IS Tanzania a good society? In many ways, yes it is!–As a nation we have so much going for us.
But the reality is that we also have something quite unhealthy going on; largely hidden from view and under the surface of societyviolence against women! Violence against women in our society is a shameful and pervasive human rights violation. We know that the true dignity of every woman is an inviolable “gift from God”.
Violence perpetrated against them is an affront to this dignity and is just plain wrong. It needs addressing seriously at every level of society. What is violence against women?
Formally; A United Nations 1993 resolution defines it as any act of genderbased violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, financial or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.
Unfortunately, we cannot ignore the fact that this scourge is prevalent in our society; it is real and it can’t be ignored. From the most affluent families in the cities and towns to the most remote corners of Tanzania; sadly we cannot hide from the fact that violence against women is occurring every day in our homes and communities.
In many cases it is individual men engaging in spontaneous acts of violence against women. Unfortunately, there are also pervasive cultural and social patterns that reinforce, or appear to justify, such individual acts of violence.
As a society, we need to acknowledge that violence against women is unspeakably hurtful to them. It is damaging to families, communities, and ultimately to all of us and to our beloved country. It is just plain wrong! Available statistics on the issue are harrowing and clearly reveal it to be a men’s problem.
The figures show that about 61percent of women report that at some point they have experienced physical violence perpetrated by their male partners. This means 6 out 10 women have experienced physical violence from their husbands or partners.
Sadly, the recent study conducted around Lake Victoria showed that this behaviour has far reaching consequences for women’s physical and emotional health and their social well-being. It documented that women who experienced domestic violence showed more physical symptoms of poor health and more injuries and days out of work than women who are not abused in this way.
More startling still is that documentation in the UN Report on Human Rights Practices quotes the Tanzanian Ministry of Health as stating that the two most prevalent forms of gender-based violence (GBV) in this country are wife battering and marital rape; 30 per cent and 12 per cent of all cases of GBV respectively.
Concerning as these statistics are, the reality is they there is little doubt that they actually represent only the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that three out of five women in Tanzanian society will experience physical violence over the course of their lives.
Domestic violence against them is a leading cause of female injuries around the world, including here in Tanzania. Violence against women is strongly linked to female violent deaths, either directly through homicide or, indirectly, through suicide.
It is also linked to female morbidity through maternal causes and AIDS, as well as from multiple adverse mental, physical, sexual, and reproductive health outcomes. It is a known risk factor for poor health for females related to alcohol and drug use, and to smoking and unsafe sex.
In other words, violence against women brings with it a raft of significant costs that ripple throughout Tanzanian society. Research from around the world shows that violence against women has enormous economic costs, including the costs of the health, legal, police, and other services often directly involved, as well as loss of productivity through women’s inability to work.
Similarly, there is also a growing body of evidence about the range social costs, including adverse health and personal development consequences of this violence. Apart from loss of opportunity to participate in the labor force and loss of wages, women may suffer from lack of participation in regular activities and from limited ability to care for themselves and their children.
Often, children who live in homes where there is domestic violence grow up in an environment that is unpredictable, filled with tension and anxiety and dominated by fear. This can lead to significant emotional and psychological trauma, similar to that experienced by children who are victims of child abuse.
In turn, children witnessing violence inflicted on their mothers often evidence behavioural and psychosomatic or emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, low academic achievement, dropping out from school, running away from home, violent outbursts, alcohol and substance abuse, and suicide.
Domestic violence against women is a key driver for child homelessness and for the creation of ‘orphans’ roaming the streets and begging for money. The suffering is endless. As a consequence, in low-resource countries such as Tanzania, the overall social and economic costs are substantial.
Violence against women costs the Tanzanian economy millions of dollars every year. That’s not so far, that’s every year! As a nation, we should remember that addressing violence against women is central to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.
The question is, why is this matter persisting, and what can be done about it? The uncomfortable truth is that this violence is overwhelming perpetrated by men and that women and children are overwhelming the victims.
So, where do men stand when it comes to violence against women? Does it mean that all men are evil? Is it something inherent in men? Is there no hope for change?