Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Barriers to the Utilisation of Provisions of the Zimbabwean Domestic Violence Act among Abused Christian Women in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Barriers to the Utilisation of Provisions of the Zimbabwean Domestic Violence Act among Abused Christian Women in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

Background and Significance

Violence against women has been of great international concern and has received much attention. It has come to be described as a global pandemic because of its devastating consequences on the abused and society in general. Violence against women knows no racial, geographical, cultural, religious, or linguistic boundaries, thereby affecting women of all walks of life. While female-perpetrated violence has been researched and documented, male-perpetrated violence against females is the most frequently reported (Chibber & Krishnan, 2011; Ilika, 2005; Shaw & Lee, 2009; Townsend, 2008; Yigzaw, Berhane, Deyessa, & Kaba, 2010). From a feminist perspective, violence against women is a consequence and reinforcer of patriarchy (Christiansen, 2010; Gnanadason, 2012; Knickmeyer, 2004; Prinsloo, 2007). In 1993, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women which offered the first official definition of violence against women (Ilika, 2005). The UN General Assembly defined violence against women as any act of gender-based violence, which results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts (Ilika, 2005). Apart from the UN General Assembly, some international conferences such as the World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993), the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), and the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) have also addressed violence against women and identified it as an issue of global importance (Sturke, 2008).

One of the most common forms of violence against women is domestic violence. The UN has endorsed the view that domestic violence is a women's issue (Amirthalingam, 2003), notwithstanding that males can also fall victim to female-perpetrated violence within the domestic sphere. Domestic violence has emerged as one of the primary public policy concerns in countries around the world.

Domestic violence in the form of intimate partner violence is quite common, and it is this type of violence that this paper concerns itself with. Focus is on intimate partner violence against women in heterosexual relationships. The terms domestic violence, domestic abuse, intimate partner violence, spousal violence or abuse shall be used interchangeably although the term domestic violence shall be the most frequently used. Informed by a feminist perspective, this study focused on violence by men against women.

An increase in cases of domestic violence in Zimbabwe gave rise to the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act (hereinafter the Act) in 2006. The Act was put in place with the aim of protecting victims of domestic violence. Osirim's (2003) recommendation that "Zimbabwe needs to move in the direction of South Africa with respect to legislation that fully criminalises domestic violence" (p. 165) was addressed by the enactment of the Act in 2006.

According to Section 3 of the Act (Zimbabwe 2006, subsection 1) domestic violence includes (among others):

   any unlawful act, omission or behaviour which results in death or
   the direct infliction of physical, sexual, or mental injury to any
   complainant by a respondent and includes the following: physical
   abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse,
   economic abuse, intimidation, and harassment.

A victim of domestic violence seeking relief from the abuse may report the violence to a police officer who may arrest the perpetrator or advise the victim or his/her representative to apply for a protection order. A protection order is a document that a magistrate signs and is aimed at protecting the complainant from serious or substantial harm or discomfort or inconvenience, whether physical, emotional or economic (Nawaz, Nawaz, & Majeed, 2008; Zimbabwe 2006, Section 9). The Act was a major accomplishment that acknowledged the seriousness of violence against women in Zimbabwe. …

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