Domestic Violence in Ethiopia
Many men claim that men and women are equal or they will say I don’t abuse women and its common to hear them saying we are treated equally but the truth is very different. Many women around the world are victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is an abusive behavior usually at home that is mostly involving a spouse and a partner. Domestic violence is a serious issue all over the world especially in a country where gender inequality still exists. Women in Ethiopia face high rate of domestic violence because of the cultural beliefs and a lack of resource, so feminist need to focus on changing the law and expanding economic opportunity for women.
Many counties in the world nowadays recognize domestic abuse as a main human right abuse. Ethiopia is one of the country that has a long history and a high rate in women abuse in many forms. The abuse can cause lots of health consequences in the women life and in some case, it can also affect the family that surround the women. Because women are the one who takes all the responsibility in the house the cooking, raising kids, cleaning, fetching water almost everything except for being the source of the income. Mom not being around because of physical or emotional abuse will cause lots of misfunction in the family.
Cultural belief is the main reason for domestic violence against women in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia it’s common for man to be dominant in family. In their article Semahegn and Mengistie states women are usually the victims of domestic violence that derives from unequal power relationship between men and women (Semahegn and Mengistie p.2). Mostly Man are the one who provide the family financially and women take the responsibility in the house work and raising kids. This unbalanced resource sharing causes man to be more powerful in the house and in many case to be violent in their relationship. In his book Burns states that For example in Ethiopia where IPV rate is among the world highest (71 percent),79 percent of women interviewed felt wife beating was justified if a woman disobeyed her husband (WHO),2005). (Burn p.28). Many women are expected to keep husband abuse as a secret and if she happens to tell anyone it is considered as disrespect to her husband and might face discrimination from the society and her parents. The discrimination in the society can affect the women psychologically and will make the women to keep the violence as a secret.
Arranged marriage increase the chance of Domestic abuse in women. In arranged marriage women who get in to marriage have zero chance to know her husband; it’s basically parent’s agreement and the man interest in the girl is the main part of this arranged marriage. Not knowing your future husband will limit the women chance of having a good understanding of her spouse. Sometimes the spouses might have some bad behaviors like infidelity, alcohol addiction or drug addiction. In their article Semahegn and Mengistie states Domestic violence links with wide range of reproductive health issue such as sexual transmitted diseases including HIV, miscarriage, risky sexual health behavior (Semahegn and Mengistie p.2). Infidelity can affect the women by lowering her self-esteem that can risk the women to commit suicide. The other risk of infidelity is it will make the women exposed to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS and this woman are mostly unaware if they are affected by this diseased that again can risk their life by lack of medical attention and treatments. This woman not getting the medical attention they need can cause death at early age.
Early marriage is the other reason for domestic violence in Ethiopia. Early marriage is a marriage before the age of 18. According to the article by Erulkar states In regions where child marriage is still common, cultural belief and social norms generally upholds the practice (Erulkar p.6). Girls who get married before the age of 18 usually are victims of domestic violence because usually this girl come from a place with high poverty, low economic development and low education opportunity’s. This girl got merried at early marriage are mostly disadvantageous because they don’t have the skill and the education to decide in the marriage. And the shift from living with parents to form your own family at early age and taking all the commitment and motherhood delays the girls chance of going back to school that indirectly make her a victim of abuse.
Cultural belief also limits women from achieving higher education. A woman with no education has no income that makes her dependent of her husband. This economic dependence can influence her decision making in the family issue and if she happen to disagree with her husband decision she will face domestic violence. The article by BMC women’s health states Beside this cultural obstruction, there seems to be further economic restriction among the poor uneducated women where these restriction makes it difficult for them to start even small scale income-producing work (Lailulo, Sathiya and Blignaut p.7). In many Ethiopian culture when the husband asks his wife parent to marry her its common to ask him if he have income and if he is able to provide for his family and no one will ask about the wife background such as her education and income. What’s expected from the wife to have is her virginity that’s has a big value for a woman to have in Ethiopian culture This stereotype in the society makes the women to be dependent on her husband and to become less confident.
As a tradition, in Ethiopian retaining virginity until marriage is a norm. In rural area of Ethiopian where this norm is displayed boldly that women are expected to stay virgin until marriage. If the woman before marriage claims herself as a virgin and happen not to be virgin she will face lot of discrimination from her parents and abuse from her husband. Mostly this expectation results a physical abuse that can go away after a while but the physiological effect has a huge impact on the women everyday life to be treated as liar, useless and not trustworthy.
In the traditional religious belief man are always dominant and considered to be the head of the house, in the two-main religious group in Ethiopia Christian and Muslim. In both religion women are always taught to be respectful to their husband and to be patient with him or his bad behaviors. Women are responsible for the peace of the family even a woman happen to be a victim of domestic violence the society don’t want the women to go to the law enforcement she is forced to go to religious place get consultancy from the priests or stay home.
The first step to end domestic value start with by making sure everyone in the society have a full understanding of the problem and accept it still exists. Creating the awareness starts from each family to the community. This can be achieved by providing a chance for open discussion in the community that involves victim and men’s who play a greater role in this abusive behavior.
Domestic violence has been a serious issue in Ethiopia for a very long time until this day. The other way we can use to tackle this social issue is by encouraging girls to go school, to achieve higher educated and to become successful in life that indirectly help them become independent, strong and decision maker in their family. Many girls Having the access to education also allow them to discuss about these issue with their teacher or their peers that will be a stress reliefer.
Ethiopia have a very weak system of Law enforcement in protecting women right according to the article by Berhane Limited access to legal service, insensitivity of law enforcement bodies, and the general poor status of women in the society are some of the main reasons that accounted for the continuation of domestic violence despite the better legal and constitutional provision (Berehane p.132). For instance, there is a Movie called Hermila that was made based on true story of a girl. The story is about a girl from Ethiopia who was all over the news one time. Hermela was a victim of domestic violence because she refuses to be a girlfriend to a man. The guy spills acid in her face and make her life go upside down. He totally damages her face and her body that leave her with a serious health issue that takes her life away at the end. What was very sad is that the guy who commit this physical abuse was raised after a few years of jail time. What every woman learn from this incidence is that how the low enforcement is weak in taking a serious action and they have no chance to choose the person they want to leave with. It leaves every girl with a fear of going through the same situation that Hermela has to deal with.
Women in Ethiopia face high rate of domestic violence because of the cultural beliefs and a lack of resource, so feminist need to focus on changing the law and expanding economic opportunity for women. This domestic violence caused by for several factors such as early marriage, arranged marriage, religious views, traditional norms ,lack of resources and opportunities. The key to overcome this social issue that feminist need to work on is by providing a chance to have open discussion in the community. The other solution is encouraging women to achieve higher education and become independent and become income generator in their family and to strength the law enforcement system in giving justice to the victims that will give a good lesson for others. By doing so Ethiopia can overcome the violence against women and encourage other countries to be part of the movement.