End GBV because it kills

It is day three of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). In this article, ROGERS SIULA recounts the brutal death of his sister in love-hate stabbings.

There is a thin line between life and death—and gender-based violence (GBV) kills.

The sting of death is brutal, but the dead do not talk.

They are forever speechless, leaving injustices, uncertainties and speculation raging.

Rogers with the late Miriam

The cruel death of my sister Miriam—that beauty stabbed to death by her ex-lover in Lilongwe four months ago—left me grief-stricken, angry, bitter and helpless.

‘Ending GBV’ has become a global call to action, but losing a loved one to gender-related violence remains a painful reality in our society.

Longosi, as we fondly called Miriam, had great potential and made enormous contribution to the Siula clan.

A wonderful aunt to her nieces and nephews, she personified hope, faith and love that kept our aging mother, Nyachisenga, proud.

She stayed with her at the Siulas residence in Chilinde, Lilongwe.

This made Miriam a pillar and blessing to us all.

Little did we know that her life would be savagely cut because she refused to be a puppet in love.

Refusing to relinquish strength of a woman, Miriam stood firm for what she was worth until her ex-boyfriend stabbed her three times within the compound of the Siulas residence in an act of hate and brutality.

 

No goodbye

Saturday, August 19 2017. A normal day like any other. Miriam knocks off from work and rushes home. Brother William visits from Gulliver, bringing with him Mama Nyachisenga whom he picked up from Masintha CCAP.

Miriam convinces William to drive back to Mchesi to buy tangerines for her nephews and nieces.

On their return home, she walks straight into the living room where the jolly little ones are at play.

This evening, she double-plaits the hair of her sibling Patricia. The joy of a family relaxing together in a peaceful atmosphere interrupted by buzzes, beeps and ringtones of a phone that should have been switched off.

 

The last call

When the ringtone of Miriam’s phone blared, she did not know fate was calling.

It was an ex-boyfriend calling, requesting for a glass of water. But he was thirsting for her blood.

Had she known, she would not have stepped out.

But the intentions of the man lurking with a knife were hidden from her.

The last those around Miriam heard from her were screams of agony:  “Kodi wabwelera chiwembu?”, “Mayoo! Mama akundipha.

He knifed her. Blood gushed from fresh wounds on her arm, chest and stomach.

Blackout! She was dying. When family members dashed outside, it was too late. The blood-thirsty killer had bolted. Miriam was lying in a pool of blood.

In fact, she grew cold right in Mama Nyachisenga’s arms amid tears and wailing—for Miriam’s death did not come like a robber, but a repentant sweetheart.

She was pronounced dead on arrival at Kamuzu Central Hospital.

Reality struck devastatingly as Longosi, who was full of life in no time, was being stretchered to the morgue.

 

Heartless backlash

This country, which supports gender equality, only enacted a Prevention of Domestic Violence Act   after “Dowa man” Herbert Mankhwala chopped the hands of his wife Marietta Samuel in 2006.

How many more will have to be injured or killed before we eliminate GBV?

The baseless stories that went viral on the social media at the height of our grief ridiculed the victim of one of the most heinous forms of physical violence and glorified her attacker.

Disheartening as this loss was, objectifying Miriam as a material girl was not only disgusting to friends and relatives, but also a nation that must make ending violent gender-based attacks a year-long agenda—not a 16-day piece of activism.

It brought more pain.

But heavens should forgive the heartless rumour-mongers because they did not know Miriam.

Some even created a dubious Facebook account where they posted mortifying content that only shredded our broken hearts. The family was traumatised twice—by her cold-blooded murder and unsympathetic mobs’ falsities which trivialised the loss.

 

Food for thought

Strengthened by our faith and immeasurable support from well-wishers, our family came to accept that Miriam is forever gone.

Through Miriam’s tragic death, we were reminded of a family beyond our blood ties—the incredible bond that binds our society as one extended family.

But the gravity of the loss should continue to strengthen Malawians from all walks of life to renew their zeal in eliminating all forms of gender-based violence.

In August, it was our Miriam. We do not know who is next.

But no woman must suffer any inhumane treatment as did Miriam.

The solidarity march against GBV in the aftermath of her death shall forever define and refine our purpose and meaning in life.

As Miriam rests at Area 18 Cemetery, wheels of justice are turning slowly.

But she left us with an incurable sting that profoundly reminds us why nobody should stand aside and look while gender-related violence rages.

Violence against women, whether gender-based or perpetrated by an intimate partner, is beastly. Let us deal with it.

 

There is need for a crusade against all forms of violence and leave no one behind.

The fight against GBV must live beyond the 16 days of activism. It must go on. Every day! 

Everyone has a role to play in ending GBV and promoting positive masculinity. n

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