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Dropping the Veil… Domestic Violence Against Women in the Media

Opinion

Maria José Arthur

 

Published in: Outras Vozes, n° 28, supplement, November 2009

 

One of the aspects that explain the persistence of a phenomenon such as domestic violence against women is its invisibility, which is based both on its social legitimacy and on the silence of the victims. This legitimacy, built on socially shared values about gender hierarchies and about the acceptability of the use of violence against women in the context of a conjugal relationship, implies that instances of aggression at this level are not talked about and much less denounced. Therefore, one of the strategies adopted since long ago by the social movements that fight for the human rights of women (as seen in the plans and programs of women’s NGOs in Mozambique and in Southern Africa) is publicizing the many kinds of violence that occur out of sight, inside the home or in the dead of night. The objective is to unveil the terrible reality hidden behind many apparently harmonious couples.

This strategy of exposing and denouncing cases of domestic violence against women aims to create a public conscience and awareness of a problem that society has persistently ignored. It will be the basis for demanding measures, legal and others, to fight the problem.

It is, therefore, with great satisfaction that we have noticed, in the first months of 2009, that several newspapers have reported on several cases of domestic violence, in contrast with previous years when these cases were considered so natural that they were not even newsworthy.

Public exposure has caused quite a commotion in the capital city, Maputo – the reality we know -leading several commentators, and other citizens, to conclude that domestic violence against women is growing. Although we do not have data to refute this conjecture, it is important to remember that this level of domestic violence has probably always existed, but only now become visible.

Let’s see a few of the cases reported:

 

“The musician Taba Zily detained in the 5th Police Station”

“Custódio Nhantumbo, a young Mozambican musician better known as Taba Zily, was arrested this Friday afternoon in the 5th Police Station, for severely beating his wife despite her pregnancy. According to what our newspaper was able to ascertain at the police station, the incident took place in the early morning hours of this Friday in their own home (in the Matola 700 neighbourhood). As explained by the victim (…) everything started with a fight about the fact that the couple’s home is frequented by her female friends.

Taba Zily is a young artist, well known in the suburban neighbourhoods for his musical style, which captures life in the suburbs of Maputo, and ends up attracting many fans from the lower classes.”

Soure: O País, 23 January 2009

 

“T3 – Killed wife with a machete”

“A woman, whose name has not been revealed, lost her life after being stabbed by her own husband, allegedly to punish her for not returning from a party she had attended with a group of (female) friends. (…) Information provided by the Maputo Provincial Command of the Mozambican Police indicates that everything started last Sunday when the unfortunate woman went to a meeting of women friends, commonly known as xitique, and did not return home on the expected date. (…)

The crime was reported to the area’s police station and the arrest of the suspected criminal was ordered. He is now under custody”.

Source: Notícias, 5 February 2009

 

“Attacker threatens family of young woman he beat up”

“The family of the young women beaten up by her boyfriend claim that he is threatening them also, even though he is already under detention in the 3rd Police Station of the City of Maputo. (…) As stated by the victim’s father, Silvestre Bila beat his girlfriend one hundred times with a television decoder, causing, according to the medical report, serious injuries in the victim’s head and hands, because she used her arms to protect her head from the heavy blows of the attacker.

Our reporters visited the police station and tried to hear Silvestre Bila’s version of the case, but, after waiting for more than one hour, they were barred by the police, alleging they cannot allow the press to speak to and take pictures of the attacker, because he is married and the victim was his second wife.

It should also be mentioned that Silvestre Bila beat up not only his girlfriend but also what he suspects is the girl’s lover and his parents. (…)”

Source: O País, 18 February 2009

 

“Another young man beats up violently his partner”

The alleged attacker is under police custody 

“Pedro Fernando, a young man of 23 years of age, violently beat up a citizen (…), actually his wife [mother of two children], a resident of Albazine neighbourhood, in the suburbs of Maputo (…). The source states that the crime took place in the village of Panjane, district of Magude. The assault caused serious facial trauma.

According to the victim, after the incident the alleged attacker grabbed an amount of money estimated at 5 thousand meticais, a cellular phone and a case containing some clothing belonging to the 3 year-old son, who was with his mother at the time of the attack.

The alleged attacker is currently being held at the Provincial Command of the Police in Magude district, pending trial.”

Source: O País, 20 February 2009

 

This “explosion” of cases of domestic violence in the media triggered a series of reactions, namely from Lázaro Mabunda, journalist of O País. He came down particularly hard on the organisations fighting for women’s human rights, which have produced a draft law already sent to Parliament (see more about it later in this edition). Meanwhile, other voices have shown their indignation, in newspapers and in blogs, repudiating the fact that situations of such extreme violence against women are still occurring in the 21st century.

This public consciousness against domestic violence, which is one the most serious attacks on the human rights of women, represents a great step forward, that should be valued. Conditions are thus being created for the equality of gender to become a reality, and be more than dead words in plans and official speeches.

 

* * *

Pesquisa

Recently added articles:

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Other documents available:

  • Shadow Report on the “Stage of implementation of the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) in Mozambique”.
  • Mozambique NGO Statement, presented at the 38th CEDAW Session, highlighting the main issues mentioned in the shadow report.
  • Concluding comments by the CEDAW Committee, identifying areas of concern and suggesting recommendations to the Government of Mozambique.

All documents in PDF format: click to read online; right-click to download

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Mulher e Lei na África Austral - Moçambique