Hidden suffering of gender-based violence against men in Tanzania

Dar es Salaam. When it comes to gender-based violence, much of the efforts are directed toward protecting women who have been affected by patriarchal systems in most Tanzanian and other African societies.

Most initiatives by the government to reduce and get rid of gender-based violence also focus on women and children.

However, it is undisputable that men are increasingly subjected to violence from women.

Mr. Mussa Samson, 43, is one of the men who has been experiencing violence from his wife for more than six years now.

“She started the trouble by insulting me, but as time went by, the situation worsened.

“I have a problem with my eyes, so when she wanted to hit me, she turned off the light, and I could not see anything. Then she fulfilled her goal,” says the resident of Tandale in Dar es Salaam.

Mr. Samson says that after being hit on the head with a heavy object one night, he screamed, but surprisingly, his wife screamed even more while asking for help from the neighbors that she was being beaten by her husband.

When people came, no one was on my side; they just listened to my wife and said even the wound I had on my forehead was the result of a self-defense act, Mr. Samson shares. According to him, not only the neighbors who sided with her but also the local government leaders, who also believe a woman cannot beat a man,

After noting his wife’s behavior of beating him and screaming to indicate she was the one being beaten, he decided to travel to his home town, Tanga, to get advice on how to deal with the situation.

“When I told my father about that, his response was simple: a man should not say that. Being beaten by a wife is a great shame in our societies.

“After deeply explaining how I have been deprived of my conjugal rights for more than two years, that’s when she changed her attitude and advised me to divorce her as soon as possible because she could even kill me in the near future.”

Mr. Samson says that until he made his mind to divorce his wife, no one trusted that he was subjected to such cruelty by his wife due to the belief that such acts are done by men against women and not vice versa.

The violence against men is not happening only at home; many men are reportedly experiencing gender-based violence even in the workplace.

Mr. Leonard Paschal, 22, a student at one of the universities in Dar es Salaam, claimed to have experienced such violence while working at one of the companies in the Kinondoni area of Dar es Salaam.

The red lights started blinking when he reported for the field attachment last August, when he was well welcomed by the female boss.

After two weeks on the field, his boss, whose age ranges between 50 and 55 years, told him to move from the public relations department office to her office while praising him for his “good work” since he had joined the company.

“Two days after I moved to her office, the boss started seducing me. I rejected it and made it clear that it couldn’t happen because she’s even older than my mother,” he reveals.

He thought her boss had given up, but the situation worsened day after day, and everything he did in the office was considered useless.

“It was a U-turn, from being praised for good work to being seen as an unproductive worker,” he says.

He persevered and believed he would finish his practical training in that company, but he came to realize that he could not achieve that goal.

“One morning she locked the office door while I was inside and told me if I didn’t accept having an affair with her at that time, she would scream that I wanted to rape her.

“Before anything had happened, someone called her, and that stopped her. She took her handbag, opened the door, and left,” Paschal narrates.

After the incident, Mr. Paschal decided to call his supervisor from the college to explain the challenges he was going through.

“My supervisor surprised me by telling me that a man should not complain about such issues because it is a high level of weakness. Only women should complain about that.

“I decided to postpone the practical training in that office and planned to do it in the following academic year,” he says.

In another case, Mr. Ismail Mohammed, 31, who works in a small snack factory in Mikocheni, Dar es Salaam, says he has been experiencing physical violence for more than seven years from his female boss.

“She has slapped me so many times that I’m now used to it. If you make a mistake or fail to explain something to her quickly, she thinks you’re stealing from her. So she slaps you several times and forces you to explain yourself again.

“Many people I started working with have already left, and even when new employees come, they leave after a short time. That’s why I’m all alone here.

“There was a time when he talked to someone and introduced me as a housegirl. When I tried to ask her why she called me that, she slapped me,” he says.

Mr. Mohammed says he has never reported his boss anywhere because he is afraid of losing his job.

“This job is what I depend on. I am afraid to sue her because I know if I do that, I will be fired,” he explained.

Mr. Richard Antony, a psychologist, says the patriarchal system has caused many men in Tanzania and many African societies to lack the courage to express themselves about the gender-based violence against them.

“Men are shy of how society will look at them when they come forward and say they have been beaten by their wives or brutalized by their female bosses because many Tanzanian societies don’t believe that a man can be brutalised by a woman,” he says.

According to him, many men have grown up experiencing mental stress or even depression and losing the pleasure of living due to various forms of violence they experience without knowing what to do to save themselves from such challenges.

“That can even be a reason for a man to commit suicide because he doesn’t know the right way to solve his challenges at the right time,” he explains.

Mr. Antony suggests that as efforts are being made to end violence against women, the same degree of effort should be directed to save men from the situation that is growing day after day.

“Men are often forgotten in gender-based violence, but the truth is that we receive many people with such challenges asking for help. “Men should be considered as an affected group (in gender-based violence) and get help and support just like the way we do for women,” he says.

Police spokesperson, Mr. David Misime, says awareness that would push men to report gender-based violence against them is still low.

He says men who are victims of gender-based violence should report whenever they are subjected to such acts in order to get immediate help from the police force and other authorities. “We will listen to any man who reports his story to us in privacy and act.

“After writing his statement, the Police Force will investigate the matter in accordance with the law and take the suspect to court.”

Mr. Misime says that the law enforcement arm has been connecting men who are victims of gender-based violence with psychologists for treatment so that they can restore their normal state of mind.