such cases are common mostly prevalent in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. Let’s continue to celebrate CEDAW.
Domestic violence exposes children in family conflicts. In a feat of rage, when a fight breaks out in the home, homicide is possible: children are victims, dying in crossfire. Children have been killed by partners to punish the other. The children who suffer most are stepchildren who are taken by their mothers to a second marriage; are openly at risk of sexual harassment, physical punishment. Such children live in constant fear of being punished for being born! Girl-children are abducted and murdered in ritual styles. Some are killed and their body parts are harvested for voodoo purposes. Zimbabwe is a nation that prides in high literacy rates the whole of Africa: however, it is inconceivable how this back of beyond beliefs that human body parts can make one powerful and rich! This is out of the realms of good senses. Let’s continue to celebrate CEDAW!
Nobody can understand the thought processes of a mother who give their toddlers to perverse men for sex: like is the case of a woman in Matabeleland/Zimbabwe who gave five-year-old daughter to paedophile for sex. The mother held the hands of her daughter so that the man can freely pleasure himself inside carnal passage of the toddler. The crying of girls during sex act is what arouses and pleasures paedophiles in sex with them. In this case, the womb of the toddler ruptured, she had to get hospital treatment. The medical examination reported the case as “penis penetration that damaged the womb of the child”.!!! This woman is our “Ghislaine Maxwell”, we did not need to go to faraway places to realize that what happened in USA is also taking place in Africa, in Zimbabwe equally.
Are conventions and treaties effectively implemented?
Treaties monitoring violence against women show that it is just the tip of the iceberg, gender-based violence in our global societies is of unimaginable proportions. Do women have certain standards and agreements to combat violence against women that defines a set of minimum standards for the prevention, combating and prosecution of various forms of violence, the protection of those affected and a comprehensive political approach?
Do African countries have institutions that subscribe to international conventions regarding women and girls adhere or undertake to protect and assist victims of such violence. They must also ensure that those affected have access to hotlines, emergency accommodation, medical care, counselling, and legal assistance. All conventions require a monitoring mechanism to ensure effective implementation of provisions by governments and international conventions.
Dreaming about a new deal!
I was reading Christian Korff’s letter he wrote on the 27.2.2003 “I have a dream” (he got this quotation from Martin Luther King II) He talks about a “New deal” We need a new deal he says. In his dream the American President (G. W. Bush) is a visionary, and he will not start the war in Iraq from the conviction that all lives are equally valuable. G. W. Bush is going to say in his last speech: “God bless the World” because all the people in the world are equal and their lives are equally valuable.
In the same vein, and in the same set of values and principles enshrined in all international women’s conventions, I want to dream of the of continent Africa and the world that will look at its better half: (the female gender) as equal and respectful of women and girl-children. I dream that when I turn my Telly, I hear all men of Zimbabwe make a historical pledge to love and respect women of all races and ages and never to inflict harm on them because women and children are the cornerstone of any society in the world. Women and children are valuable in any country. Without women, the world cannot tick.
I am dreaming still of when Zimbabwean men ask: “But what is justice;” said Immanuel Kant? “The source of ethics is the golden rule.” “Do not let anyone abuse you; nobody will tell you what to do to your body, your values, and principles that you strongly believe in as a woman and as a girl. Do not let some father, brother, uncle, male cousin dream your life and dream about how your life should be.” Do not allow anybody to tell you to get married to get respect from your society. You, yourself know better what you want in your life.”” The golden rule is based on the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant: “Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it becomes a universal law.”
Please allow me to dream again just like Christian Korff. I dream of a philosopher born in the African continent, who investigates justice and how just African societies should look like. The African born philosopher tells the African people that his ideas guarantee social justice. Every citizen has the same rights of free thoughts and personal development, freedom of religion, and equal opportunities, irrespective of ethnic origin and social or economic standing. I dream of Africa that makes laws to its citizens and those laws are so ideal that it makes Africa an ideal continent globally: and be an envy to all.
I quote Christian Korff verbatim: “Look at the stars, see the beautiful galaxies, maybe there is only one human consciousness in the entire universe. We have not only a global, but cosmic responsibility to protect the Earth from destruction. Our New Deal must take the environment into consideration so that it is not destroyed.” My answer to this quotation is: Charity begins at home. Before we can address global issues, let’s investigate our painful gender issues in our bedrooms that have turned into battlefields. Let’s dare to confront gender violence, if not entirely eradicated, but minimised as the first step to eradicating it completely from the face of the earth.
The 25th of November is to remember women who died most gruesome deaths, mysterious deaths, deaths through masculine violence, and deaths at the hands of a dictatorship like we have in Zimbabwe. We have deaths cause by neglect, death due to starvation, deaths because frontline services have collapsed, hospitals are becoming deathbeds because of the numerous diseases one gets in clinics and hospitals.
We should never stop to dream just like Christian Korff. We must dream about a new deal. I dream about a new deal whereby all men and women are equal before the law and not by letter but by deeds at homes, in the village in the clan in the nation. I dream of young girls in safe nets environments living and dreaming of a greater future, greater than our own. We should dream of plenty of food and good education and better health for all of us and not only few individuals.
We should dream of women having longer life expectancy and good living conditions with work in abundance. We dream of homes worth of the home to live in and not shake shakes or slums. We dream of Kimberly brick houses so that women are not forever building huts. Above all, I dream of men respecting babies and not sexually abusing them. I can’t stop dreaming, let me just pen off and continue dreaming until I sleep off without dreaming, my death moment!