Social violence is rooted in the family

Several forms of violence exist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), although there is there is a specific area of violence that has generated considerable concern. That is domestic violence between individuals in relationship –  meaning, a man and woman who are involved in domestic violence.

In general, social violence exists because it has roots in the family, meaning that society fosters it.

Domestic violence generates poverty, though it is also sometimes caused by poverty.

In an exchange with COFAPRI women, we learned a lot reasons why abused women often experience poverty: because of men’s violence in the home.

Abused women bear their moral, spiritual and material wounds, so they are helpless to overcome husbands’ abuse. This is often caused by the patriarchal motivation of men who yearn domination over women in society and in their home.

Domestic violence in the DRC is often perpetrated by partners and close family members on women, and it has long been an acute issue that is kept under silent suffering within the four walls of the household. According to women, most men often abuse, discriminate against, and batter family members – particularly the woman, because of man’s internal psychological struggles for asserting maleness and power over women.

DRC Men:  Heavily dependent on women

Usually, DRC men who batter are seeking a sense of power and control over their partners or their own lives, or because they are tremendously dependent on the woman and are threatened by any moves on her part towards independence.

Some DRC men batter because that's the only way they know how to be close to or relate to a partner. Other men grew up in violent households, where they watched their mothers abused by their fathers and where they themselves were abused. And then, there are men who become violent under the influence of drugs or alcohol –  although the substances themselves do not cause the violence.

For the reasons above, projects have been implemented that contribute to an understanding of domestic violence prevalence and factors associated with it.

Domestic Violence remains pervasive among all DRC women

In the DRC, domestic violence remains particularly all-pervasive among all women, but varying in volume and frequency across class, age and education level.

Further inequalities existing in the DRC household, as represented by education and employment gaps between husbands and wives cannot be separated from domestic violence. This is what makes domestic violence in the DRC generate a neat and significant impact upon the survival of the household economy.

Some DRC women who attempt to evade abusive men often meet devastating economic impacts. This because majority of DRC women, particularly in remote villages, did not attend school, and those who did are not allowed by their husbands to seek jobs outside their homes.

Those who are forced to do so are sometimes considered as unbearable women or prostitutes.

In the minds of some men, a woman was made to stay home and feed her children.

What will happen if the woman....

But what will happen if the woman does not produce children?

Or again, do some women study to keep their degrees in the home?

This is actually what contributes to some DRC underdevelopment and severe poverty. Once this man who has always refused his wife to seek job dies, the wife will suffer a lot to feed the children as she has no job.

Some women do not tolerate such domination and discrimination. For the woman who works, leaving a relationship might mean she will lose her job, housing, health care, child care, or access to her partner’s income.

Often, criminal and civil legal remedies are necessary to safely leave a relationship; however, these remain ineffective in the DRC.

Any woman who tries to take her husband to justice for domestic violence will be looked at as anti-social; she may be told that this is an issue between her and  her  husband.

In fact, such a paternalistic attitude supports the abuser: it empowers him more. He may even become more aggressive to this woman. DRC women are at highest risk of injury or violence when they are separating from or divorcing a partner.

Women can be very intimidated by a partner and the consequences of her leaving. It takes a long time for a woman to give up hope in a relationship and to recognize that the only way she can be safe is to leave him.

Legislation: Focus on anti-poverty programmes

DRC legislation, policy, services and advocacy should often focus on physically separating the battered woman and her children from the abusive partner.

But this again raises a question, will they guarantee her and her children a home, food of health care or an opportunity for long-term financial stability?

The truth is that anti-poverty schemes should be thought of, which would focus on increasing economic resources and access to program for women abused.

This actually should deal with appropriate ways to address the impact of violence on family’s basic human needs and do much in order to prevent a partner to harm the wife’s job.

Poverty reduces options for battered women in the DRC. Safety planning strategies require significant life changes like moving, separation or divorce. Some require extensive use of the civil legal system to obtain orders for custody, child support or protection.

A woman must be able to financially support herself and her children after she leaves her abusive partner.

In this vein, the DRC government should set up programs that provide housing and temporary cash assistance, child care, and free legal representation. However, these programs require funds for running, as these women have no jobs, meaning that they are husband-dependent and as a result, these low or almost no-income battered women simply are without the income, have no government support, or access to different services that could help them. 

DRC women face a good deal of challenges.

We believe that rights are valuable to individual freedom, but do not take into account issues of gender justice within the family and community, which currently fails to shed light on the role of women as primary victims of poverty as they voluntarily give up their own rights to nutrition and health for their family members.

Poor women are beset by ill-health, lack of resources

Another point is that ill-health remains one of the major factors besetting poor women in the DRC. Statistics tell us more about such a situation. Gendered differences are reflected in patterns of health and illness inside the DRC.

The lack of nutrition and resources, combined with increased pressure on their multiple gender roles due to other family members’ ill health and changing economic opportunities, make poor women more vulnerable and more likely to delay treatment.

As an illustration, in the remote villages of the DRC, women who are inflicted with HIV-AIDS range mostly among the majority of poor women. Poor women’s lack of control over their sexuality and fertility makes them far more vulnerable to HIV-AIDS and other STDs.

In addition, the culture of some rural communities can make it more difficult for women to seek help.

In most DRC communities, men and women strongly stay in traditional roles where there is less awareness of domestic violence and its impact on victims and children. These are communities where it is harder for domestic violence victims to seek out the resources they need.

All this is fostered by social beliefs that admit that a woman must bear the husband’s abuse.

In DRC remote villages, domestic violence victims are in more isolated locations and many keep this as a secret, which makes them not seek health care and other services.

Of course,  due to poverty, lack of transportation, and information, abused women stay in their homes with their wounds and pains. Emergency response does not exist at all –  and in case there is, it is often very slow that after a long period, the victim gives up.

If the country was endowed with telephone lines and if the women were educated about how to report domestic violence, this would be very helpful.

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