We automatically assume that when a man buys you a box of chocolates or beautiful flowers, it is his way of telling you that he loves you. Sometimes men do that because they realise that it might be the easiest way to see you naked.
Some men will propose marriage barely three months after you start dating, not because they cannot emotionally visualise life without you but because they need someone to clean up and cook for them. Men are usually more sensible about their needs in a relationship. We want the warm fuzzy feeling of being loved and at times men simply want someone to care for them and satisfy their physical needs — and if you can do both then you might find yourself in a relationship.
Some young women fall for abusive men who beat them up at the drop of a hat. I have met women who are emotionally and physically abused and some of them knew the men were abusive before they even married them.
“We dated for two years and he used to beat me up for attracting other men’s attention. He would also beat me up if he didn’t like the way I was dressed or I spoke back to him but I just assumed this was because he loved me too much and just wanted me to himself,” said one young woman.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is the reason why every year we mark 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. We have reminded the world about the evils of gender-based violence since 1981 but we do not seem to be making a difference. In 1999 the United Nations General Assembly must have started to get seriously concerned as it designated November 25 as the international day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
We have themes that should make us go beyond simple reflection over a few days but somehow at the end of the 16 days, we seem to just roll back to our old way of life. Even more worrying is the fact that the prominent publicity the period receives does not seem to deter those determined to perpetuate gender-based violence. Throughout the 16 days, newspapers carry several stories of men subjecting their wives or partners to untold violence.
This year the theme is, “Peace in the Home to Peace in the World”. This is encouraging because most conflict starts from the home. Many abusive men were raised in families where fathers used the mothers as punching bags.
A man raised by an abusive father sometimes believes the best way to solve marital conflict is to emotionally or physically abuse his wife.
Such situations are not helped by the fact that some parents actually believe there is nothing wrong with a man beating his wife.
Some women eventually take their own lives because they have no one to turn to. They reach a stage where the abuse becomes unbearable and the only way out is suicide.
The fact that we have a law that specifically seeks to curb GBV is not enough to make women feel secure. Protection laws are good but we need to change people’s mindsets.
Getting your husband arrested because he has beaten you up sometimes has far reaching consequences. Not all friends and family members will support you for seeking legal protection – it might further alienate you.
We need to come up with family peace negotiating skills if we are going to nip gender-based violence in the bud. If you look at various families and communities, you will notice that in most cases perpetrators of violence usually come from dysfunctional homes.
They normally come from families who use violent means of resolving conflict. In families where peace reigns, it is easier to look at problems in a calm manner.
Women need to drive both the home and world peace initiative because they are the ones who raise sons who might or might not end up as abusive husbands or partners. The roots of peace must be sown and nurtured within our homes. We cannot expect a peaceful environment when we are at each other’s throats in the homes.
We all have our frustrations but the true mark of a real man is in how he handles potentially explosive situations. A man who uses demeaning language or his fists to drive home a point only makes the situation more volatile.
It is not a sign of weakness to walk away from your source of anger. And being beaten up by a man is not testimony of how much he loves you but a sign that he has anger issues that need to be resolved.
Sustainable peace will not be achieved by simply reminding each other for 16 days every year that GBV must be eradicated. We as women have an important role to play. Peace starts with us.
We should never be that woman who tells a friend, sister or daughter that marriage is about your man bashing you every now and then. We should be more supportive of those in abusive relationships and should be in the forefront of saying “NO” to GBV.
A mother-in-law who turns a blind eye when her daughter-in-law shows up beaten black and blue should know that she is part of the problem. A mother who sends her daughter back to an abusive man is reneging on her motherly duties of protecting her child.
Peace starts and ends with us. Love can only become meaningful and fulfilling if we are able to live in harmony with each other. Even the lovely act of making love can turn into a nasty violent weapon if we do not work for peace.