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The plight of rural women in fighting GBV

MEMORY Dube (not her real name) of Madondo village in Chivhu suffered a miscarriage after her customary husband had beaten her. BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA When she almost lost her second pregnancy to the same predicament, she returned to her mother’s place as she could no longer shoulder it. But her mother encouraged her to soldier on. “If you stay here, we will be the laughing stock of this village and you cannot raise a fatherless child,” her mother reasoned with her. “Your husband will change with time. You have to go back to him.” She did, but nothing changed. Beatings and insults from her ever-drunk husband continued. Someone then advised her to report him to the police. As helpless as she was, she complied. But when her in-laws heard that their son was to be taken to court for domestic violence, they ordered her to withdraw the charges or they would disown her as a daughter-in law. Caught in between the prospects of losing her home and going back to her parents who would not accept her, she chose to withdraw the case. But her husband beat her even more. That is when she decided to stand on her own and fight back, marking the beginning of continued violent fights between the couple. Not only Dube, but many other rural women, who had been restricted by the patriarchal societal values to speak and act independently on gender-based violence (GBV), have resolved to disregard their feminine physiques and stand on their own to fight abusive husbands. A legal assistant with the Women and Law in Southern Africa Miriro Mazango, who is based in Chikomba said in most domestic disputes where women are determined to fight back, the consequences are fatal because the victims would have endured for long in the abusive relationships. She said women who are barred from resolving marital disputes by their own desirable ways nurture bitterness and as a result when they are overwhelmed by emotions of hurt, they burst and they decide to retaliate. Such disputes, she said, often result to fatalities or serious injuries. “Women are mostly victims in cases of domestic violence. They endure abusive relationships more than men can do. However, when they fight back, they are pushed by overwhelming emotions which have not been discharged for a long time, which result to fatalities. In most incidences in the rural set up, women depend on other people to make well-informed decisions on issues affecting them,” Mazango said. She added that low literacy levels on legal issues were also a major barrier for rural women to attain justice on domestic violence issues. In separate domestic violence incidences which occurred in Chivhu in November alone, two women reportedly killed their husbands. In both incidences, the women killed their partners using the weapons which the victims had intended to use on them. In another suspected domestic violence case again in Chivhu, a woman beheaded her four daughters. She claims that she was fed up of being insulted by her husband for failing to bear male children. This year, Zimbabwe joins other countries across the gl

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