So, ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. — Ephesians 5:28-29
December 10 marks the celebration of the World Human Rights Day; it also marks the culmination of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. As is the practice, Malawi joins the global community in commemorating both the Human Rights Day and the 16 Days of Activism.
This year, one of the activities organized in conjunction with the Ministry of Gender and the Human Rights Commission and the donor community, was a conference where the guest of honor, Gender Minister Patricia Kaliati, and other women entered the conference room with bruised, bleeding faces. It would be an understatement to say the audience was shocked. But social media, some people were not amused. Albeit: gender-based violence is real. It is not pretty. It does not appear to be anywhere near ending or reducing.
On social media the reaction to seeing the bloodied and bruised face of Minister Kaliati was varied; while some decried the stunt as a mockery to victims of gender-based violence, others claimed the organizers should have used other means to advance their cause.
In disagreeing with the above critiques, it must be stated again and again that physical, verbal, and even social abuse exists in every corner of the planet. I was once criticized for agreeing to play the part of a black slave in my high school presentation of The Crucible that other black students had turned down. At this time, Sydney Poitier had been the only black actor to receive the Academy Award, so I used him as an example. I countered my fellow black students that it was just a play on the one hand and more importantly that if I refuse parts in the plays or movies, I could be missing my chance to get such coveted awards like the Academy Award. And just like the depicting of various forms of characteristics have changed people, shocking the communities on the ugliness of violence, should deter people (men and women) from lashing out at their loved ones.
Seeing the reactions on social media took me back to one of Vic Kasinja’s 2003 UNICEF-sponsored cartoons that depicted children seeing their father beating their mother. The gist of the “Would you like it if someone beat your mother? Stop beating ours!” While organisers may be reluctant to involve children that live in violent homes, Kasinja’s cartoon, made elders in the community I was working with in Thyolo, to stop by the cartoon, snicker, shake their heads and move on; many of them their body languages depicting that the message had sunk.
This brings us full circle to what my Pastor once told me: men must be part of the conversation in ending gender-based violence or violence against women. I carried this concept with me to the UN, and I was mildly surprised that steps were being taken to establish The Barber Shop clubs and also the He4She. A lot of inroads have been made in ensuring that men participate, but it is a never-ending battle.
Locally, the scorecard is disturbing.
*An irate husband, chopped off his wife’s hands; she later died).
*Several wives have had their genitals removed by irate respective husbands.
*An angry husband threw petrol and set his wife on fire; sadly, he too got burned. Both died.
*There was the spate of women’s breasts being chipped off by villains in Chiradzulu.
*Scores of women globally, talk of physical, verbal, and economic violence.
*Violence against men, although less reported, nonetheless, also occurs, leaving invisible scars on many men.
The last bullet point is all the more reason that more men ought to be part of the dialogue on gender-based violence.
Gender-based violence must stop. It must stop now!
Men must join the womenfolk in raising voices against the scourge of gender violence. They must join now!