When I saw the images of this woman’s plight, I felt my heart plummet into my bowels. I felt the anger seeping into my blood. I asked myself if it was possible that a man could be so heartless as to inflict such pain onto another human being, especially since in my last post, I so fervently celebrated the joys of having men in the world.
Over the weekend, I received an email from the Zimbabwe Gender Forum about a young woman who was recently attacked by her husband. In the physical battle that ensued, he plucked out her hair and caused so much damage to her abdomen that she needed an operation to reorder her intestines which had premusbaly unravelled and torn due to the impact. The same woman was hospitalised at one of Harare’s hospitals while her husband was remanded in custody. And the story only gets worse. The hospital where she received treatment detained her for failure to pay her medical bills. Only through the efforts of Musasa Project (an organisation working to end gender-based violence) did she finally receive assistance.
What kind of a health system is that anyway? What has the world come to when those who have already suffered oppression at the hands of an individual must also suffer oppression at the hands of a system?!!
What would have happened to this woman – also the mother of two children below the age of 5 – if no one had been there to help her? Does anyone care?! I am very worried by this situation on many levels because it just reflects the ugliness of our society. Zimbabwe has had a Domestic Violence Act in place for over 3 years now but implementation thereof is still a massive challenge due to lack of financial and political commitment. Men still get off scott-free if they know the right buttons to press within the system. A bribe here and there and a whole docket of information can disappear from the police records.
What social protection do we as women therefore have? In June, I was at Harare’s ONLY adult rape clinic and learnt with shock, anguish and fear that the centre is facing severe funding shortfalls and due to to this cannot expand its services to become a 24-hour service to provide full attention to rape survivors. For now, the clinic only operates on week days from 8am-4pm. This means that if you are raped on a Friday evening, you can only get assistance from the clinic the following Monday morning. And because the nature of a rape investigation entails the survivor keeping evidence of the incident on their body, one must not wash off the traces of semen and sperm from their body until they can be examined.
A woman at the clinic had to endure that plight – just take a moment to imagine how horrendous that would feel. The shame, the reminder of it all, the smell, the feeling of filth covered all over you.By the time she could be attended to on the Monday morning, the staff at the clinic described her as “stinking”. What protection do we as women have from our men, from a patriarchal society that keeps telling us it’s all our fault for not being good enough women, that we deserve a bashing every now and then to keep us one th straight and narrow?
Men, you are both the problem and the solution. Value us as human beings. Respect our bodies as the vessles that house our souls, our creativity, our womanhood.
Do not invade us.
Do not kill us.
We are your sisters. And you are our brothers.
I began this post with a story that shouldn’t be told in 2010. The pictures of this tragedy shouldn’t exist. I shouldn’t even be writing this all.
But I am. Are you going to do anything about it? Or are you just going to close your eyes and walk away from it all?
Do something! Say something!
Help spread the word that this is not acceptable.