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Domestic Violence in Africa: Women and Children Remain the Most Affected

27.07.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Domestic violence is any violent, abusive, coercive, and forceful or threatening act or word inflicted on a family member by another family member. The most common form of violence in a family setting is intimate partner violence (a term often used interchangeably with domestic violence) which refers to any form of physical, sexual or psychological harm inflicted by a spouse, intimate partner or ex-partner.
Domestic violence has been around for ages, and it is not just and African thing. Also, domestic violence does not affect only women and children, as there are thousands of men in the world who are victims of domestic violence; inflicted on them by their wives or girlfriends. Women are more affected because they are the considered as the “weaker sex”

According to the 2018 report on drugs and crime released by the UN, 87,000 women were killed worldwide in 2017, and 58% of them were victims of domestic violence. It is obvious that the numbers are way higher than what is reported because in most countries around the world, most victims of domestic violence; be it women or children, suffer in silence.

Causes of domestic violence in Africa

While the urge to be violent can be triggered by about anything, there are some main reasons that cut across many individuals.

  • Growing up in house where domestic violence was common : Many people who grew up witnessing one form of domestic violence or the other are more likely to be violent when they grow up. This is more common with boys who see their fathers as role models, so they grow up thinking that beating up a wife or girlfriend is the right and quickest way to solve a problem.

  • Unemployment : The frustration of not having a job can make some men very violent at home. It is even worse when they have previously been employed and cannot find a new job. They become very irritated at home and are more likely to be violent with their wives and children.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse : Drug and alcohol abuse results to the most cases of domestic violence in Africa. In communities where local liquor and drugs are sold at very cheap prices, men and women who have access to them are more likely to be violent towards their spouses and other family members. Men who go back home drug end up hitting their wives in most cases.
  • Forced marriages : When a man is forced to marry a woman when he is not ready, (like in a case where he gets a girl pregnant) he feels trapped, no matter how much he loved the girl before she got pregnant. In this case, seeing the girl and her baby reminds him of all the things he would have been able to do if he were still single. It is light; it is very easy for him to become violent with them.

  • Socio-cultural beliefs : In some societies, it is very common to hear men advising their peers to beat up their wives if they are stubborn, because a man is the head of the family and the woman must obey him no matter what. With this in mind most men resolve to battering, insulting and maltreating their spouses, just to break them and make them obedient.
  • Pride and jealousy : Most African men are very possessive of their wives and cannot hide their jealousy. As a result, they get very violent when they see their wives talking to another man.

Why are women and children most affected by domestic violence?

Looking at the African context, one will think that violence is the most effective way to “discipline” a wife or a child. Because of this, domestic violence is considered normal in some communities. In most cases, people always blame the woman who got beaten by her husband and the daughter who was violated by her cousin or uncle for not behaving appropriately towards their abusers.

Men are also victims to domestic violence, but every time the topic is mentioned, the victim is always a woman or a child. Some of the reasons why women are most affected are as follows

  • Women are the “weaker” sex, so they cannot be a match to their spouses when it comes to physical violence. As a result, most of them have accepted their fate and accept their punishment as it comes.
  • Also, the African society does not allow a woman to talk back at her husband. If her husband rains insults on her and her children, she has no choice but to endure.
  • Talking about sex is still a taboo in many African communities. Most perverse family members take advantage of this and violate children, while threatening to hurt them if they ever mention it to anybody.
  • Economic dependency makes some women endure abusive marriages because of the fear of losing their only source of income. As a result many have adopted the slogan “I am staying because of my children”.
  • Unemployment and the inability to own land and property is another reason why women are very vulnerable to domestic violence. In some parts of Africa, women are not allowed to work or own any form of property. Men often take advantage of such situations to abuse their spouses and children because they know that the woman will never leave nor complain.

Effects of domestic violence

Domestic violence can have long term effects on the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of the abused. It should be noted that the most extreme consequence of domestic violence is death of the abused, either by committing suicide or being killed by the spouse.

Children who grow up in a violent home are more likely to experience domestic violence in their own homes (female children) or become violent spouses or partners (male children).

It is almost impossible to have a serene atmosphere in a home where abuse is common. Children in such homes are deprived of the love and attention of both parents, as they are always fighting or quarrelling or not talking to each other. As a result they turn to friends and other things like drug, alcohol and prostitution for comfort.

Domestic violence is the cause of many broken homes and families around the world today. This is because when the abuse becomes unbearable, one spouse; usually the woman is forced to leave with her children.

What can be done to remedy the situation?

It is rather unfortunate that most victims of domestic violence will rather die in silence that speak up or seek external help. The African society needs to understand that violence does not solve problems, especially in a family setting.

Also, African governments need to pay more attention to domestic violence as it leads to hundreds of deaths every year. They should set structures that cater for women and children who have been victims of domestic abuse.

It is also necessary to carry out sensitization campaigns, in order to educate women and children on domestic violence, how to avoid it, and also what to do when they are being abused.

With these, it is possible to reduce the rate of domestic violence and save the lives of vulnerable women and children.

Article from AFRIC editorial

Photo credit: google images/ illustration

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