Screams woke me up from my tiny boarding school bed. Again! besides being forced to sleep on a ridiculously tiny bed after paying costly fees at this “ivy league” secondary school, were they now going to rob me of my sleep? But I couldn’t blame them. It was that time of the year or should I say that day of the year- Valentine’s day! Valentine’s day was a big deal here. It was on this day that girls received gifts from their boyfriends and their classmates waited to rate the love between couples based on the quality of gifts received. Well, your couple received high ratings if you received fancy electronics (Phones), trendy shoes/clothes, chocolates or flowers (in that order). Every gift a girl received was generously accompanied by her classmates’ screams and announcements for the jury to gather and deliver judgement on the quality of the gift. You will hear things like “girls!!!!! you people should come oooh !!! XYZ has received her vals gift from HQR” this statement will be followed by ear-piercing screams and enquiries on the content of the gift.
Years after leaving that school, valentine’s day still brings back fond memories of our peculiar method of measuring love, which often leads me to ponder on other issues in our community that we shelter under the canopy of love. Domestic violence is one of them and yes, this article is going to be about that. In many societies, especially in Africa, domestic violence is a commonly perpetrated and almost normalized form of violence against women. What is domestic violence? In general, domestic violence may be an on-going pattern of coercive control which may Increase in severity over time and may be complicated since a victim and perpetrator often share financial, social and familial tie. Domestic violence takes different forms including shoving, slapping, punching, kicking, throttling, biting, assault with objects, guns, knives or any other dangerous weapons. Sexual Abuse may include: rape (yes rape exists even between married couples), attempted rape, indecent assault. Equally, on-going verbal abuse with sexual slurs such as “bitch, whore, slut, etc”. When this evil occurs, the blame is often shifted to women being provocative and not submissive.
In my teenage years, I recall being in a taxi and driving by a man verbally abusing his wife while witnesses sat in silence, pointing fingers and giggling. This quickly sparked a conversation among the passengers I shared my taxi with. Some called it a phase in love, saying that the couple will be stronger after the violence while others thought the man should have “corrected” his wife at home and not in a public space. I was struck by their numbness to the central problem and their willingness to rename the problem to love or correction. A wise person once said, “the first step to solving a problem is identifying it and giving it a name.” I think it is time to stop sugar-coating violence and start acknowledging it for what it is-Violence. So, I ask, will you accept a punch as a valentine’s day gift? The answer will be a resounding no, because violence does not equate love (and a Lamborghini will do duhh) . If you are celebrating valentine’s day with your significant other today, endeavor to treat each other everyday, the way you treat each other on this day; with love and respect. Happy valentine’s day.