Gender and domestic violence need renewed approach to education

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The groups leading the process to address domestic violence and related issues are being advised to reshape and renew their focus on educating the masses.
This is necessary, according to lecturer in gender and development studies Dr Halimah DeShong who said this approach would have great long-term impact on stamping out the scourge.
“The public education has to take place in schools and we need to reflect on our school practices,” she said as she cited an example where a teacher was teaching primary school students a folk song and to demonstrate the lyrics, he separated the boys from the girls and had them acting out beating the girls for not doing household chores, while the girls’ act included them cowering in fear.
“When questions are raised, some people respond and say folk songs are part of our culture. I am saying we don’t define violence as our culture. Violence is embedded in the systems and structures and they are reproduced in practise. If we are to take this violence as part of our culture then we are saying this is who we are, we are a violent people,” she stressed.
She said while we cannot control the lyrics of music we produce and import, we should seek to educate children from an early age, about the positives and negatives of what the lyrics project.
The lecturer also said that because of the history of violence amongst people of the region, whose ancestors were brought here as slaves or forced into slavery when they were discovered, it will take hard and consistent work before domestic and gender based violence are addressed.
Dr DeShong described violence in the region as a “complex issue” as she also noted that some men firmly believe they are right to “discipline” their women who they say “provoke” them to act in that manner.
According to the educator, strong laws and policies cannot address this issue as many cases are not even reported and abusers are often repeat offenders.
She added that many women stay in violent relationships or do not report violence against them because it is difficult to trust the state.
She said, “because of these fraught processes of legislated violence, there’s a mistrust of going to the state to report rape and there’s a mistrust of going to report domestic violence and see that as the remediation.”
One such “fraught” process is seeking child maintenance which is tedious, “shameful” and unusually lengthy, while it is not private.
She advised, “So, there’s work that needs to be done in ensuring that those processing begin at the point of protecting the person violated but it is unfortunately not always the starting point. We also know people will be treated with suspicion at certain times depending on their class identity, depending on their sexual identity, depending sometimes, on the way in which these gender, and class, and sex, and race identity coalesce.”
Last week, Gender Affairs Minister Samantha Marshall said reports of domestic violence were of serious concern.
In 2014, 174 women reported physical violence against them by their spouse, while 77 men reported same. In 2015, there were 119 reports from women and 12 from men; while in 2016, there were 110 reports from women and 25 from men. These statistics only include cases reported to the Directorate of Gender Affairs.
She said she was not certain whether these numbers reflected new cases/victims or repeat offenders.

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