We are in the season where countries will once again recognise the role of women on Friday, March 8th.
The day has been set aside by the UN as International Women’s Day. No doubt the injustices against women, the world’s largest population and indeed Ghana’s largest as well, will feature greatly.
I get very upset when I see or hear news reports on brutalities against women. They only come to confirm that despite all the countless efforts by civil society groups over the years, many more women are suffering, sometimes in the quiet, at the hands of men.
Violence against women is real and that is why we continue to hear about nasty incidents of domestic brutalities. A quick glance through some copies of old newspapers so far this year reveal such front page headlines as “Farmer butchers wife”, “Man chops off wife’s head”, “Painstil assaults wife?”, “Cops chase Painstil”, and “Man sets lover ablaze”.
It is extremely difficult to appreciate why a man should ever want to attack a woman more so, a wife he lives with under the same roof and inflict harm sometimes to the extent of decapitation. But yes, Shakespeare was right when he said that “There’s no act to find the mind’s construction on the face”.
Quite part from these domestic acts, there are also those types of violence against women which happen in or outside the home, including rape or sexual harassment. Startling statistics available confirm that one in three women will experience physical violence (beating, slapping or other physical punishment) at the hands of current or previous partners. According to a study carried out by the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre, one third of women in Ghana admitted living with an abusive man.
Research has further shown that many who abuse women are not restricted to any one class or group of men. They come from all backgrounds – the rich, the poor, the educated, the non-educated, rural as well as urban dwellers, high or low class – there is no exception. In the same way, victims of violence come from all backgrounds. While those in the lower classes may go and report their abuse, women in the upper or working classes prefer to suffer in the quiet because exposing their suffering may be to their disadvantage. A case in point perhaps, is that of Mrs Richlove Painstil who insisted that she loved her husband and that her husband had not assaulted her despite an eye witness account to the police.
As is sometimes reported in the news, women who get assaulted receive serious and sometimes permanent damages to their bodies; their egos get bruised and sometimes they get emotionally and mentally disturbed. Studies by the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre confirm that two out of three women who experience physical violence suffer injuries to parts of their bodies and in extreme cases, they suffer death.
The question is sometimes asked as to why any woman would want to remain in an abusive relationship. Legitimate as the question is, majority of abused women may continue to stay in their abusive relationships because they are committed to their marriages and desperately would want the marriage or relationship to succeed.
Most often, where there are children, they prefer to have a home where the children are growing up with a father figure around. With some too, they sincerely hope that the man would change for the better and I have heard testimonies where some such men changed after years of their wives committing them to prayers and fasting.
Whatever the case, I believe that consistent violence in a marriage relationship is a clear sign of a man’s utter disrespect for the woman he happens to be in a relationship with. That is why in cases of repeated assault on a wife, the woman should be advised to leave the scene, even if temporarily.
Cases of constant abuse can never be a sign of love for the woman and that is why parents should never encourage the “It will get better” kind of mentality when their daughters get entangled in that kind of situation. For such men, the constant attacks on their women are a stamp of their superiority in the man-woman relationship. How do such parents feel when one day, the abuse is taken to the extreme and the woman gets murdered?
Going by the extent of some of the reported cases in the news, we cannot afford to watch on for women to suffer brutalities in their homes. Most of the time, the children in the relationship become severely disadvantaged and sometimes badly traumatised form incidences of their mothers suffering abuse at the hands of their fathers. Punitive laws should be stepped up to restore the dignity of abused women and their children.
In that regard, I highly commend the UK government for its recent bold step on domestic violence. According to news report in the UK Press not too long ago, suspected wife-beaters could be barred from their homes for up to four weeks even if there is insufficient evidence for them to be charged under their “Go orders” or Domestic Violence Protection Order plan unveiled by the Home Secretary. The “Go Orders” will enable the police to step in and ban suspected attackers from a victim’s home even if they are too afraid of taking action themselves or if no criminal proceedings are possible.
The year-long pilot will start in the summer in Greater Manchester and Wiltshire. The government is bent on cracking down on violence against women and girls.
Figures from the British Crime survey showed that more than one in four women in the UK will experience at least one incident of domestic abuse in their lifetime with one million women experiencing at least one incident of domestic violence every year and one in twenty becoming a victim of stalking.
Can we begin to move fast in Ghana too where the statistics is one in every three women suffering abuse? Extensive research works have already been done by various gender groups coupled with the gruesome reports we get in the press so we do have ample evidence of the reality of brutalities in the home. The time to act to curb domestic violence against women is now.
As a country with such priority for an equitable society, we need to take giant strides in dishing out stiffer punishment that will bring down and ultimately stop the unnecessary violence against women. That is the only way we can bring down domestic violence and the brutalities that go with it.
Happy Women’s Day to all the silent sufferers of domestic abuse.