By Florence Gichoya
Most survivors of gender based violence (GBV) continue to lack post-trauma care. Recent statistics given by Deputy Minister of Gender and Child Development, Emerine Kabanshi, reveal that available places of safety do not meet service demands of survivors. According to Ms Kabanshi, last year 11,908 cases of gender-based violence occurred countrywide.
The gloomy reality is that only 2,170 cases were pursued for legal redress in the courts of law, hence most survivors have been denied justice. Could it be the massive variation in occurrence and reported figures are a result of survivors lacking moral support in pursuit of justice?
Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) is one organisation that offers post-trauma care through survivors’ places of safety. However, this effort cannot match the recent reported rise in cases of defilement, rape and domestic violence.
According to YWCA Executive Director, Patricia Mphanza Ndhlovu, “it is imperative to have places of safety that offer refuge to survivors especially in situations when a perpetrator is at large and threatens a survivor’s life. For now, as a nation we are dealing with gender based violence in a reactive and not proactive manner.”
YWCA since 1996 protects women and children who have undergone physical or sexual abuse in its two shelters in Lusaka and two others in Kasama and Kitwe.
“When the life of a survivor is endangered by the perpetrator, we offer accommodation on temporary basis until the victim testifies in court” says Ms Ndhlovu. While a survivor receives refuge and other services such as legal and medical, psychological support remains cardinal, particularly after a violent act.
In addition to that while survivors are housed in the shelters, they are taken through counselling with focus on reintegration into their communities. They also receive legal advice and YWCA achieves this in close collaboration with Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA).
No survivor foresees being assaulted and when it happens many are too devastated and lack awareness on avenues to take to access justice. Ms Ndhlovu stresses that it is generally assumed that once the culprit is arrested and charged that meets the survivor’s healing and continues enjoying normal life. This is far from the truth; the survivor’s life is shattered and needs restoration in order to integrate back to usual life.
The new anti-GBV Act offers protection of survivors, but cases abounds of instances where the victims are bribed or threatened to drop the cases, especially in instances where the perpetrator is a relative. These are situations that call for institutional protection of survivors.
Part four compels the government to put up and run centres of safety for child and adult survivors of GBV using its resources.
Article 24 stipulates that the minister responsible for social welfare shall:
(a) From money appropriated by parliament for that purpose, establish and operate shelters for victims; and
(b) Ensure an appropriate spread of such shelters throughout Zambia.
Government is yet to set up recovery and protection centres for GBV survivors. Take the case of Kenya that has a leading gender violence recovery centre (GVRC) in Africa that draws its success on continual support from the government, private companies and well-wishers. Since its inception in 2001, the centre has provided free medical care and counselling to over 20,000 GBV survivors.
The centre, which was pioneered by Dr Sam Nthenya, founder of Nairobi Women’s Hospital, is a beacon of hope in that it restores wholesome healing to survivors and their families.
The centre was pioneered after realising the gap in the healthcare for women who have gone through sexual and physical violence. The centre now serves as referral centre for sexual assault cases in Kenya.
This is possible in Zambia only if the private sector and government support the setting up and sustainability of efforts to set up autonomous places of safety countrywide, this would ease access for survivors who would eventually rebuild their lives.
As it is now, when a survivor relocates, the staffs at the places of safety do not follow up due to the limited resources. However, if such facilities were available in their new location they could easily continue receiving care and support through a referral system. Another problem is when there is an occurrence of repeat abuses from the same perpetrator. In that scenario counselling is offered to the couple and family in order to avoid further conflict.
Still, if more centres were put up, more GBV survivors would be helped and the pattern of abuse would drastically drop.