The following Guestpost, which deals with domestic violence and its impact on society, especially on women and children, is by Zebiba Million, an Eritrean Canadian blogger and currently a university student, majoring in sociology. Enjoy! 🙂
Marriage? Who? Me?
By Zebiba Million
It was in the morning. My mother was yelling at me for ignoring her when she asked me to go get bread from the nearest bakery. I left my house and started making my way to the bakery. I walked very slowly as if to punish my mom for making me do this. I eventually got the bread and began walking back to my neighborhood. It was quite a walk. The bakery was far.
Suddenly, I heard a scream and saw people gathering around. I then walked faster, almost running to see what was happening. I squeezed my way through the crowd to have a better view.
I was only eight.
I stood there shocked, my mouth wide open and on the verge of crying. A woman was trying to protect the crying baby she held while a man was beating her. He was yelling, calling her names, and cursing.
The curse words in my language (Tigrinya) sounded horrible and a lot meaner than the English words that I now know, and I could not believe such words were coming out of such a grown man.
After few minutes, which felt like hours, a woman came out of one house and yelled at the man for hitting the woman in front of a crowd and cursed him more for doing it while the poor lady carried a baby.
The woman took the baby and went back to the house, leaving the lady on the ground. Now the man continued hitting the lady with more force. This went on for a while as the crowd kept talking among themselves. But then one of the houses opened and a man came running towards the crowd. He stopped the man from beating the lady. And the other woman then came out of the house and took the beaten lady inside.
While leading the wife beater to his house, the “rescuer” man told the crowd, “Mind your own business! This is between a wife and a husband. Go home!”
I was traumatized.
The whole time I felt as if the man was beating me. That’s her husband!? I thought to myself. The crowd was still there, now discussing what just happened.
Few of them were disgusted by how harsh he was but felt like she might have deserved it. Others thought he was a real man and were laughing at the whole situation. But no one felt sorry for her.
I ran home and could not wait to tell my mother what I just saw. I ran all those stairs and started telling her breathing heavily. But she just took the bread off of my hand and gave me a half smile and said, “it’s just a wife and husband thing.” She said exactly what the man said. I could not believe that she thought it was normal and I still did not understand why she repeated what the other man said. “That is a wife and husband thing?” I kept thinking about that statement.
Domestic abuse was not new to me.
I knew that husbands hit their wives but it was my first time seeing it happen. I used to hear some of my neighbors screaming behind doors and I knew what was going on. Some of the women would run and hide at the nearest church because the husbands would not go inside the church to beat them. Few came to our house for shelter.
My grandmother was one of the elders in our neighborhood. I usually heard her telling the women to be patient and watch themselves around their husbands. She would say, “he has ended his love so as his wife you have to watch yourself, do not make him angry, and be patient with him.”
At that time I could not understand how a man could end his love. Was it something you can start and end? My grandmother kept saying that on many occasions.
With all those memories of marriages and husbands, I became very traumatized by the idea of marriage, my marriage. I thought if I get married, my husband would do the same to me. He would come home from work and beat me because he felt like doing it. And then he would end his love! I would be one of those women that I felt sorry for. I hated the idea of having a husband.
That was in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea. I now live in Canada. As you know the Canadian law does not tolerate domestic abuse and abusive husbands. Here people’s idea of marriage is a lot different than back home. Nevertheless, I am still unsure of it because here, too, despite the law and the relative freedom women have, domestic violence and other forms of violence against women are not absent.
I cried when my friend got married at the age of nineteen back home. I thought she would be one of those women. I felt so sorry for her, I even tried to make her change her mind.
Of course, I want a family, but those experiences are stuck in my mind. It also does not help when you hear that your uncle who is only twenty-three is hitting his wife whom he has been with for only a year.
My overall experience made me question: Is violence against women just a cultural thing, a man thing, or a husband thing? I cannot help it but remain skeptic about marriage.