The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence began on Tuesday.
Since 1991 individuals, civil society and governments have used the campaign as a global organising strategy in the fight against all forms of violence against women.
But sadly for the young woman in my story this week, it would seem that it has been a losing battle.
Our communities continue to wrestle with gender-based violence that rears its ugly head in different shades and forms.
We may not see the gun-totting murdereras envisaged in this year’s campaign theme – ‘Let’s challenge militarism and end violence against women,’ but in our daily relationship dynamics we encounter individuals whose insecure attitude breaks out into full-blown violence and threatens the peace we desire.
I will expose how the young lady in this week’s case from the kgotlacould not develop boundaries for a safe space between her and her abusive husband because of her daughter’s volatile emotions.
Although only 33, Hala had waited 15 years for Sentsho to finalise the marriage process through Patlo and Bogadi.
In the time they had lived together the couple were blessed with a lovely daughter – Ina.
Blessed as they were, sadly Hala confessed that she had never really been happy in her relationship with Sentsho – a hard-core alcoholic and gambler.
But encouraged by his tears of remorse and sober promise that he would part ways with the bottle, she lived in the hope that one day he would change.
Hala had attempted to abandon the malfunctioning union many times, but Ina, her now teenage daughter, would sulk, go on hunger strike and skip school because she did not want her mum to divorce.
At the time of seeking a customary court divorce, Hala had attended many counselling sessions with parents, pastors and social workers.
The outcome was always a promise backed by tears, but little else.
Sentsho would plead with Hala that Ina needed both parents and she must be strong for the sake of their daughter.
A date of hearing was set and Hala led the discussion by giving a summary of her grounds as follows:
• Sentsho spent most of his time at a joint in the neighbourhood drinking and playing cards with friends.
• Every month end his first stop was the casino and consequently they had been evicted from one home to the other causing trauma to their daughter.
• Hala had thought prayer and patience would do the trick, but in recent months Sentshohad stepped up his violent assaults, demanding with a slap across the face that she must finance his drinking habit.
• Sentsho had been detained many times for threat to kill and each time the police came for him Ina would refuse to go to school.
Ina’s emotional tantrums whenever her dad was arrested forced Hala to withdraw charges.
At least Hala received the full support of her in-laws who believed that both Sentsho and Ina hadtrapped Hala into remaining in an emotional prison.
As the litany of his crimes against the family replayed itself in court, Sentsho once again appeared suitably sorrowful.
With a well-placed tear in his eye he asked Hala to explainwho would take care of him if she left, informing the kgotla that everybody in the family knew that “nnakesegolesalona”- meaning ‘I am a cripple.’
Exasperated an aunt who had raised Sentsho requested to cross-examine him.
Question: Do you want a wife or a caretaker?
Answer: Ga kere tiro ya mosadi ke go tlhokomela(I thought the job of a woman was to take care).
Question: If she is a caretaker how much do you pay her?
Answer: Sentsho scratched his head in embarrassment – his mumbled response was unintelligible.
Question: Why do you take money from Hala by force?
Answer: Sentsho’s face registers shame and frustration.
He smiles sheepishly – no words are offered in explanation.
Hala was granted a divorce and division of their property, as little as there was that remained after Sentsho’s addiction had taken its financial toll.
Bizarrely, as the proceedings came to a close and Sentshostruggled to come to terms with reality of his situation, his only comment (more to himself than anyone else) was to wonder how it was that the homes of his drinking pals and fellow gamblers were still intact.
This scenario highlights different aspects of gender based violence, ranging as it does from emotional trauma that engulfs innocent children, to physical and psychological abuse from a bullying husband suffering from the destructive sicknesses of alcoholism and gambling.
As we commemorate the 16 days of activism, what is feared most is not the gun totting maniac, but violence within the home that renders the search for peace permanently illusive.
American novelist Zelda Fitzgerald says: “Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold…”
Let me urge you not to overload your heart with the issues of abuse for the sake of your daughter or conformity with the world standard.
Shout for help and in return help build peaceful families.
Only you can set the boundaries of peace.