There is a new nkhoswe for most families now readily available. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a place where most victims of gender-based violence are seeking relief, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s called the Victim Support Unit. Located in the confines of the police station, the VSU has become the safe haven that victims can run to. CHEU MITA explores the benefits of the VSU in this article.
Mr and Mrs Kalazi of Mtema Village in Lilongwe have become a model family in the area of gender-based violence. The family agrees that had it not been for the VSU, they would have divorced because of what the man used to do to his wife.
“I used to beat my wife up. Since she reported the issue to VSU, we are now happy,” said Mr Kalazi adding, “Nkhoswe yathu ndi VSU (Our counsellor is VSU).”
The family was speaking to journalists at a workshop jointly organised by UNFPA and Men for Gender Equality Now (Megen).
Mrs Kalazi explained how she used to spend sleepless nights scared that her husband would beat her up when he came from drinking.
“He used to beat me up. He would pick me up and drop me on the floor. Sometimes I slept in the toilet (outside) or in a bush scared that I could be killed,” she said.
The man too attested to the degrading acts.
“We used to go drinking as a group, then one of us would suggest he would beat up his wife and we would all follow,” said Mr Kalazi admitting that he now realises it was all bad.
The wife was abused from 1994 to 2006 when the VSU intervened. After all the counselling from the unit, they are now used as a model family to teach others of the dangers of gender-based violence and they named their fourth and last born child Gender.
Mrs Kalazi is also chairperson of a gender-based violence group in her village.
So what is the job of a VSU?
According to Sub Inspector Wells Munthali of Kanengo Police, the VSU takes care of gender-based violence a safety issue that is oftentimes hidden in the home.
“Gender-based violence encompasses the many forms of violence against women and girls based on ideas and condemnations about their gender,” said Munthali.
Munthali noted that most victims usually do not report abuse because they fear the breadwinner may be removed from the home or sent to jail or have a criminal record.
“In Malawi, most abusers are in a position of power over their victims,” said Munthali
At the VSU, families are counselled and a rights- based approach is used to ensure everyone enjoys their rights.
“We apply legal redress mechanisms using Sec. 13 (1)(a), Sec.20, Sec 23 and 24 of Malawi Constitution,” he said. The sections ensure equality to women and children in all spheres of life.
The VSU like that at Kanengo Police, which is a model police station, has a building with beds to keep stranded victims overnight and in extreme cases, perpetrators are arrested and prosecuted.