Fatal Attraction!

Women in abusive relationships
Leila Sheikh Senior Journalist Social Justice Defender

Domestic Violence is a pattern of coercive behaviour which can include physical, sexual, economic, emotional and/or psychological abuse exerted by one family member over another with the goal of establishing and maintaining power and control. It is a fact that as many as six out of ten women have experienced spousal violence by being beaten, pushed, shoved, slapped, kicked, insulted, threatened or thrown out of homes, by the men they live with. Research has revealed that in a period of one year between January and December, 2001, at least 164 (known) women had been killed by their husbands, boyfriends or close family members. Two thirds of those women were killed by their husbands after being beaten, strangulated, knifed or burnt. Only 25 percent of the killers were hanged. The rest got mild prison sentences. The web of violence is so wide spread that society is not even aware that it is an aberration and has come to accept it as the norm. The legislation on domestic violence/spousal abuse is rather vague. Women who are victims of partner abuse typically refuse to report the abuse and do not disclose the source of their distress or injury. The fast and most effective way for women who are abused to end the violence is to leave their abusive partners. Men/women who abuse their partners physically or emotionally do so because they want to exert power. They are often manipulative and using coercive behaviour is their modus operandi. Women stay in abusive relationships because they have no option. Men who use violence to exert power and control They are men of all ages, races, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. They may hold whitecollar or blue – collar jobs or be unemployed. To some extent, alcohol maybe a contributing factor, but the perpetrators may already have feelings of inadequacies and alcohol is just a prop they use to exert power and control through violence. 1

In short, there isn’t any ‘typical’ profile of men who batter there is however, some common behavior. Men who batter may deny having a problem and may minimize the effect their violence has on their partners. Most men who resort to spousal battery/abuse are violent only with their partners. Many show extreme jealousy and possessiveness which often causes them to isolate the victim from family or friends. They refuse to take responsibility for their actions. They blame their loss of control on their partners, frustration, and stress or on the effect of alcohol. They tend to hold rigid, traditional views of sex roles and parenting and a negative attitude towards women. They may have grown up in homes where they or a sibling were physically abused, or where the mother was abused by the father. They have a low tolerance of stress. They often make unrealistic demands of their partners. Some may appear depressed or even threaten suicide. To outsiders they may appear charming and caring, especially in their relationships outside of marriage but within the marital relationship they are controlling and manipulative. They may experience feelings of inadequacy and sense of helplessness compounded by the possible threat of losing their partners.

Underlying all these factors is the fact that most women believe “He will change”. Culture, tradition and prejudice * Women fear social stigma and isolation that would ensue if they were to take legal action against the violence. Families have been known to close rank against a battered woman who took legal action, quite often, these have included members of her own family. * Many Tanzanian families are extended with the offender often being the main bread winner. If he got imprisoned, the network of support would crumble, therefore, family members stop a woman from taking legal action and she often bows down to pressure rather than face possible ostracisation from her community thus, most women remain silent and endure the abuse. Most people in Tanzania would be reluctant to give evidence in a case of domestic violence. This is due to cultural values which view woman as the property of her husband and which advocates the chastisement of women, often through physical force. Society is party to the violence perpetrated against women by refusing to give support and by refusing to give evidence when called upon.

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Women feel it is their fault that they must have asked for it! They explain the injuries they sustained during an attack that they fell down or they bumped against the door or furniture.

What should be done? * There is need to have a Domestic Violence Act in Tanzania which should incorporate spousal battery as a criminal offence in the penal code. * Establishment of more support groups at community level. * Establishment of support centres/shelters for battered women and their children. * Training and soft loan schemes for women in order to provide options to staying in abusive relationships * The faith based community and parish workers should provide care and support. * Establishment of gender desks in police stations. * More resources given to social welfare department. * Curricula in social welfare and police training colleges should include strategies to intervene in domestic violence. * Members of parliament should show concern. * Child welfare should be scaled up * Women should report cases of violence against them, taking legal action against their abusers. * Society should be given skills on resolving family conflict through dialogue and reconciliation. * Manufacturers of alcoholic beverages should warn their customers that exceeding alcohol content can lead to injury for self and family. This message should be advertised on every bottle or can of an alcoholic beverage and on advertising material. * Government leaders should include the problem of domestic violence in their public addresses. * The media should include messages against domestic violence in their publications/productions. Hundreds of cases of femicide go unreported! Fact: In the SADC ADDENDUM for the Declaration on the prevention and eradication of violence against women and children it was reported that:Violence against women and children continues to be endemic in all countries of the region despite a number of legislative, administrative and judicial, and other measures to prevent and to eradicate it. Violence against women and children occurs within the home, in the community and at the workplace. It takes various forms which include physical, emotional, psychological and economic violence within the family, sexual harassment and assault, child sexual

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abuse, early marriages, genital mutilation and femicide, trafficking in women and children and harmful traditional practices. In countries where there are armed conflicts, more atrocious forms of conflict have emerged. - It is increasingly and widely recognized that violence is the pervasive violation of the fundamental human rights, of women and children yet it continues to be fostered and reenforced by some aspects of statutory, customary and religious provisions, practices and attitudes on the rights and status of women. In all countries there are high levels of tolerance and acceptance of violence against women and children, especially within the families where it is assumed that men have the right to chastise and discipline their women and children. Although the problem of violence within the family is Coming out more and more for public scrutiny and Attention, there still is a strong veil of silence.......

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