Domestic violence: still a long way to go

Nakai Magocha (21) was recently discharged from a mental hospital in Mutare and is determined to tell her horrifying story. She blames domestic violence for the mental illness she is just recovering from.

Narrating her ordeal to The Zimbabwean, Magocha, who worked as a relief teacher in rural Buhera, says it all started when she fell in love with Richard Maruza from Chiendambuya in Rusape. After a short period of dating, she was a victim of forced sex and fell pregnant.

Maruza accepted responsibility and married her. But from the start, her mother-in-law did not like her and subject Magocha to mental, physical and emotional abuse. She insisted that Magocha stop going to work and live with her at their rural homestead, while her husband spent most of his time away at work in Rusape.

‘‘Apart from the insults she regularly subjected me to, my mother-in-law forced me to work in the fields for long periods, in spite of my pregnancy. She often reminded me that I had not come to her home for a holiday and called me a prostitute.

‘‘My life was a nightmare and I would spend whole nights crying. I do not know what I had done to deserve such treatment. Immediately after giving birth, I became unstable, irritable and violent. The rest is history,’’ Magocha said.

When neighbours noticed her changed behaviour, they concluded that she had cerebral malaria and took her to Mutare General Hospital where she was admitted and later transferred to the psychiatric unit because of her mental instability.

‘‘The nurses would tie my hands to subdue me so that I could breastfeed the baby. My child had become a victim for sins she did not commit, and I will never forgive my mother-in-law,’’ added Magocha. Even though she successfully applied for child support from the civil court, Magocha’s husband has changed jobs and she cannot trace him and is struggling to fend for her kid.

To make matters worse, her husband threw her out of the home because of the illness, and she has since gone back to her parents’ home. Magocha’s story represents the harrowing experience of thousands of local women who suffer, sometimes silently, due to domestic and other forms of violence.

According to Bianca Tolboom, the nursing coordinator at Edith Opperman Polyclinic in Mbare run by Medecins Sans Frontiers, about 30 % of women in the 15-49 years age group have experienced violence of some sort. About 22 % experience violent sex in their first lovemaking encounter.

In 2006, Zimbabwe passed the The Domestic Violence Act that gave hope to vulnerable women and to some extent men. While there are cases of married women reporting their abusers to the police, many still choose to remain silent because they fear that causing the arrest of their husbands can worsen their situation.

‘‘When I reported my husband to the police and he was detained for four days, I doubted the wisdom of doing that because he took with him all the money and we had to borrow from neighbours. Even though they helped me, my neighbours were laughing behind my back, saying I got what I deserved. I had to withdraw the case but since his return, my husband hardly talks to me.

He told me he would never lay his hands on me but he informed me that he is taking a second wife,’’ said Tabeth Marima from Rusape.

The Deputy Minister of Justice, Obert Gutu, has urged his ministry to work with line ministries like the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development in the fight against gender based violence.

He has also called on stakeholders to craft policies that protect women’s rights and promote the development of grassroots women.

Post published in: News

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