Marital Abuse and Social Insecurity in Zimbabwe


Social Security is a concept enshrined in article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which encourages nations to actively advance the economic, social and cultural rights of their people and to promote the development and well-being of citizens.


Traditionally, the mention of social security invokes thoughts of pension funds and other financial schemes that facilitate for the provision of health, food and shelter for citizens.


However, it must be noted that the fundamental objective behind the concept of social security is the promotion of human dignity- a constitutional right.


This means that where people are socially insecure, there is no human dignity.


This is true war zones like Syria, where citizens arguably have been reduced to refugees and rebels, and where homes and livelihoods have been irrevocably destroyed.


Yet when I consider Zimbabwe, I wonder what institutions and networks we have within our society that assist in providing social security to Zimbabwean citizens.


Of course, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) is the primary state-sanctioned legal entity that is tasked with providing social security for Zimbabweans.


Whether or not NSSA is currently fulfilling its role is debatable.


A secondary source of Social Security is the Zimbabwean Diaspora (The network of Zimbabwean citizens living and working outside of Zimbabwe).


The role of the Zimbabwean Diaspora (as a collective) in providing social security for families back home is undeniable and should not be ignored.


In fact, according to reports the Zimbabwean Diaspora remits about USD1.4 billion per year, which is used to provide food, healthcare and shelter (among other things) for people in Zimbabwe.


Now what’s interesting is that there are two other social institutions that should be primary sources of social security, but are perhaps not fulfilling their roles.


Theses are religious organizations (churches) and families.


The Role of the Family in Providing Social Security

Throughout Africa, the role of the nuclear and extended family with respect to provision of social security is extraordinary.


Owing to the historic influence of the cultural principle of Ubuntu/Hunhu, the family has provided secure retirement environments for the elderly, and has been a source of social protection for widows and orphans especially in the wake of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.


Having said that, however, the recently ended ‘16 Days of Activism’ opened my eyes to the reality that many families in our midst are dysfunctional, and are in fact sources of social insecurity.


This is principally owing to marital abuse and the consequent inter-spousal denigration of human dignity.


During the recently ended ‘16 Days of Activism’ many accounts of emotional and physical abuse were narrated, but two were particularly dreadful to me.


Firstly, the story of a husband who contracted HIV and then infected his wife. Subsequently, he would physically and verbally abuse her and then force her to have unprotected sex with him.


Secondly, the story of a husband who refuses to give his wife any money. He doesn’t give her money for transport, clothes, toiletries or medicine.


Clearly, these women are socially insecure within the institution of marriage, which is supposed to be a primary source of social security.


Of course, there many other accounts of intra-marital and intra-familial incidents of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, all culminating in social insecurity.


Personally, I was surprised to hear of the extent of social insecurity in marriages in Zimbabwe. Between 50 and 60 percent of married and cohabiting women have experienced such abuse.


This is shocking to say the least, because practically speaking, charity should begin at home.


In other words, before we point fingers at political or business leaders for not providing social security for employees or citizens in general, we should ask ourselves if individually we make our spouses and families feel socially secure.


Put simply, we should each ask ourselves if we are actively working to uphold the human dignity of those people closest to us, particularly our spouses.


In this context, the churches (and other faith-based organizations) have a critical role to play in terms of speaking to family values given the critical role of the family in providing social security.


However, the prosperity gospel unfortunately seems to have become the principal focus of our clergy.


Now let me state categorically that I do not subscribe to the doctrine of gender egalitarianism.


However, I do believe in the principle of treating others, as I would want to be treated.


That is the principle that I believe we should all apply in our marriages.


Especially considering that our macro-economic circumstances as a nation will not change any time soon.


In fact, economists predict that 2016 will be tougher than 2015 owing to a larger budget deficit and consequently more liquidity constraints.


In this light, there is a need to focus on micro institutions like the church and the family as primary providers of social security.


In simple terms, treat people the same way you want to be treated, especially within in a marriage.


Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director


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