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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Is domestic violence a silent killer?
Uganda's former Vice President, Dr Specioza Kazibwe
Uganda's former VP talked openly about her abusive husband

On the BBC's Africa Live this week, we lift the lid on abuse in the home.

A report by Amnesty International says at least one out of every three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in her lifetime.

A separate report by the University of Cape Town in South Africa, says at least four women are killed every day by an intimate partner in that country.

And the problem reaches the highest levels of society. Uganda's former Vice-President Specioza Kazibwe admitted in 2002 that her husband beat her.

BBC's Africa Live asks: When your partner assaults you either physically, emotionally or sexually, do you report or hide it?

Why is revealing abuse at home still a taboo in many parts of Africa? Should domestic violence be dealt with privately or publicly?

Join the BBC's Africa Live debate on Wednesday 16 June at 1630 & 1830GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments - some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.

Your Comments:

Abuse in general (sexual,physical,emotional) is not acceptable.The problem with us Africans is that, we do not even know that wife/husband beating is an act of abuse. I agree with one of the writers who said anyone abused by husband/wife should report it to the police. Most policemen in Africa are the worst abusers because they beat their wives/husbands.To end this cycle of abuse I think education could be one of the best tools to use.
Charles Mogga, Sudanese/Canada

I once saw my friend slap his girlfriend and I was not happy about it and I decided to tell him off. We live in a sick society.
Hussein Farah, Toronto, Canada

Domestic violence is as a result of ignorance on the part of some men.This is because when seven out of ten men are asked in Ghana to choose between their 'mums' and 'dads',they do not hesitant to choose their mothers because of the impact mothers have on their lives. When the same number are asked what they would do if their daughters or sisters were severely beaten or sexually assaulted what would be their reaction, they are quick to say "I will kill him".Yet these same people forget that the women with them are other peoples daughters and sisters and ought to be treated with civility and humanity. The men who are "champions" in their homes forget themselves and think the best way to solve a problem is by the use of "blows".
Kin Hussein Ibn Alhassan, Ghana

Domestic Violence is a silent killer and destroyer of many lives and homes in Ghana. Unfortunately, domestic violence seems to have been deliberately narrowed down to portray men as the main perpetrators of such abuses against women. In Northern Ghana, where I live, some women are the worst violators of children's rights, especially young girls, who maybe their step daughters and nieces. They deprive the girls of their right to education, they starve them, they have no place to sleep and above all they subject these children to all kinds of hard labour. They also subject them to physical and psychological torture. The boys see what their mothers are doing and in turn become violent; the girls too become inhumane towards other children.
Issah Mahmudu Tamale, Ghana

Some of the women in Africa are considered to be the property of their husbands/partners, because the parents were given money by a rich prospective husband. It's not unusual in many parts in Africa to see a fifteen year old girl being married to a seventy year old man.
Rashid Mohamud, Minneapolis, MN , USA

Helpless, jobless women accept and often conceal domestic violence for fear of divorce. Because when they are divorced who will care for them and their kids?
Rabea, Morocco

The men who are "champions" in their homes forget themselves and think the best way to solve a problem is by the use of blows
Kin Hussein Ibn Alhassan, Ghana

Just like HIV/AIDS we can battle domestic violence by encouraging victims to come out in the open and then support them. This support should be in the form of counselling, helping with court cases and providing employment or setting up a business for them.
Enoch Opuka, Kenya

Strength in a marriage comes not from beating up the wife but from understanding her and being able to communicate with her. Being violent shows they do not genuinely love their spouse.
Solomon Aiman, Egypt

Domestic violence is a cancer that is acceptable in Africa, a cancer that should be removed. Even an in-law can accept their daughter to be beaten, because society accepts it. When will we value as equal partners, our African mothers, sisters and wives. These ladies who often sacrifice everything to bring up their children, working for more than 15 hours a day while men spend their time in bars or away from home?
Mohamed Adan, Oslo, Norway

I don't really understand the meaning of being married if my wife has to take me to court accusing me of raping her. Except in health related problems, a wife who doesn't want to have sex with her husband should divorce him rather than accuse him of rape. What if she takes me to court after having sex with me willingly just to harm me.
Michael, Ethiopia

In my part of the world, there are tribes in which, wife battering is the norm. A man shows his love by beating up his wife! Unless it is rooted out from the minds of such men, wife beating will continue.
Eremugo, Sudan

Why should a man be allowed to beat his wife, and yet be arrested if he attacks another man on the street.
Dawn, Zimbabwe/Canada

As a boy aged about 6 years, I personally witnessed my father beat my mother and it terrified me because I thought my mother was going to die.
Osabutey Anny, Ghana

Any man who feels he has excess energy should use it to put food on the table.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos Nigeria

As a victim of domestic violence, I am disappointed because most of the responses are from women, not the men. A lot of this hatred towards women is a result of the way men view women.
Lee Brunt, U.S.

Men have always argued that it is the African tradition to be subservient. How convenient for the men who make the societal rules! My best advice here is for the women to get a good education and work hard to be self sufficient. When the woman is not totally dependent on the man, the man will think twice before lifting his finger against her.
Oghogho Ero, Vancouver, Canada

If men were largely the victims of domestic abuse, we would not hesitate to publicly address this "silent killer".
Deena Guzder, USA.

I toured the north of Malawi with local NGOs and met some women who said they did not have a problem with men who abused them. They accept their husbands beating them, forcing them to have sex, and they would not complain because they believe it's part of married life.
Sarah Munthali, Malawi

Any man who feels he has excess energy should use it to put food on the table rather than beat his wife. Beating your spouse is a sign of weakness.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos Nigeria

A common feature of all forms of domestic violence is controlling the victim through terror and coercion. Ideally, a relationship should be based on mutual understanding, respect and love rather than power and control. No one deserves to be abused and those who perpetrate domestic violence should be severely punished.
J. Acungwire, UK/Uganda

Men all over the world remember one thing, we are all born of a woman we call mother and we all have our children from a woman we call wife and if you cannot treat them as equal - you are not fit to be called a man.
Zander Cool , Asia

Discuss poverty! Domestic violence will be extremely minimised if poverty is not looming.
Sisay, Sierra Leonean in HK

I think African women should try and form unions to fight back and stop this silent killer. I am very surprised that the former vice president was being abused by her husband, this shows you how bad it is in Africa.
Janet Akinyi, New jersey

What about violence perpetrated by wives against their husbands? Is it not domestic violence too?
Pio Machipisa, Zimbabwe

It is not always a good idea to report domestic abuse to the police in my country Nigeria. Because I've seen a situation where a case was taken to the police and the policeman handling the matter ended up as the woman's lover instead. If women would carefully watch what comes out of their mouth, I think there would not be domestic violence because most of this results from the deadly words women spit out of their mouths.
Sebastine Uchenna, Nigerian living in Japan

All the comments you have received, so far, seem to strongly suggest that domestic violence is only perpetrated by husbands to their wives. What about violence perpetrated by wives against their husbands? Is it not domestic violence too?
Pio Machipisa, Zimbabwe

As far as I am concerned, domestic violence is a matter between husband and wife and it is up to them to make right decision whether they want settle their problem in court or discuss it at home with their elders traditionally. Taking the matter to court may cause a split resulting in divorce. I believe that one person should have courage to call upon elders to settle it privately before it gets out hand.
Joseph Madut, New Zealand ( Sudanese)

Gender-discriminatory legal and regulatory frameworks, especially those in the areas of domestic violence, coerced sex, rape and sexual abuse have repercussions on gender-based vulnerability and risk factors. Since the above-mentioned factors are correlates of domestic violence, the powerless wife or partner may be susceptible to the dreadful HIV and AIDS. In many countries, even in the case of HIV/AIDS, women lack legal recourse and experience discrimination in legal rights and protection. Many systems of law favour patriarchy. Some legal systems do not protect victims against domestic or sexual violence against intimate partners. As many cultural and local factors forbid and outlaw feminist practices, this has unabatedly driven domestic violence and its activities underground, which can as well increase risky behaviour.
Christian Iyiani, Nigeria

Domestic violence often occurs in a cycle with a tension building phase, an incident of violence and then a short period where the perpetrator apologises and feels remorse. This cycle is deceiving because abused women love their husbands and want to believe the violence will end when he shows remorse. Communities in Africa and around the world need to talk more openly about these issues and devote resources to helping victims so they can get the help and protection they need.
Katie, USA

There is no culture allowing domestic violence but some women from certain areas seems more assertive than men, and men don't want to be controlled by their wives since women are thought to be emotionally weak. If partners love each other there will be no major differences, therefore no room for violence. National laws should only come in to protect both partners against domestic violence from any of the parties. But women being what they are, and some wanting to command the world in their own way, I think domestic violence remains a choice to all women in the world.
Ngalim Charles, Cameroon

I kept hiding it from every body, even my best friends hoping it will soon come to an end but it didn't.
Esther, Kenya

I experienced domestic violence over a period of five years. I kept hiding it from every body, even my best friends hoping it will soon come to an end but it didn't. In the end it was written all over my face. You hide it because you want to protect your family. When I eventually talked about it, my partner became more violent for exposing him and we ended up in a divorce. Not all men in Kenya are violent, in fact many of them are very loving I was just unlucky.
Esther, Kenya

Domestic violence has two forms, the unseen psychological scar and visible physical scars of a relationship gone sour. In relationships where domestic violence occurs, the physical abuse often associated with the man may often be the result of years of psychological abuse from the woman. Solutions to domestic violence should be directed to both partners, and should not be used as an excuse for man bashing.
Kanda Ya Moko, Kenya

How does one volunteer to meddle in a private affair when the victim is happy to live with such a situation? Many a time even the wife's relatives have failed to get the truth because the lady involved has kept information away from them. Let us show men and husbands that women were made for greater things not just to be punching bags. We also should look at what makes a man beat a woman so heavily. Women have been known to linger or waste time on trivial matters. They would gather at some point and talk about which husband is sleeping with who. In my country where there are these kitchen parties, instead of them concentrating on upgrading their home economies, they would be busy loitering at some joint that is not known by their husbands. When asked by their spouses for a full explanation and they fail to give a full report, hence the black eyes in dark glasses. When they are guilty, they cannot report the beatings and therefore domestic violence becomes a silent killer. In fact there is a belief in some parts of Africa that if a husband does not beat his wife, then he does not love her, and it is the women who have promoted this theory of NO BEATING, NO LOVE.
Shuttie Florence Namakau Libuta, Kitwe, Zambia.

A wife in Africa for instance who chooses to report the assault from her husband will most of the time be looked upon as irresponsible. Come to think of it why do I have to make a report to the police when I know that nothing positive will come out of it as a deterrent to the offender?
James Philip Itodo, Nigeria

What we fail to realise is the impact it has on our children. Our children grow up seeing their mother beaten everyday and they tend to think that its the normal way of showing affection. Men who beat up their partners are cowards and a sorry excuse for a human being
Thuso Mofokeng, South Africa

Here in Guinea Bissau, the authorities don't care about domestic violence and the women in turn fear to make the abuses public. I know a situation where a man was sexually abusing his stepdaughter who was 13 years old. He ended up making her pregnant. But his wife (her mother) would not report the matter because she was afraid to lose her husband.
Edilson Dias Alves, Guinea-Bissau

Most women in Africa can do anything including enduring assaults from the partners and husbands to save their marriage especially for the sake of their children and love. They will not want to end the conflict in the court of law knowing the implications. A lot of African women are enduring their marriage rather than enjoying it.
Kunle Adeogun, Nigeria

When they are guilty, they cannot report the beatings and therefore domestic violence becomes a silent killer
Shuttie Florence Namakau Libuta, Zambia.

If your parents teach you never to accept abusive marriages, then you as an adult woman have more courage to refuse to stay in any relationship that is detrimental to your mental and physical health. But many women in Africa cannot afford to be isolated as it affects their financial support especially when there are kids involved.

There are many ways to death. But why should a woman's death occur from her partner who loved her and who she loved to stay with forever? Women are not property nor are they things we can inherit. They are as equal as men.
Lukudu, Australia

First of all, spousal abuse cases must be resolved by courts and not by clansmen most of who believe it is "right to discipline erring spouses." To these clansmen, "discipline" means anything. When we make spousal abuse a serious crime with serious consequences then spousal abusers would think twice before lifting their evil hands upon their helpless spouses.
Joe Chike, Nigeria

A big problem is that people who grow up in abusive homes either become abusers or abused themselves, because that becomes their comfort zone, no matter what their IQ. I know very decent, liberated guys whose wives are frustrated that they are not like their awful fathers were. They are even accused of being gay as a result when, in fact, they are simply civilised.
Al, South Africa

Let's not forget that domestic violence is not only in the form of 'man beating woman'. Women can be just as violent and abusive in their homes. They are abusive towards both their children and their spouses. It is something that people never talk about but I am certain that everyone knows that it happens. Men are not free to say "my wife beats me (or throws things at me, slaps me, spits on me, belittles me etc). Abuse comes in many forms and is gender neutral.
Shiri, USA

The first day a man beats you is never the end. It is just the beginning. If you can't report him then at least leave him. Someone who loves you can't bear to see you cry. That's why even when our parents used to punish us when we were younger they bought us sweets afterwards because they couldn't bear to see us hurting. Be aware domestic violence is addictive, once it starts he can't stop.
Sarah Kajumba, Uganda

From what I have seen, most victims are very aware of the danger of abusive relationships, but what is a woman to do if she lacks the economic resources and self-esteem to leave an abusive man? Frankly, I think that African women are just victims of culture more than anything else - a culture that is used against them in several different ways.
Creed Mushimbo, Zimbabwe

There is help out there, but you need to start by helping yourself.
Anonymous, England

Having observed my mother being assaulted, I understand how wrong it is to treat another human being in that way. My deepest sympathy for those who suffer in silence. There is help out there, but you need to start by helping yourself.
Anonymous, England

Until women are empowered in Africa they will still prefer one or two black eyes to divorce! It is unlike the western world where a woman is protected by law and the government even if she does not work!
Cyril Okocha, U.K/ Nigeria

Women do not report domestic violence for many reasons: fear of facing society and the outside world; fear of starting a new life from scratch after an inevitable divorce; hope and denial - that the man may change; love - most women still love their abusive spouses; and fear of retribution from the spouse if exposed. In many cases women are assaulted,abused or killed even after a divorce. It is easy for us to be disgusted by the abuser and it seems obvious that the abuser be punished. However, the victim deals with far greater emotions. Perhaps the support and reassurance of the families of the victim, may convince women to report the crime.
Buzzu, California/USA

In Africa a man does not rape his wife. It would be ridiculous to tell people a man raped his wife. She is expected to respect her husband and submit to him. Only gross abuse that results in severe injuries are noted. I doubt if many of them will report their spouse lest they become a laughing stock. But then I have seen women abusing men. Nobody talks of that.
George Onmonya Daniel, Nigeria

Women need to band together and not submit to men until they realise that they are committing heinous acts against femininity. Women should no longer tolerate the abusiveness of male strength. What disrespect. Men must learn self-respect and decide if they want another man to beat their mothers.
Stachia Simons, USA

Abuse goes both ways, what about the young boys who are sexually abused by maids? What about the husbands who suffer daily beatings in silence from their spouses because society automatically perceives women as the only victims?
Wairoto, USA

In the Ibo culture in Eastern Nigeria, a man who is known to abuse or fight his wife is looked down upon.
Gethsemani Ugochukwu, Nigeria/USA

The comments I have read so far blame men alone for domestic violent. In Africa, I would admit that men are more likely to physically or emotionally abuse their wives. But in the Ibo culture in Eastern Nigeria, a man who is known to abuse or fight his wife is looked down upon. Such a man has no public respect, neither can such a man aspire to community or public leadership. However in the western world, particularly in America, some women misuse domestic violence to victimise men. In some cases allegations have become a weapon of control, intimidation and the economic exploitation of men. It has bred more violence towards women and caused greater social problems as more children are raised in single family homes without a father figure. To me, that is the real tragedy.
Gethsemani Ugochukwu, Nigeria/USA

I regard domestic violence as a war against not only African families but intimate relationships and marriages.
Khalid Stambuli, Malawi

"The heart says what about love?". How can one be in love and at the same time abuse the lover? If that's what love is l will never fall in love.
Kobby, Ghana.

In as much as I do not support domestic violence in anyway, I want to state that marital union is a binary affair and as such couples should not make public whatever difficulties that might arise between them as long as the affected party is not willing to do so. When the public has to interfere with marital issues, privacy is thrown to the wind and most of the time the union is destroyed as it is in most parts of Europe where the family is no longer regarded. It is left for the woman as long as she can endure or believes she can still hold on the marriage to decide whether to make any violence against her public. Making marital problems public often destroys relationships and should not be encouraged if the relationships and in turn family values are to be preserved. I must add however that a man that beats his wife or any woman is a disgrace to manhood and humanity in general
Ngwoke Kenneth Gerald, Nigerian in UK

I witnessed a situation where a woman dragged her husband to court here in the U.S. for physical assault, along with photographs to buttress her case. The husband was acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence. According to the court there were no witnesses to testify that the bruises were caused by the husband. I guess she bruised herself and tried to blame her husband.
Anselm, U.S.A.

Some men in Africa believe in abusing their spouses as a form of discipline which is wrong and the governments there need to adopt some hard laws to protect and educate these men. Women also need to be educated about sex because 99% of them don't know when they are being raped. There should be some good education and laws about sexual, physical and emotional assault.
Mohamed Sylla, USA/Sierra Leone

I have heard my uncle talk about beating his wife. From that situation I realized the source of his primitive solution was a lack of knowledge of what a woman is. Men and women do have similarities, but we have major psychological and emotional differences. Men need to realize that understanding women is not an instinctive knowledge, it is a learned knowledge.
J Abebe, Ethiopian in USA

Some of these married women who are crying about abuse against them go all out to assault or kill women they suspect of having an affair with their secret lovers.
Matthias A. Idyu, USA/Nigeria
What worries me is that some of these married women who are crying about abuse against them go all out to assault or in some cases kill women they suspect of having an affair with their secret lovers, while they still remain married to their so-called husband or loved ones. How about that? Should that be dealt with privately or publicly as well? Do these women ever think of loosing their husbands to other women who hold and cherish this scared union of marriage?
Matthias A. Idyu, USA/Nigeria

For the better, for the worse!
Sale, Canada

As far as I am concerned, domestic violence should not be treated privately. It should be in court.
Denison Akongo, Cameroon

Domestic violence is something we should not encourage, because it sets partners apart. Our mothers are most of the time the victims.It is a killer and we have to fight it.
Solomon Okpoti, Ghana

Any woman who has been beaten or sexually assaulted should immediately report the crime to the police. Abuse is something that should never be hidden.
Tatiana Balenah, Atlanta, USA

Assaults against women either physically, emotionally or sexually should at all times be made public. Our community must learn what is morally wrong and not what is based on the African taboo.
Joseph Gayo, Australia/Sudan

Your head might tell you to leave an abusive spouse, but the heart says what about love?
Mwenda Ikiara, Kenya

It is important to remember that what in essence we are examining, is the conflict between the heart (emotions) and the brain (reason). Your head might tell you to leave an abusive spouse, but the heart says "what about love?"
Mwenda Ikiara, Kenya /USA

Many women fear to reveal these acts of abuse because they have no protection after the problem has been reported and known publicly. There are many divorces among Sudanese who have resettled in U.S because southern Sudanese traditionally beat their wives and this prohibited in U.S.
Peter Tuach-Sudanese/USA, USA

In Senegal, especially in the Cassamance region where I have been working for the last three years, many husbands still beat their spouses, which in many cases results to serious body injuries.
Alpha Jallow, Senegal

For men who abuse those they claim to love; how do you feel when your loved one is in pain?
Cornelius Gligui, Moscow

I have not been a victim of domestic violence but over the years I have seen these events happening. Most women do not report the issue for fear of losing their husband to another woman. Women are soft creatures who desire peace from their partners; and telling is certainly not a good thing to do for their relationship. In Africa, the woman is expected to obey the man. People still believe that a husband beating on his wife is a family matter that can easily be settled in the bedroom but the truth is it is worse than that. Greedy, cowardly men, yearning for power think that abusing a woman is the way to show his strength. I believe that the issue should be dealt with by the law in extreme cases, especially when evidence is available on the woman's body.
Estella, Liberia

I think the way some men treat their wife/partner is not only terrible but primitive as well. No matter how a man is angered or offended he should not loose his senses but rather behave wisely by controlling his tempers and find an amicable way to sort things. For men who abuse those they claimed to love; how do you feel when your loved one is in pain?
Cornelius A. Gligui, Moscow, Russian Federation

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