By Precious Moyo
Many women in Zimbabwe especially in rural communities hardly report cases of domestic abuse for fear of being stigmatised, leading to a culture of silence and lack of knowledge.Upon arrival as a new daughter in law there are commandments one is given including that if a man beats you it’s a sign of love and divorce is taboo as it tarnishes the family’s image.
Sitting by the doorstep of her hut in Luthi Village in Nkayi, Sibongile Bumi (25) narrated how she endures an ‘abusive’ marriage.
“I got married at the age of 25, hardly two years into my marriage, my husband turned into an abusive drunkard. He uses all his money on alcohol and beat me for no reason,” she said.
Bumi said divorcing is not easy since their marriages are sealed by traditional courts.
“You are labeled immoral and disrespectful. This is how rural women are groomed, we don’t have the freedom to divorce,” she said while sobbing.
While their urban counterparts are aware of how to deal with gender based violence (GBV), rural women are still stuck on traditional values and norms.
Sexual Rights Centre Director, Ms Musa Sibindi, said there is need to intensify rural women empowerment.
“New brides are told that you have to endure for the sake of your children. They have been blinded to think that GBV is normal. It’s high time advocacy moves from just holding conferences in hotels but to go on ground and empower these women,” she said.
Ms Fiona Nyoni, a Gender Activist said women in rural areas suffer GBV quietly as they fear to create sour relationships between their families and the in-laws.
“Usually in rural areas you marry within your village. These women hide cases of abuse in fear of exposing their families which may lead to sour relations within the village. This needs to be corrected because it costs their lives and that of their children,” she said.
According to Msasa project, cases of GBV in Bulawayo are increasing with nearly 3 000 cases reported last year only.
The organisation said majority of reported cases are from Bulawayo while few reports came from rural Nkayi, Matobo and Lupane.
“Rural women rarely report, this may be because they are not empowered enough or they are just afraid,” she said.
Msasa project said there is need to educate rural women on their rights.
“Safety is a fundamental right and no one should die ignorant just because of the community they come from,” said the counselor.
Recently, when first lady Auxilia Mnangagwa met chief’s wives in Harare, she urged them to take part in fighting GBV in their rural communities.
“I would like to work with you on social cohesion, ending gender based violence and girl child marriages. I urge you all to work closely with the police and report any form of GBV,” she reportedly said.