Gender based violence is generally defined as violence directed at a person based on their gender. Domestic violence which is also a form of gender-based violence includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse as well as economic abuse, harassment, intimidation or damage to property.
According to the Domestic Violence Act cap 28: 05 S2 economic violence is defined as the ‘the deprivation or threat thereof of economic resources to which the applicant is entitled under the law, or which the applicant requires out of necessity, including household necessities for the applicant and any child, and mortgage bond repayments or rental payments of the residence; or the disposal, alienation or threat thereof of household effects or other property in which the applicant has an interest. Applicant under Section 2 of the said act refers to any person who alleges to have been subjected to domestic violence and in this article, Applicant refers to a woman.
Examples of economic abuse against women in a marriage includes; the husband denying his wife a chance to advance her studies in spite of the couple having the means for advancement of the wife’s studies, when the male partner unilaterally makes all the financial decisions in the home and uses his stronger financial muscle to dominate his wife, when the husband refuses or fails to contribute to the financial upkeep of the home. In some cases, married women may be swimming in opulence with their children, but still have their husbands excluding them financial decisions in the home. Affluence experienced by women and children in the home therefore does not necessarily indicate lack of economic abuse. Studies show that the main cause of economic abuse is poverty and lack of empowerment amongst women. Women who are poor and uninformed mostly tend to get into relationships or marriage with the hope that marriage would be a refuge from their financial woes.
In treating marriage or love relationships as a haven from economic distress such women’s chances of economic abuse from their partners multiply greatly, especially if they are married or dating possessive, controlling and extremely jealous spouses. The fact that most poverty-stricken women mostly end up in economically abusive relationships should not be misconstrued to mean that all poor women are gold diggers. There are multiples of principled poor women who in spite of their economic condition still value love and family over money and are far from being materialistic. Moreover, some of the disadvantaged women in economically abusive relationships stay in such relationships not necessarily because of their love for money; it may be a stay born from desperation; the woman may not know how she will survive with her kids if she left the relationship or spoke out against abuse.
In some instances, however, women may be well off and empowered and yet still suffer economic abuse from their spouses; this may arise if one is married to a controlling or irresponsible man.
When in a perpetually economically abusive relationship, the empowered woman stands a greater chance of having her relationship remedied and improved because it’s easier for her to speak out in comparison to a poverty-stricken woman as she does not view her husband as a bank of some sort; a bank that can withhold money from her and their kids if such bank is displeased by her conduct or speaking out. Economic abuse widens the success gap between men and women. It also disempowers women incrementally as it kills their confidence. Moreover, children born from such a home are most likely to be victims of economic abuse in the future as we become what we have seen in most instances unless there is new information or revelation that breaks the cycle of abuse that we have witnessed in our lives.
The greatest tool to conquering economic abuse is empowering women. Once women are empowered, they can be free to choose who to love and get married to without treating marriage as a road to financial stability or staying in abusive relationships out of desperation.
There ought to be more programs in our communities specifically aimed at empowering women. By empowering and liberating women, chances of their children getting empowered and escaping economic abuse in their future intimate relationships mount up.
• Gaone Monau is a Practicing attorney and Motivational speaker. For bookings on gender-based violence awareness seminars, motivational talks or consultations on relationships, confidence building, stress management and self-discovery contact +26774542732 or [email protected] Her Facebook page is Be Motivated with Gaone.