Men too are victims of gender-based violence

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By Ben Twinomugisha

Posted  Friday, December 20  2013 at  00:00

Starting with November 25, 2013, Uganda joined the rest of the world in the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, an annual campaign that for more than 20 years, has aimed at eradicating violence. Gender-based violence should be understood to include all acts perpetrated against women, men, girls and boys on the basis of their sex which cause or could cause them physical, sexual, psychological and economic harm. Gender-based violence may lead to deprivation of fundamental freedoms in private or public life.

Domestic violence is the key gender-based violence problem in Uganda. Actions to eradicate domestic violence in Uganda largely address women’s and girl’s vulnerabilities. Such a one-sided approach casts a shadow on the plight of the men and boys who are usually silent about their predicament. While news of violence and crimes against women and girls are reported extensively in the media, there are a growing number of men and boys who are silently facing physical and psychological violence at the hands of their family members and the general public. Notwithstanding the fact that women and girls are more vulnerable to violence, sidelining male victims will have negative consequences on the efforts towards preventing violence.

Uganda that has largely remained a patriarchal society, for a man to admit being harassed by a woman is desperately humiliating and, in a way seen as shameful. Even worse is the fear of humiliation by a husband who wants to go public and declare being abused by his wife. Domestic violence against men in Uganda is not well recognised by the law enforcers with the generalised perception that men cannot be victims of violence.

Like women, men also find it hard to cope with abusive relationships. In reality the situation is worse for men because they cannot easily share their experiences. There is a silent but factual increase in the number of men who are physically or psychologically abused by their spouses. Those silent men who are beaten, denied sex and food, and locked out of houses could be are time bomb hazard. The affected men may appear unhappy, lose their friends, become insecure and talk less. Some resort to spending most of their life in bars a health risk factor that can lead to early death and escalation of HIV infections.

Moreover such individuals could turn out to be fatally violent. In recent times Uganda is experiencing increased cases of men killing their wives.

It is important to note that violence is increasing with scenarios where women especially those with significant incomes and flying careers undermine men’s sense of worth.

In some homes, women lead constant criticism, belittling husband’s abilities and competency, initiating name-calling insults, silent treatment to their husbands and have also mastered the art of manipulation of feelings and emotions to induce guilt, subvert husband’s relationship with the children and repeatedly make and break promises.

The effects of gender-based violence can be devastating and long lasting. To be a man or woman, who lives in abusive environment, may lead to disillusionment and self-destruction. Rather than addressing symptoms through depicting the woman’s face of gender violence, we need to seriously address the causes. The solution is likely to be found in a harmonized and collective approach that deeply addresses the concerns and issues of both women and men.

Mr Twinomugisha is a gender activist.