GBV perpetrators deserve stiffer punishment
Published On February 25, 2014 » 2863 Views» By Hildah Lumba » Opinion
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WE join the Non Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) in welcoming the imprisonment of a Lusaka business person who assaulted his wife.
This is because, as NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale says, violent attacks, most of which have seen women on the receiving end, do not seem to be reducing but are increasing.
It is true that men have also been battered by their spouses or partners but, looking at it from a broader perspective, cases in which women have fallen victim are far more than those where men have been physically assaulted.
And gender violence is not just a Zambian problem but has been recognised as a world-wide cancer needing urgent attention.
For instance, during the last 16 Days of Activism (November 25-December 10) Against Gender-based violence, the world renowned human rights body, Amnesty International, focused its attention on ending violence against women and girls not just in one country or region but in many nations.
Amnesty International looked at those countries where women faced threats, specifically because of their gender. It said in these countries, women are intimidated and detained just for speaking out or seeking recognition for their rights.
Women in these countries have often been singled out and subjected to gender-specific abuses, especially sexual violence and discrimination, at the hands of both the security forces and private individuals.
Countries cited included Egypt where a court last year sentenced 21 female supporters of ousted President Morsi, including seven juveniles, to 11 years in jail over a protest.
In Sudan, Amnesty International says a woman can be stopped by the police, arraigned before a judge and sentenced to a public flogging of 40 lashes for nothing more than wearing trousers or leaving her hair uncovered.
According to Amnesty International, thousands of people, mainly women and girls, are reportedly arrested every year in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, under Article 152 of the 1991 Criminal Code of Sudan, for wearing what is arbitrarily deemed “indecent” clothing.
Despite being illegal in India since 1961, a bride is usually expected to provide a dowry to the husband, and the husband may abandon, beat, or kill the woman if the dowry is adjudged to be inadequate, according to Amnesty International.
These actions against women may sound extreme, but they happen, especially in Muslim countries, and under the Islamic Law where they can further be legally killed for sex outside of marriage.
In the USA, the Bureau of Justice Statistics at some point reported that about one in 10 violent acts of a gender nature were within a family, and about one in five murders were within families.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the principal causes of domestic abuse in that country are cultural, not religious as in Muslim countries.
But be it cultural or religious or otherwise, gender violence has been a menace which has been recognised world-over to be on the increase.
It exists even here at home, and the Ministry of Gender and Child Development last year hosted a National Symposium on Gender-based Violence from December 9-11 whose theme was ‘Taking action now for a violence-free nation’.
The symposium was officially opened by Vice-President Guy Scott, and was one of the largest local gatherings that brought together 300 participants from all the 10 provinces of Zambia.
These included people with working experience on gender-based violence (GBV) as well survivors of GBV from Government ministries and departments, women’s groups, community, faith-based and civil society organisations together with partners who support the work on gender-based violence.
This effort by the Gender Ministry was aimed at raising awareness about gender-based violence, as a human rights issue at the local and national levels. Bodies like Amnesty International target regional and international levels in their awareness-raising methods.
Of course rights bodies could call for stiff punishment against gender-based offences, but other deterrent measures should be explored as well, including, as NGOCC suggests, dialogue within families as opposed to violence as a way to settle disputes.  OPINION

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