Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why do we allow domestic violence?

Seated outside on my veranda, taking a break, I overheard a couple of women talking.

The day is beautiful. Very beautiful.

A sky of the palest shade of blue, not too bright like late in the day, nearer noon. Where I am there are trees. I had never appreciated how much this much green around me lifts my mood. It is lush. It is plentiful. It is fantastic.

Yes, many a day I look out and appreciate the fact that this land of ours is beautiful.

These ladies were talking about an acquaintance. A relative or something to one of them. The lady had died. And it was suspected that the husband had battered her to death.

I listened to this story with tears in my eyes. Could not but be affected, because there is something very wrong when a problem is seen and one does not do anything about it.

The dead woman was a mother of two. One a 3 year old. Another younger, apparently. The husband, the presumed murderer was known as a wife beater. He had beaten her many times, and the woman’s family knew. And her brothers knew. Apparently it was so well known that an in-law, a white man who had married into the family demanded why they did not do something about their sister. They seemed helpless. They did not intervene.

So the woman died. And burial was arranged. And it was then that one of the dead woman’s brothers filed a complaint with the police. And discovered that the poor woman had gone as far as asking for help from the police. She had reported her husband once, when the guy threatened to shoot her.

The police went to the family’s place. They arrested the man, and took the body for a post mortem.

I was appalled as I listened to this litany of failures. I listened as the women congratulated each other that now the man would understand, that men would now understand. That the in-law family was incensed, had decided to take away the body of their dead sister and bury her on their family grounds. That the alleged murderer was free on police bond, and had demanded and got back the younger child.

Those I was eavesdropping on were African women. There was no despair, no anger in them at the apparent failures of everybody on behalf of the poor dead woman. There was only rejoicing that their husbands would (maybe) take note of what had happened. That now (too late for me) there would be repercussions.

As a man, an African man, I feel like I am filth. This, surely, this is not what happens in my family. This is not what my culture condones!!!!!

It is true, our cultures differ. But it is a fact that in general, the African man universally seems to have the right to beat his woman. The police does not intervene. Most in-laws dare not intervene until its too late. My lover does in his family, protecting his sisters.

And that was the end of a marriage which was apparently celebrated at Rubaga Cathedral less than five years ago.

Shit happens. Yes.

But the freshness was taken out of the day for me. Sometimes I wonder how unjust the world is. That is why I wrote that poem on perfection. I do want a fair world. Yet it seems everywhere I am surrounded by unfairness.

Yet the poster-card picture perfection of my surroundings still is. The birds are singing purely. The grass is green. The shrubs are touched by a cool breeze to my skin too. This is a very beautiful country. A pity that we, proud as we are of our selves as Africans, as Ugandans, do not see the misery that we cause in our own families.

Usikelele Africa.

A god, any god, which I fail to acknowledge.



Anonymous said...

that's really sad. most of the time, it can really be hard to convince someone who is being abused to leave the man. but in this case she actually tried to...

have u been to bwindi forest? the way you are writing about trees, you would love it there. it is one of my favourite places... the sounds are so magically soothing, the air so fresh... just like a little piece of heaven.

gayuganda said...

Hi Cindy,

yeah, I understand that it can be difficult.
You know what, I was talking to some one who asked whether there are any shelters for women like this in Uganda. I dont know of any. Not even in Kampala.
I know FIDA is active, but I can imagine a woman in this situation, having a hell for home, with two young children. I think as a community we fail them.

No. I have not been to Bwindi. Would love to go there. Maybe one day.

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