We read on a regular basis of physical and sexual violence against women and girls in different African societies. This of course is not unique to the African continent. We have heard of similar stories recently in England, India and Brazil. Most of these crimes (and please note, they are crimes) are perpetrated by men. Although some men and boys do suffer similar abuse from women, it’s correct to say that women and girls are far more likely to be the victims of gender abuse.
In June this year, there was a story in the Zambian press about a 3-year old girl who’d been raped by her father. A month earlier, Minister of Defence Geoffrey Bwalya Mulenga was reported to have said that wife battery was a sign of love, mildly acceptable in his culture. In 2010, he beat up his wife Chama after a marital dispute. His shameless behaviour received no public rebuke from his then Party leader and now Republican President Michael Sata.
We must remember that these two cases are amongst the few we actually get to hear about. Countless others go unreported and those victims are forced to suffer in silence, carrying the physical and emotional wounds through life.
The widely tolerated sexual harassment on public transport, in offices and shopping centres across the country – whether name-calling or groping – subtly and explicitly portrays women as primarily objects for male sexual desire. This is a complete distortion of that beautiful picture of love, service and respect toward another human being.
One of the great ironies is that in Zambian society, we are brought up to love our mothers and esteem them highly yet this is the same society that turns a blind eye when future mothers are disrespected and abused on a regular basis. Where has the disconnect occurred? The contradiction is hard to ignore! And to make matters worse, the ‘good’ men have been quiet for far too long; those men who know the true worth of women and young girls as people possessing inherent value and worth; men that recognise their special role to protect and defend and not abuse. For whatever reason, we have acted indifferently to this sad state of affairs. We have left our women to defend themselves and then we label them as antagonistic and argumentative.
Men, does this bother us?