GENDER-based violence (GBV) has been recognised as an international public health and human rights issue as it has left so many negative effects on victims.
The social vice has not only been seen to be a driver of extreme poverty in some sectors of society but also a leading cause of domestic violence that has led to divorce for some partners.
According to research, an estimated 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence.
Usually, the perpetrator is often the partneror someone known by a family member.
While people of both genders can perpetrate and experience intimate partner or sexual violence, men are, most often, the perpetrators and women and children the victims.
While accurate statistics of couples divorcing out of abuse and GBV may be difficult to obtain,the fact is that most GBV incidents are under-reported or just not reported.
According to statistics from local courts,Zambia, in 2021, recorded over 22,000 divorcesacross the country with an average age of couples seeking divorce being between 20 and 45 years.
The trend of high divorce rates in the country has continued as more partners file for divorce, a situation that has also worried President Hakainde Hichilema.
The psychological explanations for GBV observe that most perpetrators who have witnessed marital violence as children, having an absentee or rejecting father, or being abused as a child, often fail to appreciate the role of wider inequalities in the relations.
Therefore,it is these behaviours that some partners enter into marriage with, ending into an abusive affair and later resulting in divorce.
But what are some of the reasons leading to the high divorce rates emanating from GBV?
I received an email from a young woman who said she was a follower of this column.
This is what she wrote:
I left my husband whom I was married to, under customary law because of the psychological torture that almost led me into depression.
My partner stopped talking to me and rarely came back home during his days off from where he was working outside town and this habit went on for over a year.
Despite attempts of both our families sitting us down on several occasions,there was no change but, only episodes of the same repeated actions.
In another development,a female domestic worker working for a family in a certainneighbourhood could not contend with the physical abuse from her partner and decided to divorce him some two years ago.
The woman who suffered violence said her partner was not happy with the salary increment from her employer and did not approve of her continuing her job because he was insecure of her financial independence.
Another female reader said she was no longer with her partner after being in marriage for about five years and, since she could not conceive,the psychological torture she experienced led to her settling for divorce.
GBV can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or structural, and can be perpetrated by intimate partners, acquaintances, strangers and institutions.
These and many other stories of divorce occasioned by GBV have been deeply rooted in discriminatory cultural beliefs and attitudes that alsoperpetuate inequality and powerlessness, particularly in women and girls.
Think about that young woman who was forced into marriage and decides to run away or seek divorce because of some cultural norms that have fostered a culture of abuse and violence.
What about the experience of some external factors such as loss of employment and rapid economic or political changes which have also left some partners with a sense of worthlessness?
Because they fail to manage the stress,abuse develops in their relationships and is characterised by violence.
The tension is seen to build up until violence occurs.
Studies show that men usually resort to GBV to express their feelings of powerlessness and anger as they cannot find the means to support their families, which they feel is their duty.
Similarly,one of the causes of divorce among couples that has resulted from GBV is to do with money and this has led to increased tensions within partners, later leading to divorce.
Some couples have opted for divorce as an alternative when their cheating partner turns violent and fails to account for their habits.
Because of lack of trust that is created in their relationship, some partners have left their matrimonial home because they have failed to cope with their partners’ cheating habits.
GBV is an important factor leading to divorce and can be traumatising for both partners and their children as this has some social and economic effects.
GBV is a social concern to individuals and policy makers as the magnitude of the problem also affects society.
It is important to know that part of the street children we see in Ndola said their parents were no longer together as their mother had to leave home because of the physical abuse she experienced.
The family breakdown in homes has affected society because children have absentee mothers and fathers who should have been there toshape them into responsible adults.
So thechildren rebel or are traumatised and decide to leave home and roam the streets.
In addition, some women with children are further likely to stay in contact with their estranged husbands and so the abuse and violence continues even after separating as they have to seek child support from their abusive partners.
GBV has no place in a healthy relationship, whether the couple is dating or married.
There is need to teach the next generation as we continue to raise more awareness if we are to see stable homes that will raise responsible children and reduce the hefty cost it brings on a nation’s economy.