By Theresa Lungu
A young mother flees her home in the middle of the night, her body bleeding and injured, her self-esteem bruised, her dignity in tatters. She staggers into the emergency room of her local hospital, relieved that she will finally get help for her physical pain. She holds a piece of chitenge to her cheek, catching the blood from a gush left there by her rampaging husband.The wound in her face needs sutures, her broken arm needs binding and she could use an ice pack on a rapidly swelling black eye. When her turn comes, the nurse on duty refuses to attend to her because she has no police report. A piece of paper takes precedence over her life. She has just been victimized again, twice beaten.
The above is not fiction, this scene is being played out in numerous clinics and hospitals across Zambia. Undeniably, there is great need to report domestic violence to the police but an injured person needs access to medical treatment first, the paperwork can come later. In medical ethics, a practitioner should act in the best interest of the patient, beneficence.
The issue of domestic violence in Zambia is a long, twisted, abyss that nobody has fully delved into. There are different facets to it, some of which have been tackled but the bigger picture is gleam. Years back, Victim Support Units were set up to deal with the scourge but after that there was no follow up.
The majority of victims end up back in the homes of their abusers and the cycle continues.To victims, a hospital should be the first line of defense, a place for comfort where the abuser can’t reach them for a few hours.A place to catch their breath and ponder the next step. Some individuals, for reasons best known to themselves, do not wish to press charges on their spouses and or partners but that should not disqualify them from medical treatment. This is a moral issue that Zambia needs to deal with fast, now.
Domestic violence is a problem all over the world but civilized nations treat victims first before worrying about police reports. Zambia is lagging and in the process violating human rights.
The time is now to start advocating for victims of domestic violence to receive medical treatment first before obtaining a police report. If police reports mean so much to hospitals, a solution could be to have a social worker on staff to file reports.
Trainee constables could also be stationed at hospitals solely for that purpose. What is not a solution in curbing domestic violence is refusing victims treatment. Please, spread the word, write the appropriate authorities in Zambia. It’s time to do away with this great injustice.