In many discussions about gender-based violence (GBV) in Tanzania, jealousy and witchcraft are often quoted as the main causes. In fact, the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Camilius Wambura recently mentioned the two as the leading causes of a total of 15,131 incidents of GBV that took place in the country between January and June 2021.
But while this may be true at face value, GBV is actually about unequal power relations, in that, women are being violated because they are women and men violate women to perpetuate their power and to show who they are.
Placing the blame on jealousy hides the real reason why women are being beaten. It also plays down the act of violence to a lack of control, whereby a man experiences jealousy towards his woman, and he fails to control his jealousy and ends up beating her. This is not the case because if you are jealous, but you are with someone you know that you are on the same level with you or above, you do not violate them.
I am not saying that men do not experience violence. But I’m talking about women here. When men violate women, it is about power. It is about control. It is about the thinking that men are more superior to women and that women are properties and men are the owners.
So as owners of this property, if women “misbehave,” do not behave, or do not act or do not adhere to principles set by the men, then the man as the owner has the right and the obligation to discipline them and one way this is done is through violence.
Men’s and women’s place in society
Violence is used to remind both men and women of their place in society which puts more emphasis on the superiority of men and the inferiority of women. Violence is also used by men to explain the concept of masculinity and femininity. So when a man beats a woman, it is merely demonstrating their masculinity and not expressing jealousy.
We all know that when it comes to jealousy, even women get jealous but they are often told they need to control their jealousy. If you go and fight your husband out of jealousy, technically it means you have lost him or you have allowed him to go astray because society will tell you to control your jealousy.
So once again, when you use jealousy as the reason men violate women, you are downplaying the power relations, you are downplaying masculinity and femininity, you are downplaying the superiority vis-à-vis inferiority between men and women. You are downplaying where women and men are placed in society.
You are downplaying the fact that women are considered properties and men are the owners. If you just focus on jealousy, you are missing the bigger picture. Men are allowed to exercise their jealousy through physical acts because they have the power and they know they can do that and society lets them get away with it.
It is thus very important to address the real cause and the enabler. For men to feel and to see the need to be violent towards women is because they are protected by the current systems, cultures, and structures and everything else that is in there. And also we live in a society where poverty also plays a part; we have more women who are economically dependent on men.
Why do we have more female witches than male witches?
So when a woman is dependent technically the one who provides has more power than the woman, and remember when we are talking about dependence we are talking about material dependence, women are still contributing, but it’s just that their contribution is not valued or even looked at.
So this is where I am coming from, that if we just focus on jealousy as the reason for violation of women, we are downplaying the whole thing and it is not helping the cause or the fight on violence against women and girls.
Even for witchcraft, we need to look into this. Why are women being looked at as witches and not men? Why do we have more female witches than male witches? What is it that attracts more women to witchcraft? Is it an issue of power? Is it the only way that a woman can exercise their power by being a witch so that the community can give them some respect? Or is it also a label that society uses to pin women down?
Because they know if they call you a witch they have the masses around them against you? Is it another reason used to exercise unequal power relations, to exercise masculinity especially when women are being looked at as behaving differently so it is a form of punishment? Or given that we have more women witches than men, is it a way that women are using to regain some form of power, some form of recognition in the society and or in the family? What is it?
And if witchcraft was beneficial, we would see more men there, so maybe it is not beneficial and it is just used to pin women down.
Mary Ndaro is a gender and development specialist with experience in the development sector with a focus on gender. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mary_ndaro. These are the writer’s opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com.