As we mark 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, I have heard arguments that perhaps too much focus is given to women at the expense of male victims. This, indeed, is a valid argument. However, women are the main victims of this hideous act, often committed by chauvinistic, selfish, domineering men against what they perceive as the ‘’weaker sex’’ who can be intimidated and abused!

Domestic violence is common even in the developed world; the difference, however, is that in the developed world, there are working support systems that encourage women to speak out and support them overcome physical and psychological trauma. Also, there are tough laws in place to deal with cases of domestic violence. In Uganda, much as we have laws in place, it becomes difficult to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence because of the culture of secrecy and silence.

Additionally, in the developed world, pressure groups/organisations are active in helping women from violent backgrounds. Women are given emotional skills to cope with separation and move on, something that is inadequate in our setting.

The developed world has embraced the fact that being a single mother or a divorcee is not a crime, especially if the reasons for separation stems from any form of gender-based violence. Women are fiercely encouraged not to stay in violent relationships by way of exposure through media campaigns and advocacy groups. The immense financial, legal and emotional support women receive from their justice systems, religious and civil society groups have played an important role in fighting violence.

In Uganda, the situation is worrying, more so because children are greatly affected. Media reports are telling: women are being killed in homes by their partners; children sometimes get killed, or hurt; many women are permanently injured or disabled. What does this do to our society? We end up having a society of orphaned children who grow up without maternal love and guidance. Worse still, others end up in the hands of guardians who may not treat them well, leading to low self-esteem. Hence the cycle of domestic violence continues.

I would like to elaborate the fact that domestic violence should not only be limited to physical beating, but to any other form of behaviours or actions that make the victim uncomfortable. Verbal abuse, intimidation, lack of time for your children and spouse, not providing for your family (healthcare, education and shelter) are, in my view, all a form of abuse. Most urban men indulge in expensive activities that cause physiological and financial trauma to their spouses and family. For instance, alcohol abuse, gambling and extra-marital affairs contribute greatly to domestic problems.

Despite rampant abuse, one wonders why some women decide to stay in unhappy relationships. Many worry about what society/friends will think of them; how they will support their children financially and that their children need a father! This pretty much summarises the face of domestic violence in the third world. Despite huge challenges, something must be done to curb this vice. The following steps, in view, would help in curbing domestic violence.

It is important to note that certain behaviours cannot be changed when you are an adult. I’m a strong believer in impacting children with behavioural change from the beginning. School is the foundation of learning. Preventing the cancer early is cheaper and safer than waiting for it to grow. I’m a mother of three boys, and they believe so much in their teachers. Teachers are therefore well-placed, as much as parents, to educate children on preventing gender-based violence. Therefore, the Ministry of Education should design a curriculum of incorporating prevention of gender-based violence in the school curriculum.

Civil society and places of worship should support domestic violence cases by providing victims with adequate care and counseling as well as legal representation. Similarly, the media should come up with campaigns on preventing domestic violence.

Police and the justice system should ensure that all perpetrators of abuse face the law, regardless of their status and influence in society. Also, cultural practices in our African settings that propagate negative views about women and girls must be discouraged. Men/boys should be encouraged to respect and treat women as partners, not objects.

Let’s come together to say no to gender-based violence; it is not worth it.

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