…as survivors narrate heart-wrenching accounts of abuse in their homes.
POVERTY is the primary catalyst of gender-based violence, leading to women’s imprisonment in abusive relationships due to their reliance on men who are oftentimes the breadwinners.
This is according to Qoaling village Police Station Commander, Inspector ‘Mamookho Hlabana.
Inspector Hlabana was speaking during Saturday’s ceremony to mark the end of Africa Women’s Month, which the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) had organised jointly with women from the local community.
The event’s main objective was to encourage women to speak out against abuse, which they did as they openly shared moving stories about the abuse they suffer in their homes.
The women placed emphasis on the importance of realising that “abuse has no status” and that speaking up helped in “finding help and healing”.
Addressing the evidently emotional women, Commander Hlabana said gender-based violence (GBV) was one of the crimes rampant in the area, adding she had noticed poverty to be the primary catalyst of this type of abuse in the home.
“I have realised that most of these crimes and reports I get can be curbed by unity and the development of prevention programmes. If only the energy used in such crimes could be diverted towards improving livelihoods, then we could together beat this monster,” Inspector Hlabana said.
The Qoaling police station commander further said there was need for women to organise themselves as it was only when they worked together that they could conquer life’s challenges and become self-reliant.
Another LMPS officer, Senior Inspector ’Malebohang Nepo gave a detailed presentation on the red flags to notice in an abuser.
According to Senior Inspector Nepo, abuse could be emotional, sexual, or physical and that most abusers who are usually narcissistic psychopaths, are quick to apologise after every incident of abuse and will give their victims gifts to earn forgiveness.
“Most abusers are psychopaths and narcissists and there are always some red flags when one is an abusive relationship. These include but not limited to extreme jealousy, bad temper, verbal abuse, and extremely controlling behaviour,” Snr Ins Nepo said.
“Most women have not been lucky enough to survive because they always forgave and took back their partners after the abuse and got carried away that one day, they might change. It’s not cowardice for a woman to leave a relationship if it is not working and they are being abused,” Snr Ins Nepo said.
Meanwhile, GBV victim Ms Moroesi ’Mereki, gave a heart-wrenching account of her abuse journey.
Ms ‘Mereki said she was married off by her family to an elderly man who was 18 years her senior after she had fallen pregnant out of wedlock at quite a very young age.
“I didn’t know this man and had never met him before, but my parents felt he would take care of me and my baby. I gave in to my family’s demand. He was working in the mines and just four months into the marriage when he had come home for leave, he had started beating me up,” Ms ‘Mereki said.
“He didn’t want me speaking to anyone except his sisters and each time I had to go and see a doctor, he would have his sisters accompany me and before I could heal, he would be beating me up again and I would be forced to remain cooped up inside the house until I felt better. He would beat me even when I was pregnant. Then one day he came home with a friend and started hurling insults at me and I insulted him back.”
Afraid of the violence that would follow should she tell her abuser that she was leaving him, Ms ‘Mereki said she had to lie that she wanted to visit her child who was being raised by her maternal grandparents. Little did her husband know this would be the last time he would ever hear from her.
“After I had insulted him back, he got so furious and promised to kill me. Shortly after the incident when he thought we had made peace, I asked to go and see my child who was at my parents’ home, and he agreed. Little did he know that he was seeing me for the last time. I was gone and gone for
good. That’s how I survived, and he has since remarried although he still threatens to kill me whenever we meet,” Ms ’Mereki said.
Another victim, a police officer who did not want to be named, said she had also suffered abuse throughout her entire married life, “until one day I pulled my service pistol on him”.
“As we struggled for the pistol, the trigger went off and hit a watch hanging on the wall. When neighbours came to see what was happening, we fabricated a story that he was cleaning the gun when it accidentally went off,” the police
“Each time he beat me, I would justify why he did it and would forgive him until one day I decided that it was enough, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I filed for divorce and served him with court papers just a few minutes before he boarded a plane for China and that was history.
“He hadn’t seen that one coming because I was so happy when we accompanied him with the kids. Finally, I had kissed my abusive marriage goodbye and never returned to it. I am now happy and single. I feel fulfilled,” said the officer.
Meanwhile, Ifo Lapeng Women’s Movement and She-Hive representatives were also in attendance and advised abused women to speak up and leave abusive relationships while they could and were still alive.
Ifo Lapeng Women’s Movement is a non-profit organization striving to secure and protect the human rights and welfare of vulnerable and marginalised women and girls in Lesotho. The organization was founded in 2005 by local women who saw an urgent need to create safe-space where women and girls could network, share experiences including protecting and empowering each other.
On the other hand, She-Hive is a local association of survivors of gender-based violence and those affected by it, and works with stakeholders who have similar goals and objectives in order to curb the alarming rate of GBV in Lesotho.