A few days ago, I witness an event which has left an indelible mark on me. My perception about violence against women has been forever altered…
One afternoon, a middle age couple grabbed all the attention on a crowded streets when the husband started throwing abusive words and threats to his wife across the street. He was an educated man, carrying a child in one whilst making authoritative gestures with the other. His voice was loud enough to be heard across the streets and beyond. Attention shifted from him to the other side of the street where the recipient of the abusive behavior was standing.
It was not surprising that the victim was a woman but It was not easy identifying her because of her composure. She wore a smile .Despite the smile, this pregnant lady with a baby at her back had humiliation and shame written all over. All she did was smile.She had this ‘I am used to it’ attitude. After the husband was done humiliating and threatening to slap her, he stormed away in anger and the lady crossed the street to follow him.
I could not help but imagine what was going to happen in their home that night because of how furious he was. Why was the lady smiling? Did she think she deserved a public display of humiliation for whatever preceded this event? How long was she going to stay in this marriage? What was going to happen to the children? Were they victims of his abuse too?
The intriguing aspect of this experience was not so much of the questions that were floating in my mind but that of Ghanaian society’s attitude on violence against women. Nobody approached the abusive man or his victim at the scene. It looked like people thought it was a couple’s fight so no one had the right to interfere. So there he stood abusing her which is probably not the first and won’t be the last time. The silence of passer bys was what really amazed me. Would someone have reacted had he actually moved from threatening to physical abuse? Whose job is it to protect such victims on the spot?
Personally I think the silence of those of us who witnesses such abusive behaviour can be interpreted as condoning women abuse rather than the usual ‘we don’t want to interfere rhetoric. Protecting women against violence should be everybody’s business especially if they are witnesses of the violence. Call a support line to report a case of violence against a woman. As a community we would rather not ‘interfere’ . Someone has to care enough. Someone has to know that abusing a woman publicly or privately is not socially acceptable. Our silence means we condone this behaviour.