ON November 26, Sihle Dube took her two-week old daughter, who was suffering from jaundice to the hospital. She was all alone.
Her husband, Moses, who had promised to accompany her, left home in the morning without a word, only to return at 10pm.
Stressed and worried about her daughter’s health, Sihle would never have dreamt in a million years that her husband would choose such a day to bash her senseless.
When Moses asked her about the hospital visit, Sihle failed to contain her anger and demanded to know why he did not accompany her.
Just as the words poured out of her mouth, regret engulfed her. She wished she had not gathered courage to confront him.
Her husband’s demeanour suddenly changed and he hit her again and again with both his clenched fists, while hailing insults and accusing her of being disrespectful to him.
“As I was telling my husband about how unhappy I was that he always neglected me and the children, I felt a heavy blow on my face.
“And as I tried to put the baby down to protect her, I was given another heavy blow,” said an emotional Sihle, who has three children with Moses, aged nine, five and just a month-old.
This was not the first time that Moses has beat up Sihle in front of the kids.
Sihle says her husband is emotionally and physically abusive. She wants out of the abusive relationship but does not believe she can survive on her own.
“It all began as emotional abuse and it slowly became more intense and the abuse turned physical,” she said.
“He is harsh, jealousy, obsessive and accusatory and now very violent such that I live in fear but I have to stay for the good of the children as I cannot afford to take care of them on my own.”
Domestic violence remains largely hidden and victims usually suffer in silence until sometimes it is too late.
Worse still very few perpetrators are able to accept that they have a problem and seek help.
Her account comes as the world commemorated the International Day for the elimination of violence against Women dubbed as 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
The campaign which ended last week runs from November 25 to December 10 each year.
GBV refers to violence that targets individuals or groups on the basis of their gender.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) defines it as violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately.
This includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, the threat of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.
Sihle and her husband are Zimbabweans based in South Africa. She works as a waitress at a restaurant in Johannesburg and earns about R3 500 which is equivalent to US$249.
“I have sleepless nights almost every day, thinking of how I can run away from this violence, run far away from this monster I call my husband. But the fear of raising three children alone with scarce resources in a foreign land gives me goose bumps,” she said.
According to the United Nations (UN) women violence against women is complex and pervasive.
In an interview, UN Women deputy country representative Revai Makanje-Aalbaek said women stay in abusive marriages because of social pressure.
“I see such cases as being more about social pressure than they are economic. Look at how some of us were raised, how did our mothers manage to raise many children without help from men?” she said.
“Just because cases of violence are still prevalent and that it happens every day, it does not mean we should normalise it, we all need to come out and say no to violence against women and children.”
Asked if 16 days of Activism is a short period, Makanje-Aalbaek said the campaign is not the only time when community deals with violence against women and children.
“This campaign is meant to intensify the focus on this issue, to engage other stakeholders beyond the ones we usually work with. It is to increase awareness on GBV.”
She said GBV issues needed to be dealt with regularly throughout the year.
Former domestic violence perpetrator 29-year-old Tafadzwa Kambarami faced a horrendous eight months behind bars due to his violent behaviour towards his wife which he now says could have been avoided.
He faced charges of assault after his wife reported him to the police.
A calm Kambarami who was discharged from prison on September 23 last year told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the torrid experience in prison transformed him.
“I was a perpetrator of domestic violence of both emotional and physical abuse which resulted in my wife reporting me to the police in December 2013. I had to serve eight dreadful months at Harare Central Prison and also at Chikurubi prison,” he said.
Kambarami says he emotionally abused his wife by depriving her of certain rights like going to work and failing to adequately provide for her financial needs.
He says he would get angry when asked about his promiscuous behaviour such that it turned into a physical fight.
“We fought a lot on cases where she would want to go through my mobile phone accusing me of having girlfriends. At times I would not be promiscuous although I confess there were other times I was unfaithful,” Kambarami said.
He also revealed that when he felt that his manhood was challenged he resorted to abuse.
Being sent to prison was a turning point for Kambarami who says he learnt that fighting is never the solution and that conflict can be resolved without physical abuse.
He acknowledges that his turnaround was facilitated by a men’s organisation called Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum on Gender which offers counselling services to prisoners.
“When I was sentenced, I told myself I would immediately divorce my wife as soon as I came out of jail as I was angry that she had reported me. But when I was in jail I met tete (aunt) Eve, a counsellor at Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum on Gender who helped me a lot with what I was going through,” Kambarami said.
He believes without Padare, he could have gone back to prison as he could have perpetrated more violence on his wife out of anger and bitterness over the charges brought against him.
Kambarami now encourages other men to seek help as soon as they see signs of abuse in them.
“Fighting is not a solution, especially in marriage or relationship, if you and your partner cannot resolve conflict seek an intermediary especially a professional one,” he said.
Kambarami now runs a non-profit organisation called Zimbabwe Prison-oriented Orphans Care which takes care of children whose parents are in prison.
GBV Campaign is a time to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
However, it does not focus on women only as there are also men who are victims and suffer violence although statistics show that women are the most affected.
Recently a 27-year-old Warren Park woman Fortune Vutete scalded her husband with boiling water and the water spilled and killed her six-month-old son.
The woman had discovered pornographic material in her husband’s laptop. She appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court charged with culpable homicide after causing the death of her son.
In another case of domestic violence that shook the nation happened in May this year, when a Goromonzi woman was doused with sulphuric acid by her lover.
The 38-year-old Rudo Bakasa had reportedly ended her affair with the 51-year-old Robson Munamba who was already married.
She died after a month of the severe burns and injuries at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.
Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum on Gender Programme officer Walter Vengesai said most GBV perpetrators are men. He said violence can become second nature to someone and that for most men who are abusers it is treated as patriarchal power.
He said during the 16 days of Activism, his organisation raised awareness on preventing and ending GBV.
“We visited different schools where we spoke to young boys telling them that violence is bad and teaching them that conflicts can be resolved without violence,” he said.
“We also spoke to influential members of the society such as traditional and religious leaders asking them to help the nation condemn violence and speak out against GBV.”
Vengesai said part of the reason why men resort to violence is when their manhood or male ego is challenged and hence the failure to control themselves.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey, three in every 10 women in Zimbabwe have suffered some form of physical violence at some point since the age of 15.