“Every Woman Has Suffered Violence...” What? Yes-this was according to a recent video footage featuring women and men from a small island nation called Papua New Guinea. They were narrating how their country has been gripped with traditional practices that violate women’s rights. According to one of the men interviewed, he was taught to treat women as lesser beings, “I used to see and treat women as nothing, with no rights.” Hence beating up one’s wife or any woman is considered normal. It was so disheartening to see swollen faces, eyes and disfigured women, all in the name of culture. The country was actually ranked one of the most violent in the world.
Ray of hope A ray of hope however, is filtering through this community as narrated by one of the battered women who through the assistance from some humanitarian organisations has gone to court to seek a protection and peace order from her violent husband. Several non-governmental organisations have set up shelter for such women who master enough courage to run away from their abusive spouses.
My testimony… Closer to home, this writer can relate to this issue as she also has fallen victim at one time. Her culture tends to tolerate men beating up and even maiming their wives in the name of discipline. As she was growing up, she was voiceless in a house full of boys who took it upon themselves to monitor her every move and were quick to discipline her, just because they were boys. Fortunately for her, her mother who had experienced violence herself was quick to protect her daughter. Then after she got married, her husband who had grown up with a father who believed in disciplining his wife ruthlessly thought he could do the same to her. Thank God, this writer got to read widely and educate herself about domestic violence that she did not hesitate to take action to remedy the situation. It took her leaving her husband and her home into a safe environment, for her husband to realise that his actions were deplorable. After two years of unofficial separation, the husband showed remorse for his actions and they eventually reconciled.
Woman empowered Since then, this writer has been empowered to deal with domestic violence and nip it in the bud before it develops roots in her life ever again. She has also made sure that her daughters are protected from violence emanating from male members of the family especially brothers and male relatives in the name of culture. Women in this writer’s country were also redeemed by the enactment of a law that recognised women as being equal to men called, “The legal age of majority act”. The act moved women from being perpetual minors to being recognised as majors at the age of 18. Also another recent law passed which protects women is the Domestic Violence Act which allows women to seek legal protection and prosecution of perpetrators.
Any woman can suffer violence anywhere The case of Papua New Guinea and the writer’s testimony above, show that violence can happen to any woman anywhere. Some of it comes disguised as culture. Consider the mutilation of female genitals in some cultures and the relegation of women to farm labourers all in the name of culture. In some places, women have died at the hands of their husbands. For instance, one woman was bashed to death for serving the wrong dish and another one for demanding money for her upkeep. Yet another one had her genitals torched for some flimsy excuse and had to seek shelter with a local NGO.
All these instances make one wonder what happened to that original love that brought two people together. Or was that love? Papua New Guinea could be the most violent place but it is not the only place where most women suffer violence in their families all in the name of culture.
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Mosline Farawu is a writer of spiritual and intellectual articles that interrogate and shed light on women's issues . She lives in Zimbabwe, Africa and is a mother, life coach and entrepreneur.