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Commentary: A hidden problem in Mozambique

A UMNS Commentary
By Maria Helena Feluane*
Oct. 23, 2007

Domestic violence is an issue that affects me, my family and society in general, particularly women and children in Mozambique.

 Maria Helena Feluane works in the Mozambique Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Maria Helena Feluane

Recently a friend called me at my office crying for help. I could not even understand what she was saying. I let her cry until she calmed down.

She said, "I want to die; I have suffered enough in this world. It would be better to leave to another place where I will be in peace and justice. I am tired of being beaten all the time with no reason. I try all my best to make my husband happy, but nothing I do pleases him. I can't stand it anymore."

I tried to calm her down and rushed to her house to give her my shoulder and to listen. As soon as I arrived, she started telling me her story.

"I was beaten just because he did not find me at home," she said. "He says that I must not work outside home, but at the same time he does not give me enough money to feed the family. When I ask money for the home expenses, he insults me saying, I'm a beetle that lives by sucking someone's blood.

"He keeps reminding me that I am not educated, so even if I think of asking for a divorce, I will suffer more because I will not be able to find a job to survive, and I will lose the right of staying with my children.

"He likes sex when I do not feel like it. He forces me. He says that he had paid my lobolo (a bride price, paid to the father of the bride), and I might be seeing someone else."

I could see she was wounded. She did not want to show me her wound in her left arm. She had tried to bandage it and put on a long-sleeved blouse before I arrived, but the wound was fresh. She was bleeding.

I asked her to go to the hospital for treatment. But she said, "If I go to the hospital, they will ask me why I am injured. I am afraid to tell them that I was injured by my husband. They may arrest him. His family will accuse me of sending their relative to jail, and my children will suffer more than they are now. Besides all this, I love my husband. I don't want to see him in jail."

A hidden problem

Domestic violence is a serious and hidden social problem. Violence and abuse within families has major ramifications for all those affected.

All use of violence is unacceptable and prohibited under Mozambican law and represents a violation of fundamental human rights. Every effort must be made to prevent and combat such actions.

"Many women believe their spouses have the right to beat them, and cultural pressures discourage women from taking action."
-Maria Helena Feluane

In Mozambique, for example, there are many causes of domestic violence starting from lack of respect of people, particularly of men for women. Abuse also stems from alcohol abuse and infidelity, lack of civic education, few opportunities for girls' education, economic disadvantages for men and women and cultural realities.

The story reported above is one of many. The effects are so dramatic and sometimes lead to death. Although many people are concerned with this malicious trend, we are still far from overcoming this issue.

Many women believe their spouses have the right to beat them, and cultural pressures discourage women from taking action. Most of them fear reprisals from their men and family. Others fear embarrassment. Other reasons for not reporting are poverty, ignorance of the law and not knowing where to report and what to do.

The church's role

The Women's Coalition (government, civic society and churches) is working in establishing domestic violence as grounds for divorce. And we are advocating for new legislation to criminalize spousal abuse as well as pushing for additional legislation to be added to the family law with domestic violence at the forefront of its agenda.

The United Methodist Church, the Women's Division in particular, and the social action committee are actively participating with non-governmental organizations seeking to sponsor educational campaigns on domestic violence for women in vulnerable communities.

One of our plans in The United Methodist Church is to provide training in advocacy and community building to increase awareness of domestic violence and prevention through changes in attitudes, helped by the other church organizations (men and young adults).

In order to break the spiral of violence, a project to strengthen treatment programs for perpetrators must be designed and implemented in near future.

*Feluane works in the Mozambique Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Missouri Annual Conference Mozambique Initiative

United Methodist Board of Church and Society

FaithTrust Institute 

United Methodist Commission on Status and Role of Women

World Health Organization

Violence Against Women Act

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