Hear my noise in the storm!
Divorced with four kids, Esther (not real names) battled with a violent partner for several years. Constrained by the belief in the Lugbara culture that domestic violence is a private issue, Esther couldn’t open up about the issue and thus continued to conceal and live with this for the years they spent together. As fate may have it, Esther couldn’t stand this any longer as one day she opted to report the matter to the Arivu sub county police post. It wasn’t long before rumors reached Esther’s husband that she had been seen going to the police post.
“I reported my husband to police for having beaten me and causing several damages. On getting to learn about it, my husband became furious thus escalating more physical violence. Amid the scuffle, I lost my teeth and my husband even threatened to kill me if I reported him again. I therefore opted to leave my marital home and reunite with my family. I miss my children; the community keep blaming and stigmatizing me for the failure of my marriage saying if I never reported, I wouldn’t have lost my teeth and I would still have my marriage.” Narrates Esther.
The Lugbara culture prohibits domestic violence from being exposed in the public realm and anyone who dares to do so, will be charged with paying “Aru ba” which literally means the accuser pays inform of animals to cleanse the barbaric act that he/she has committed by reporting your spouse. Esther was told to go and resolve the issue at home as the responsibility of resolving “family wrangles” as they termed was vested upon the clan leaders.
In as much as Esther took a step to report, the police didn’t offer her any support: the enforcers of the laws have been socialized with the same beliefs and traditions that regard domestic violence as a private matter. Whereas significant structural strides have been made in advancing gender equality in the formal and informal sectors, through formulating policies, violence against women continues to be dealt with through customary and or religious law procedures and measures such as the provision of “compensation” to the family or community of the survivor, and customary reconciliation practices of ceremonies of forgiveness. This is mainly attributed to the gaps in the legal justice system including but not limited to non-protection for survivors, costs involved and delays in legal proceedings.
I feel there is need to revisit interventions around domestic violence to be more accommodative through a consultative process with cultures, coupled with actual implementation of laws informed by increased budgetary allocations. Short of this, I feel victims of domestic violence shall continue to remain silent and stay in the abusive relationships with the persons that abused them simply because there is a big divide between the law and the realities women and men face.
Violence against women is a human rights violation which requires all of us to rise up for action. Let’s rise up for our sisters, mothers, wives, daughters, girlfriends. Let’s rise up to action – together for equality.