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Speak Out Against Violence

Every time I wake up in the morning, there is this cry of agony ringing in my muddled head. It is a scene from one of those annoyingly predictable Nigerian movies that, nevertheless, reflect reality. The movie is about a woman who suffered repeated beatings from her husband but in public – where no one knows her plight – they were the perfect couple; she the loyal, smiling wife and he, the loving, caring husband. Behind closed doors, she would sit up all night, sobbing – in anguish, after receiving her daily dose of slaps and kicks. Absurd as it seems, it is the abused woman who pleads for forgiveness, begging her husband not to throw her out! 

This movie brings to mind the story of 22-year-old Rihanna and her boyfriend Chris Brown, 20 – both successful singers who are adored worldwide. Sometime last year, reports of how Brown turned violent after Rihanna confronted him about a text message from his old girlfriend made rounds in the international media. He allegedly hit Rihanna’s head against the car window, bit her ear and fingers and got her in a headlock until she began to black out. Brown also reportedly told her: “I’m going to kill you”. 

For those who saw the horrific pictures of Rihanna’s battered face on the Internet, it must have been incomprehensible that she first refused to co-operate with police and even briefly reconciled with the man who openly threatened to kill her. But it seems all battered women -- rich, poor, illiterate or educated all think when they are abused, somehow, it must be their fault. Many Internet bloggers, women inclusive, actually blamed Rihanna for ‘provoking’ Brown. 

But Rihanna’s case is familiar, isn’t it? Most battered women have this overwhelming love (or fear) for their tormentors that they get trapped in brutal relationships, convincing themselves that the man will change.
For the sake of those women who are not brave enough to speak out, we must give domestic violence serious attention. The entire Ugandan society has become very docile to the level that we seem to have resigned to fate. We need to ask ourselves what kind of generation we are breeding for the future of this country. Take for example a child who watches his mother being beaten daily. Such a child will grow up believing – strange as it may sound – that a recalcitrant woman just needs a thorough whacking.
Worse still, society tends to focus more on collecting data, thus diverting attention from the staggering cost of this hideous crime on society. Whether it is a result of social, psychological and economic factors or a struggle between the sexes, domestic violence must not be allowed to flourish. 

From cultural beliefs that keep women subdued, to the schools that treat girls as feather-brained; all of these things combine to make women passive and unable to stand up to abusive men. To address domestic violence, it is vital to liberate women from ignorance through education. Education will equip women with knowledge and skills that will empower them economically. 

We must increase awareness campaigns that will compel everyone to do something –you and me, government and the police. It should concern us when a neighbour – woman, man or child– is being abused. Government should also fund support services to help victims who may need to be helped to report abuse and, where necessary, seek refuge. This will require laws that provide adequate protection for women in this country. And it is everybody’s duty to speak out – until the violence stops.

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