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Zambia's celebrity couple reveal wife-beating past

Discussion in 'Mahusiano, mapenzi, urafiki' started by BAK, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. BAK

    BAK JF-Expert Member

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    Zambia's celebrity couple reveal wife-beating past


    By Jo Fidgen
    BBC News, Lusaka

    One of Zambia's most famous singers has revealed how she was badly beaten by her husband. She now hopes to lift the lid on the country's ingrained acceptance of domestic violence.
    "My husband will kill me," giggles Saboi Imboela nervously. "But, yes, he once beat me up so badly I reported him to the police."
    The 32-year old is one of Zambia's top vocalists. Her husband is a popular actor, Owas Ray Mwape. This is the first time she has spoken publicly about the beating she received at his hands, and she wriggles uncomfortably at the memory.

    [​IMG][​IMG] The majority of women enjoy a beating, because they are made to believe it is part of our tradition [​IMG]

    Christine Kalamwina
    Gender in Development Director

    "It was the police who begged me not to take it further," she recalls, revealing some of the engrained attitudes she is now taking on.
    "They told me: 'We know how you women are. We'll lock him up and in a minute or two, you'll change your mind and want him released.'"
    Her doctor also dissuaded her from reporting the assault, as did some of her friends.
    'Part of growing up'
    Campaigners believe more than half of Zambian women have suffered domestic abuse but cases rarely come to light because of the stigma attached to speaking out.
    Young women are taught by their elders to accept punishment from their husbands when they are disobedient. Even cooking a bad meal warrants a smack.

    Many women fear divorce would leave them in penury

    "That's how you grow up in Africa," explains Mr Mwape.
    "To be a man, you need to discipline a woman, give her a slap or two. You know, in our culture, it's OK because that's how we feel we love our women."
    It is a message driven home at boys' initiation ceremonies - chastisement is a sign of affection and a woman never achieves the status of an adult. Like a child she needs to be "trained" to behave well.
    In some parts of the country tradition allows a man to beat his wife if he survives a crocodile attack.
    In others, a wife's infidelity is revealed when her newborn baby coughs. She must take the consequences.
    "Tradition is used as a cover for domestic violence," complains Johnson Tembo.
    As chairman of the Men's Network, he tries to persuade his peers to alter their behaviour.
    But he believes women's attitudes need to change too.
    "Some women are foolish enough to think that if they are not beaten by their husbands, they're not loved," he says.
    Marital-rape clause
    It is a problem recognised by the Zambian government's Gender in Development Division.
    Director Christine Kalamwina is forthright about the challenges she faces in tackling domestic abuse.
    "The majority of women enjoy a beating, because they are made to believe it is part of our tradition," she says.

    She believes the answer is to create awareness that violence against women is discrimination.
    "Then they can stand up and claim their rights," she says.
    Those rights are being discussed with the drafting of an anti-domestic violence bill.
    As it stands, the law does not recognise attacks on women as a specific crime. Cases are treated as simple assault.
    But the bill, which is designed to change that, is already running into difficulties.
    A clause outlawing marital rape has been dropped because of cultural considerations.
    And Ms Kalamwina says it is proving hard to reach agreement on where to draw the line between courtship rituals and sexual harassment in a country where women are expected to play hard to get.
    'Partner or doormat?'
    But even if the law is tightened, would it make a difference?
    The risks of taking a stand against domestic violence are too great for many women. They are often blamed for provoking their husbands and ostracised for exposing them.

    [​IMG][​IMG] I was ready to go jail for what I did; I deserved it [​IMG]

    Owas Ray Mwape

    Divorce may follow, with devastating consequences.
    "Abused women tell us they don't want their relationships to break up because the husband is the bread-winner, and they won't be able to take care of their children," says Hope Kasese Kumalo, the acting national co-ordinator for Woman and Law in Southern Africa.
    "There's a lot of glorification of marriage in this country," she says.
    "Some women who are economically independent will not speak out against violence because they want to stay married at all costs.
    "If you are married you are respected; if you are not, people will think there is something wrong with you."
    A battered woman who runs to her parents is often sent back to her abusive husband.

    Campaigners are now hoping to revolutionise women's rights

    Fortunately, not all cases end badly. At home in Lusaka, Ms Imboela and Mr Mwape snuggle up on the sofa together.
    "He's a good husband, we've sorted out our differences," smiles Ms Imboela.
    Mr Mwape counts himself lucky.
    "I was ready to go jail for what I did; I deserved it. I have stopped hitting my wife for the sake of our boys. I don't want them to become what I became," he says.
    "I'm pleased Saboi has spoken about this. That's the way to go."
    Is he worried about his reputation?
    "No, I don't have concerns that people will think less of me now, because in Zambia, 99.9% of men have committed that crime before," he says.
    Ms Imboela is now working on a song about women's rights, called Yenze Nthawi Yakayena (That Was Then).
    "Men have always mistreated their wives. But times have changed, and men must too," she sings.
    She says she hopes abused women will hear her song and "stand up and say: 'This is wrong'.
    "And that men will look at their situation and say: 'I love my wife and I shouldn't treat her like this. She's my partner, not my doormat'," she says.

    Have you been affected by the issues raised in this story? If you would like to comment, please do using using the postform below:
    I don't believe that domestic violence is restricted only to African countries like Zambia. In your analysis you seem to portray a perception that wife beating in Zambia is as result of some backward mentality and beliefs in both the Zambian women and men.YOU are very mistaken. Domestic violence is a world wide tragedy that many times leads to the killing of one of spouses of either gender. I have witnessed Zambian women that terrorise their husbands and what can you say about that?
    Driad Sobongo, Lobatse, Botswana
    It has always been like that in Zambia where wife battering is an accepted form of punishment for any small thing the woman does. I remember growing up my father raised me to be independent and whenever I would speak out against any man, my aunts and friends used to shake their heads and say, "You and your mouth, you are going to get a beating everyday from your husband" or "You will never be able to keep a man with that attitude". I witnessed it in my uncles but never with my own father. It should stop but in my opinion, women and men are both too primitive to see how stupid this thinking is. As they say "intambi nitambi" - tradition is tradition.
    Naomi S, Prague, Czech Republic
    It is true that wife beating is considered the 'proper way' for settling marital differences. What makes it worse is that a lot of men believe that women enjoy being hit and only respect a man who does so. I have heard many men say this, though only a few are willing to admit that they actually do it. I am yet to meet a woman who says she enjoys or expects to get hit by anyone she is in a relationship with, be it a husband or a boyfriend. There are women however, who stick it out because they believe all men hit anyway and also because they grew up in homes where their moms got hit by their dads. I grew up in a home where i never even got spanked by my parents who preferred to give a good scolding instead. And while my parents never had a smooth marriage, they never hit each other either. Perhaps as a direct result, i am as totally against this as possible and actually encouraged a friend to leave her abusive husband after 4 years of a hellish marriage. Not everybody supports me and sometimes i worry because she is having such a hard time coping by herself. But deep in my heart i know she made the right choice.
    Devaan, Abuja, Nigeria
    You know, spousal abuse is not just an African traditional problem, it is a global one. Even in the developed world, there are many cases of spousal abuse that go unreported for the simple reason of "economics". As in the majority of households, the breadwinners are the men, that is, husbands, many women choose to remain silent in cases of spousal abuse for fear of loosing their main source of income or livelihood.
    Gloria Chinebuah, Geneva, Switzerland
    beating women is not part of our live in africa, but at the same time beating is always meant to correct women especially those who are not faithful to their husbands. so not all form of beating are domestic violence. the amount of force applied during beating should be reasonable, moderate and proportional because women are humans like men.
    Kaken Badjie, Serrekunda, the Gambia
    "That's how you grow up in Africa," explains Mr Mwape. "To be a man, you need to discipline a woman, give her a slap or two. You know, in our culture, it's OK because that's how we feel we love our women."
    Sorry Mr Mwape, that is not how we grow up in Africa. That is how uncivilised men and educated illiterates treat their spouses. My parents were married for about 50 years in Ghana before they died, both in their 70s. My dad did not believe in hitting a woman.
    Isaac, Toronto, Canada
    Among the Ibos in East Nigeria, when a man beats a woman married or not the extended family brothers will revenge by beating back the man. It is the responsibility of the brothers to protect their sisters. Alternatively, the woman drops the children for the man and go back to her parents for a while. Men are more dependent than women in marriage. I advice the women when beaten by their men to simply drop the children for them and go on a holidays for a while.
    Sunny Ekwenugo, Berlin, Germany
    As a Luo man i do not agree with people saying that wife beating is african way of life. this is what people are implicating. from my community long time ago if a husband beats his wife and she goes to her people the the husband and his relatives will go to her home. then if it is found that the husband was wrong then he will get it rough from wife side and if wife was wrong she will disciplined by her people but not beating. then she will go back her husband and life will continue. wife beating was a crime in my community even before education, christianity and islam came to Luoland.
    romanus onyango, KISUMU, KENYA
    Violence has no place in marriage and indeed it takes a lot to come out publicly and admit what happened to these 2 lovely people. Zambian / African culture encourages beating as a form of punishment and our police will always try and talk women from taking further action. This is wrong and should come to a stop. The bravery exhibited by this amazing couple should be emulated by all Zambians.
    Aaron Sakala, Lusaka Zambia
    The issue of domestic violence against women in Africa is totally caused by our culture and our acceptance that women are subordinates in the home, as a result men, even ones without jobs or any source of income still bask in the euphoria of being the superior one and can show superiority by hitting or raping the woman. As a woman of African origin, I once dated a Nigerian man who hit me. When I told him I was leaving him as a result, he begged and told me that was his way of showing me love. How sick! I accepted and went on with the relationship until an ambulance came to pick me up from his house one day. That was the turning point for me. Do I have any regrets? Yes...that I stayed with that man for that long, what if I had died! This a call to all women, get out now.
    kemi, london, uk
    While Africa is a patriarchal continent it is very misleading to say as in the article that wife beating is acceptable and part of African custom. I am West African from the Yoruba speaking part of Nigerian and in my particular culture Wife beating is frowned upon and considered taboo, a man that assaults his wife is not respected and seen as less of a man by both families. You will find that practices in Africa differ significantly depending on the part of the continent you are in.
    Olu Haastrup, Stevenage