The historical and power imbalance between women and men in rural communities in Limpopo are the major causes of domestic abuse. Many young women still suffer abuse in silence at the hands of their husbands and boyfriends in fear of what society will say about them.
Domestic violence against women in rural villages is not only a consequences of gender inequality but also women’s low status in society. Social worker Peggy Mulaudzi said most women in Vhembe still suffer from domestic abuse in silence in fear of being left alone by their abusive husbands, but she has encouraged them to seek help.
For Thandi Mudau (31), being abused by her ex-husband was a way of life as she didn’t know that her rights were being violated as she grew up in a society in which women were told to obey whatever their husbands said, even though they knew it was wrong.
“I kept quiet even though I knew that I was being abused as he was my only source of food and income and I knew that if I told people they would advise me to leave him. “The thought of not having money and any place to go made me to stay in an abusive marriage for years,” said Mudau.
Mudau, originally from Nzhelele, near Louis Trichard, stayed in the abusive marriage for seven years and now blames her lack of education and being unemployed during those abusive years.
“Even though I knew he was cheating on me with different women I chose to stay because I had nowhere to go. And when I confronted him about his cheating, he used to beat me up so bad but I choose to keep quiet and stay,” she added.
Experts say some of the reasons for women staying in abusive marriages and relationships include low levels of education, limited economic opportunities, male control over decision-making and asserts, limited legislative and policy framework for preventing and responding to violence.
“One time I tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose but it did not work as I was rushed to the hospital by one of my siblings. After that I was introduced to a local church and I was counselled and I started living my life for God,” said Mudau.
After going through counselling Mudau realised her worth and decided to leave her abusive husband for good. “Everything changed when I got a job at a mine in Lephalale and I managed to go back to school and study further until I got a job at Eskom. “I am now a happy, independent woman. “I urge all women who are currently in abusive marriages to break the circle and stand up for their rights,” she said.