“16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, Human Rights Day.” —Wikipedia
For nearly two decades this month, Malawians have joined the international community in commemorating 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. The day is marked by marches, telling of stories of survival and of continued violence. International and local organisations spend huge amounts on the campaigns worldwide. The victims, the heroines, of the campaigns are women and girls. Even those women and girls that have not suffered any abuse feel they belong to the victimised. They search in their mental cupboards and wardrobes for the days they suffered. And the mental vault, suffering they find.
The perpetrators, the villains, of the campaigns are men and boys. As the women and girls empty their vaults of experienced and unexperienced violence, the men and boys accept their collective guilt. In fact, women and girls feel entitled to being portrayed as victims of gender-based violence even when all their lives depend on the men and boys they condemn.
In Malawi, patriarchal domineering is condemned while ‘matriarchal’ domineering is praised and worshipped. Lobola or chitengwa marriage is condemned because, the campaigners claim, it reduces women and girls to market goods with price tags. Chikamwini marriage is praised because the man fends for the woman. In terms of gender-based violence, it’s night and day; black white; sinful and holy.
And that is a serious problem. A sad characterisation of the gender realities of our society. Very few people want to accept that gender-based violence is about men and women meting physical and psychological pain on each other.
We don’t need to repeat the obvious that in Malawi men and boys suffer in silence and toil for the women and girls in silence. The same society that encourages women and girls to wail discourages men from crying. Mwamuna salira.
Acknowledged. Women and girls suffer a lot. So, do men and boys. The story of married women being disposed of property at the passing of their husbands or at the dissolution of marriage has been told and condemned. However, the story of men suffering at the hands of women and girls has not been told. Today we will tell the tale of one man who suffered the worst form of gender violence at the hands of women.
Mr Luhanga (not real name) met a lady at Nchalo in Chikwawa (not Chikhwawa). Both were in their early 20s. Mr Luhanga was working in the Sucoma (now Illovo) plantation. They married. They had children. They lived together until retirement. Per Chakamwini marriage tradition, the Luhangas constructed a home near Molere, Thyolo, the wife’s maternal home. They ran some businesses to keep themselves afloat. They lived there happily until Mrs Luhanga died.
Two months after Mrs Kuhanga’s passing, Mr Luhanga, now aged over 80, was summoned by the village that included his own female and male children. There he was told to leave and go to his home immediately because ‘what brought him there was no longer there’.
‘But my children. I have children. I built a house here. I am old. I have not been to Hewe since I was 25 years old. I considered this place my home!’
‘Sorry, dad, but that’s how things are here,’ his own son told him, ‘You shall indeed leave. Mudzipita kwanu.’
Mr Luhanga left Molere with a briefcase and some money for his transportation. He went to Blantyre and lodged with his nephew. He died there three months later. He is buried at HHI cemetery with an inscription: ‘died of female violence and material dispossession’.
Next week, we will tell the tale of a wife who killed his army captain husband and took away all the benefits without sharing even a single tambala with her late husband’s relations, including his mother and father.
In these five remaining days of activism against gender-based violence, we will be remembering the victims of female violence against men.
DJ, some music, please: Overtoun Chimombo, Jenda, from the album, Makolo.