IRONY OF GENDER BASED VIOLENCE: STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN

“Gender
based violence affects both Women and Men, for every bullet that shoots a man,
kills a woman’s child ”

This is the time of the year when the entire
world pays attention to Gender based violence. 
We are back at the 16 days of Activism against gender based violence, an
annual international campaign dedicated to ending gender based violence. It
originated from the first Woman’s Global Leadership institute coordinated by
the center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Stakeholders selected the
start and end dates of the campaign to be November 25th
–International Day against violence against women, and December 10th
–International Human rights Day. The international theme for this year is “From peace in the Home to peace in the
world: Let’s Challenge militarism and end violence against women”

Experience
of a man being violated

On Saturday 24th November 2012, as
I came from the local market in my neighborhood, I heard a woman scream loudly while
pointing her fingers at a man and making utterances in one of the local
languages (Luganda) commonly spoken in central Uganda that “Gwe mbwa gwe, kik
kyolinawo?” [Translated as ‘You dog, what
do you have to show
?’]. I tried to pretend as this was totally non of my
business but could not help stop by when a group of people gathered to watch
and listen to her hurling insults at the man, who I later on discovered (Through
whispers from those who knew both) that the man in question was her husband.

They were a married couple and even had
children. The woman went ahead to scream at the top of her voice how fed-up she
was and how she very much wanted a divorce not caring about who watched and or listened.
She accused the man of so many nasty things as the gathered crowd watched and
listened ready to judge. Of course I was one of the self appointed judges
because I was part of the crowd.  But
deep down, I wanted to be as fair as possible in my judgment.  Amidst all this, I was so surprised by the
man’s reaction. He did not utter a single word despite the bitter words that
his wife was hurling at him.  When she
saw and heard no reaction from her husband and heard the reaction from the gathered
crowd that she was the problem, she decided to keep quiet. Once she was silent,
the man then said to her that, ‘All the people gathered here, that you think are
sympathizing with you, are here to listen and laugh at us, we can sort this out
privately.’

A man who looks frustrated and  a drug abuser in Kisenyi Slums of Kampala: Photo by Edward Echwalu. See Link to full blog
When I heard what the man said, I did not
know what to feel or think. I started wondering whether the woman’s reaction
was the effect of “The battered woman
syndrome
” or she was genuinely having a problem with her husband, whatever
the case was, I never got an opportunity of finding out the truth.

This is just one of thousands of abuses that
men suffer but choose to remain silent about because of the societal
expectations of a man.  A man, right from
childhood has been socialized to act strong even when overwhelmed with emotions
to an extent that even when they are violated and abused, because of the
socio-cultural beliefs, they do not speak out and conceal this emotional stress
which in most cases is passed on to their wives and children through physical
violence like beating.
In Africa, particularly Uganda, many women
are the custodian’s of culture and values and because of the gender roles, the
women aho are closer to the children instill certain values in the boy child
which values cannot easily change when he matures. For instance making utterances
like “Boys take care of themselves”, “Boys don’t cry”, “The kitchen is not a
place for boys”
etc.  While many
women might do this sub-cousciously, the impact of such statements is usually
great and negative in future when these boys grow up and turn out to be men.  We need to treat children as CHILDREN regardless
of their sex if we want to see change and live in a violent free society.

Gender
Issues  and the Society

Society assigns girls and boys, men and women
different roles, attributes, opportunities, privileges and rights that in the
end create the social differences between men and women. Gender does not
refer to women,
but to the socio-cultural perception and differentiation of
the roles, attributes and responsibilities of women and men.
Gender issues arise from the different
treatment of individuals or groups of people on the basis of social
expectations about women and men. This can mean gender discrimination in
family, workplace, oppression or subordination. The gender gaps resulting from
these practices become the `gender issues’. Gender issues also arise when
gender roles involve unequal burdens of work and unequal distribution of
resources.  Gender issues can cut across
all sectors and social settings.

Why do women
violate Fellow Women? And how come little is talked about it?

As the whole world is focusing on Gender
based violence (GBV), many people think that this effort to end GBV is meant
for only women. Gender based violence is broad and it looks at Women, men and Children.
While it’s true that woman have in most cases been victims and men
perpetuators, it is also true that very many women have also been perpetuators
not only to men but also to fellow women. However, there is very little focus is
on women who violate fellow women.
Photo by Echwalu Edward: Child bride
Today, many mothers-in-law have become nightmares
to their daughters-in-law. They want to command these daughters-in-law and
teach them how to treat their ‘sons’ in a way they think is right. At any
opportune moment, they easily hurl insults to their daughters-in-law and blame
them fro anything wrong that happens to their son(s). They have become
nightmares to many families of young women. Some have ended up divorcing or
separating while others women have asked their sons “to get married to their
mothers”.  This is rearly mentioned when
looking at GBV.
Because of the changes in gender roles and
the fact that women no longer sit at home to entirely depend on a man as the bread
winner, Modern families have resorted to hiring young girls to help out with
house chores. According to so many news outlets, these young girls are not only
mistreated but also under paid. In most cases, the young girls (Also known as
Housemaids or house Girls) are usually school dropouts or those who have never
been to school yet under aged.  They are
usually the last to go to bed late in the night and the first to a rise to a
day of hectic manual work.
At some places of work led by women, there
exists a sense of jealous and insecurity among the older and younger
Women.  For women in managerial
positions, they want to assert their authority and they never want to be
challenged especially by young women. They treat positive criticism as an
insult and they are willing to do anything to frustrate anyone’s efforts who tries
to challenge them. In extreme cases, one could easily loose a job. The good news is that education and urbanization are delivering
real independence to women to reject violence.

Some mothers have forced their daughters to get married to
wealthy men against their will. They threaten them, saying that if they do not
do as they say, the daughters will never get their blessings in their
marriages. This is emotional violence because as the girl grows up, she is
forced to court or related with only ‘Wealthy’ men regardless of how she feels
about them until she gets one that her mother approves.

Several other examples exist such as women in Polygamous
marriages who fight one another, women who are competing for a man’s attention,
female teachers in school who envy younger female students, Women who own
brothels in parts of the world especially Asia etc.
I must admit that a lot of these are attributed to the
resistance by patriarchy as an idea to change. The cultural structures that
exist in which these women are raised contribute a lot to how they behave and
respond in different situations. My appeal is that as we talk about ending
gender based violence, Let’s not turn our backs to the fact that there are
women who are violated by fellow women and desperately need someone to listen
to their cry. Men can be both perpetuators and victims and so can women.

What other circumstances do you know of where women are violent to fellow women and or to men?