Lovania Pertab & Pouba Essoo

Recently, we heard yet one more case of domestic violence: the husband pours boiling oil on the wife who is coming out of the bathroom.

In the background, there is a story of food as he was not happy with the food his wife had cooked. Poor her… she must have rushed from work and prepared some food for the family. All those who prepare food for their family know how this exercise can be difficult at times as one has to take into account what is available at home, scarcity of vegetables, price of food and availability of sufficient time. All those elements must certainly have not gone through the head of that husband because he was hungry as and it was time for his food. He wanted his food ready made for him. And he had a need to punish his wife. What an awful act!

We heard recently on television a very intelligent lady explaining how, when she was working in a textile factory as a supervisor, she knew that the women workers would be beaten each time they had to do overtime, when they returned home, because the husband would not be presented with his dinner in his hands or dinner would be unavailable on time for him, that evening.

It is incredible how many cases of domestic violence, be it verbal or physical, arise around the preparation of a meal. It is indeed unfortunate that we do not have any specific statistics showing the link between domestic violence and food to be served to the husband.

This situation of course is an element of a bigger state of fact: the share of each spouse in the sharing of house chores. In our country, this problem still remains a major issue and may explain why women cannot progress how they would wish to, at work. Some women will tell you that their husband help… but sorry… it is not a question of help here. It is not a question of helping your spouse, it is a question of helping yourself: you also use the toilet, you also dirty your clothes, you also have responsibility when a child is born … and the list can be very, very long.

A fair sharing of house chores: sharing in cleaning the house, sharing in doing the “commissions”, sharing in washing the dirty clothes and ironing them, sharing the responsibilities of taking care of the children … will definitely empower our males and females and our society in general.

How many men can truthfully say that they do their fair share of household chores? Research has recently found that many women have a “surcharge mentale” because they have to take so many decisions about family life: remembering to buy washing liquid, remembering that the child needs a new pair of trousers, remembering that the child needs to be vaccinated, remembering… remembering… and remembering…

Whilst having this “surcharge mentale”, a woman has also to be productive at work and very often, she is subject to a boss who also bullies her or harasses her and who is rarely pleasant to her as any human being should be with another human being.

We, women often reflect why men believe that we have a duty of preparing food for them and do single handed all the house chores. We are smart enough to realise that this is due to a system which is in place from time immemorial and this system serves males. We must also remember that this system continues on and on through the ages because men are in power in all spheres of society and such system serves them well.

To fight back on domestic violence, we must first realise that the men in the home are angry easily for a number of reasons: stress at work, matters not being to their convenience, unavailability of food, drug addiction, alcoholism, jealousy and so on and so on….

All the solutions proposed in our country are not working. The law is not working. The implementation of the law is not working…. Men are blatantly breaching protection orders.

Why are we always focusing on the victims of domestic violence with very often their names and pictures published in the press and broadcast in the media? It is time to acknowledge that women victims of violence do not want society to pity them and nor do they only want for such as information to be sold in the media. They want their rights as human beings to be respected and also that the authorities see to it that the laws are enforced.

It is high time that the Ministry of Gender Equality realises that the strategies worked out, the approach adopted, and the mechanisms set up to deal with the problems of Domestic Violence are all outdated.  The focus has for too long been on the victims (which we are not contesting) but nothing has been done in parallel to take the perpetrators to task.

It is high time that Government realises that amendments to the Protection from Domestic Violence Act will only improve the image of the country in Regional and International Organisations but not that of the victims. The main problem lies with the ineffectiveness in enforcing the provisions of the present law and the weaknesses of the system.

We therefore propose, among other actions, that:

  • The target of domestic violence must no longer be the victim. Of course, the victim must be taken care of and protected. We believe the target must be the perpetrators. They must be explained as from pre-primary school and at HOME, that they are not the “nombril de la terre”. They must be taught about anger management. They must learn good manners. They must learn how to show respect …
  • A thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of the mechanisms be set up at the different key institutions handling this matter i.e the Gender & Family Units of the Ministry of Gender Equality, the Police Family Protection Unit, the Intermediary courts. This will help to identify the loopholes and weaknesses in the system which has so far not brought the expected results and work on a plan of action to be implemented in the best interests of the victims and for the rehabilitation of the agressors.
  • National educational and sensitisation programmes that focus on the cultural and religious barriers and other unwritten rules in society that prevent a woman from enjoying her equal rights as a Human being.