By EDWARD MWANGO
WHENEVER a woman is punched by her husband for countless reasons as a result of internal quarrels, it has become typical for some women campaigners, attired in t-shirts and leggings, to jump to the occasion and hastily brandish “Stop violence against women “placards in their mission to stop Gender Based Violence (GBV).
But if a man is punched by his wife, this is regularly the opposite, with the scenario being that of silence among some campaigners while the majority citizens would deny ever witnessing the women campaigners carrying placards which condemn violence against men.
The trouble with men, who moreover have become victims of GBV, is that they tend to become tight-lipped whenever they are battered or abused, opting to have their cases remain unreported for fear of becoming laughing stocks in the communities in which they live.
Although statistics indicate that women were the most vulnerable in terms of Gender-Based Violence in Zambia, scarce indicators are available in the country concerning the occurrence of female-on-male domestic violence from a male’s perspective.
Accordingly, domestic violence against men deals with domestic violence experienced by men or boys in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation, dating, or within a family.
As with domestic violence against women, violence against men may constitute a crime, but laws vary between jurisdictions.
According to national statistics during the third quarter of 2017, police recorded 5, 096 cases of GBV reported countrywide compared to 4,235 GBV cases recorded during the same period in 2016.
The total number of GBV cases reported countrywide from the first quarter to the third quarter of 2017 was 16, 090 cases compared to 13, 092 GBV cases in 2016 during the same period giving an increase of 2, 998 cases or 18.6 perent increase.
Recently, the country experienced a new wave of crime in which women were reportedly behind killings of their spouses or loved ones.
This was evident when reports indicated that in 2016 ten men had been killed by their wives.
Other cases included that of Meya Namfukwe, 21, who was arrested in Lusaka for allegedly killing her husband with a knife after a quarrel while another woman was reportedly arrested by police after she brutally stabbed her husband to death with a knife in public after a domestic quarrel.
On the other hand, in 2015, 14 men in Choma, were reportedly battered by their wives, raising worry among local AIDS coordinating advisor, Veronica Mweetwa who noted that some men, who were victims of GBV, were in many cases not eager to report such cases to the police and other law enforcement agencies for fear of being ridiculed.
In a comparable development, The Guardian Today recently reported that about two in five of all victims of domestic violence were men, contradicting the widespread impression that it was almost always women who are left battered and bruised.
A study by the men’s rights campaign group Parity states that men assaulted by their partners were often ignored by police as they saw their attacker go free and had far fewer shelters to flee to than women.
The analysis of statistics on domestic violence shows the number of men attacked by wives or girlfriends is much higher than thought.
The study dubbed, “Domestic Violence: The Male Perspective,” states that domestic violence is often seen as a female victim/male perpetrator problem, but the evidence demonstrates that this is a false picture.
Campaigners claim that men are often treated as “second-class victims” and that many police forces and councils do not take them seriously.
“Male victims are almost invisible to the authorities such as the police, who rarely can be prevailed upon to take the man’s side,” said John Mays of Parity.
“Their plight is largely overlooked by the media, in official reports and in government policy, for example in the provision of refuge places – 7, 500 for females in England and Wales but only 60 for men.“ he added.
And a World Health Organisation (WHO) report on sexual violence against men and boys states that this problem is significant with the exception of childhood sexual abuse, though, it is one that has largely been neglected in research.
The WHO report adds that rape, and other forms of sexual coercion directed against men and boys take place in a variety of settings, including in the home, the workplace, schools, on the streets, in the military and during war, as well as in prisons and police custody.
In prisons, forced sex can occur among inmates to establish hierarchies of respect and discipline.
According to the report, sexual violence by prison officials, police and soldiers is also widely reported in many countries.
Such violence may take the form of prisoners being forced to have sex with others as a form of “entertainment,” or to provide sex for the officers or officials in command.
Elsewhere, men who have sex with other men may be “punished,” by rape, for their behaviour which is perceived to transgress social norms.
The WHO report also notes that the extent of the problem studies conducted mostly in developed countries indicate that 5-10 percent of men report a history of childhood sexual abuse.
In a few population-based studies conducted with adolescents in developing countries, the percentage of males reporting ever having been the victim of a sexual assault ranges from 3.6 percent in Namibia and 13.4 percent in Tanzania to 20 percent in Peru.
Studies from both industrialised and developing countries also reveal that forced first intercourse is not rare.
On the Zambian scene, men have since been challenged to be more vocal on issues of GBV and other related vices.
The challenge to men was more pronounced by First Lady, Esther Lungu, recently when she noted that incidences where men were beating up their spouses to an extent of killing were disheartening.
“People used to beat up their spouses in the olden days but not to an extent of killing,” Ms. Lungu noted during the commemoration of the International Day of the Girl-Child in Kapiri Mposhi.
While globally, the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women who tend to experience more severe forms of violence, in some countries it is often seen as justified, particularly in cases of actual or suspected infidelity on the part of the woman, and is legally permitted.
Some of the factors causing GBV in Zambia identified in a USAID-funded study (USAID, 2010): are extreme poverty, including high levels of unemployment, which promotes property grabbing and economic abuse in relationships.
Another factor is the common belief that having sex with a child who is a virgin would cure HIV/AIDS and women’s extreme economic dependence on men.
In her Ministerial statement presented to Parliament on Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, dubbed Gender-based violence in Zambia, Minister of Gender, Victoria Kalima, noted that prevalent cultural stereotypes and attitudes that perpetuate the cycle of GBV was rife among communities.
“This especially in the rural areas has become rife as people continue to embrace negative cultural beliefs where GBV is seen as a custom such that if a man does not beat his wife, it means he does not love her.” Ms Kalima told Parliament.
“The dependency syndrome, where most of the female victims or survivors depend on the culprits of violence against them for survival put them in much more vulnerable situations as compared to their male counterparts.
“I do not want to rule out the fact that most of the members of the community in particular the women are now aware of the various forms of GBV and are able to take steps to report such cases unlike before.
“In the past, most cases of GBV were considered as family or private issues and went unreported.” Ms Kalima explained.
She said her ministry was committed to creating an enabling environment in which civil society organisations, faith-based organisations, private sector and individuals could work hence, contributing to the reduction of GBV cases and incidences of child marriage.
Ms Kalima also drew the attention of the house to the Anti-Gender-Based Violence Act No. 1 of 2011, urging members to familiarise themselves with contents of the piece of legislation and sensitise their constituents on the provisions of the Act and lead by example, as parliamentarians.
As Zambia takes strides in stepping up the fight against GBV, it is important to level the playing field on this significant issue so that it is tackled jointly regardless of sex and without bias.