Domestic Violence: Our Experience

angelDon’t use your fist, use your mind instead. Is it time for Gambian women to demand a clause in their marriage contract, requesting their husband to-be not to think of marrying a second wife? There are many second wife related divorce cases going on among Gambians in the United States and Europe. Surprisingly, these women who feel threatened by a second wife fail to discuss the issue with their husbands before the marriage contract becomes final. They should be bold enough to make a request for a ‘no second wife’ clause in their marriage. If the issue bounces back and sparks fire in the marriage in the future, the Cadi or Islamic marriage counselor will rule in favour of the wife even though the practice is religiously and culturally anointed. Think about requesting a clause instead of fuming with anger, seeing yourselves as bruised victims of your husbands.

Every rational person will condemn and reject any form of domestic violence. But whenever the subject pops up, we tend to think that women always bear the brunt, which is not always the case. What about those women who threaten their husbands on a daily basis or set them for doom? Besides, we often avoid the controversial part of the discussion that men mostly abuse their wives when all options on their table have been exhausted. Don’t judge me wrong here, for I am neither trumpeting nor justifying domestic violence. I am not among those men who raise their hands against a woman.

Since situations within marital homes defer, it is incumbent on men and women to do their best to diffuse any looming catastrophe at home. Any slightest misunderstanding between spouses gives room for negative stress, which boomerang on the family before killing the love. Ultimately, if left unsolved, the problem ballooned into full blown combustible aggression.

Sadly, the social pressures – the root causes of souring love between spouses in the Diaspora and Africa – is not thoroughly discussed.  We merely condemn the aggression and avoid discussing its root causes or early warning signals. Unless the underlining causes are addressed from our reality, we will continue to use different experiences to gloss over a serious problem.

America/Europe have seen a significant rise in divorce among Gambians…a lot of women leaves or divorce their husbands over many issues…from taking a second wife (which is culturally practised in our country) to monetary complications, to just simple case of love dying because both sides did not work hard in renewing passion. In any case, domestic violence should not be the final end product of the death of love.

Separate amicably if the distance is too deep…but seek counselling as a panacea to solve the unsolved issues. My advice to men is simple: never be driven into using physical force, always be in control of your emotions and learn the ability to withdraw yourself from any angry situation.

To the sisters, know the man you share your life with. If he is not himself, create time and venue to discuss frankly your concerns. Don’t ignore a rapidly changing man for any reason. Doing so will only aggravate tension because the man will go to the next stage of frustration. If you feel unsafe around him, then find a way to resolve that quickly.

When loves dies, some men resort to aggression which is totally the wrong way to resolve any problems. Sometimes one wonders whether to apportion blame on men who are severely left with broken hearts. These are the same men who have no recourse to be helped, for they bottle up their sadness and disappointment within themselves.

It is true that many women have been physically assaulted by their husbands. On the flip side, you will find that majority of men are walking with scars all over their hearts because a woman they love and cared for abandon them and tore down everything they build together. Some women even go as far setting up the children against their fathers. It is no longer strange to hear children telling their fathers “I hate you or if you dare touch my mum, I will deal with you?” As we observe October as domestic violence month, it behooves us to be holistic in our approach to ending the root causes of violence in our homes and stop the blame game or telling a single story, which is most often loaded with bias, prejudice or hatred.

Don’t use your fist, simply use your mind.



  1. Great piece .violence against women is rampant in The Gambia . Our current petty Idiotic Dictator is the chief abuser of women especially our young vulnerable girls .

  2. Luntango Suun Gann Gi

    Right Suntou, here I go jumping straight into a controversy! (“Fools jump in where wise men fear to tread”!).

    1. Who are the “dainty breakable little angels”? Certainly NOT African women! I believe the majority of Gambian men will NOT dare beat their wives – because the men are more likely to get a thrashing instead! This applies throughout Africa. Let any man try to beat up Winnie Mandela, for example!

    2. But there I am talking about grown women. I think the most appalling violence against women in Africa is FGM – a barbaric violation of little defenseless girls. Domestic violence is nothing compared to this. Yet many Gambian men and women support FGM.

    3. The “NO SECOND WIFE” bit. The emotional impact of this on women is well captured in Mariama Ba’s classic book “SO LONG A LETTER”. But even there, compare it to the devastation of Family Life as a result of divorce that we have in the West. Maybe a second wife “co-habiting” as a “sister” with all the children part of the family is better than the family-less homes we have in the West (all those shootings and killings in Baltimore, Chicago and LA can be put down to the phenomenon of the “Rogue Males”).

    4. “… there are also men walking with scars all over their hearts, because a woman they love and cared for, abandon them and tore down everything they build together.” The discarded ROGUE MALES in UK sometimes end up killing THEIR OWN CHILDREN! Newspapers here headline it all the time.

    Now, Suntou, this is a lot deeper than you make it appear, Bro!

  3. Kebba Cham

    I think Gambian women are the most ungrateful and materialistic creatures in Africa.
    You marry them make money help them and their family. You bring them overseas they become a different creature as soon as they get their papers.
    Later they create problems they lie they commit adultery and no regard for the institution of marriage.
    It is self interest for them nothing else.

  4. Luntango Suun Gann Gi

    Gosh, Kebba Cham, does Luntango know you personally? Two people, one a Gambian and one a Toubab, used EXACTLY your words when we were talking. Personally I avoid generalisations – and anyway everyone hassles and the women are no different. Just that they are good at it because the men are foolish enough to “fall in love”. What is the name of that Gambia woman who first 1. Made millions from a Toubab. 2. Then married a Belgian-based Gambian footballer in style 3. Then married Sierra Leone’s Vice President (I think the VP suffered Ebola).

    Anyway, Kebba, nowadays women are much smarter than us poor men!

  5. Mr. Cham we must strictly separate ungrateful behaviour from domestic violence.
    The former is gender neutral with alternating victims whilst the later is crime against the human dignity of our women folks. The ramifications of domestic violence is many but one significant consequences of it, is the prevalent distrust and anger embedded in our extended family systems today. The son or daughters of a maltreated mother, will continue to harbour grudge against his/her half siblings.
    Today the biggest threat to our progress, is the effort of some quarters to strangle the emancipation of the women. Our informed approach should be about acknowledging the god-given equal status to women and scraping outdated traditional practices that are just outdated and contributes nothing to the wellbeing of our girl child.

  6. Kebba Cham

    They are ungrateful, I was not only in that situation but one that my ex was abusive towards me and the police had to get her. Do not make the mistake that violence is to women only. These ungrateful women go to that extent.

  7. Mr. Cham yes you are a victim. Sorry for that.
    However, to claim that all gambian women are ungrateful is erroneous. Many women went through the same disappointment like you. Probably with a greater monetary or societal consequences ….finding new husband and father for their kids.
    As for domestic violence, it is a statistical fact that women constitute the bulk of victims in the Gambia. There can be exceptions as in your case, but the overwhelming majority of domestic violence victims are women.

  8. Luntango Suun Gann Gi

    Indeed Kebba Cham, domestic violence is now a two-way street … More so now that women here in UK get us drunk as men. Because men are the stereotypical domestic abuser, many male victims have had to resort to setting up secret recordings in the home – to prove that they, the men, are the victims.

    I think Kinteh wants to see his beautiful forest, but he does not want to look at the diseased individual trees.

    Domestic violence is not just a two-way street, but it also takes two to tango.

    I was talking to this 44 year old woman from The Gambia. The Dread first boyfriend was violent; the posh Atlantic Road Fajara boyfriend was violent; the first husband was violent followed by two violent boyfriends. She is pretty but I would not go anywhere near her other than for a chat in a Cafe over coffee! Either she is the one who starts the fights – or she has magical powers to wind-up and turn her men violent (For some women, studies have shown that the violence is sought as part of the sexual excitement!).

    Of course, domestic violence, by whoever it is committed, is subject to the Criminal Code – it is Assault, Battery, GBH, etc. All violence must be firmly policed and taken to court – and those who suffer violence have a duty to help the authorities gather the evidence (which is so easy to do these days with audio-visual technology).

  9. Let’s make something clear here. ..Personal experiences are no basis to form informed opinions on.such a complicated issue and certainly, don’t justify generalisations… Generalisations are a form of PREJUDICE, and are therefore very bad and unhealthy..

    Domestic or spousal violence occurs in varied and different forms (physical, financial, emotional, verbal, etc) and can be perpetrated by either partner, though women are the most victims of (male violence) in many cases..

    It is impossible to identify a single solution to the problem, as no two cases are the same, but understanding the factors that precipitate spousal violence, is a sensible place to start from.

    Generally, spousal violence is the result, or the physical expressions, of our inner most feelings of frustrations and anger, that result from our inability to address the internal pressures of living together as a family, as, the external ones that impact on our relationships..

    Studies have shown that these factors are themselves, as varied and different, as the violence (or abuse) they lead to, and this is mainly due to differences in family make-ups, cultural/religious backgrounds, geographical locations, etc…

    Contextualising these to The Gambian situation, we may be able to identify a common list of factors responsible for spousal violence, and I.will.attempt to draw my own list of factors, but this is by no means an exhausted list…


  10. Prominent amongst my list of factors is CULTURE (sometimes intertwined with religion )…

    Culture, being a collection of beliefs, traditions, principles and guides for behaviour of/for members of a society (Gambians in this case), is perhaps, the single most significant factor that has the greatest impact on family relationships, especially of co-habiting partners.

    Not only does our culture define the terms of our relationships, it also influences our interactions towards, and perceptions of each other, and almost lays down our different roles in the relationship..

    This is without a doubt, a major source of tension and conflict in the diaspora homes because of the diametrically opposed practices of Western cultures and its strong influences on immigrant communities..

    One example of this is the control of the household finances..In traditional Gambian homes, the men (husbands) are the custodian of the finances, whether acquired through their own economic activities or that of the women..Of course, education and Western influence, even in The Gambia, is gradually eroding men’s tight grip in this domain, but it is still a source of conflict at home and in the diaspora…Another is Polygamy..Whilst The Gambia may tolerate this for lack of choices, they can create problems for their husbands when they live in.the West.

    In welfare states like the UK, deciding or agreeong on who controls benefit payments, especially of the children, is often a source of conflict in homes…So too are the exercise, by women, of their RIGHTS as established by the law in Western societies..Some Gambian men just find it hard to adjust to these realities and often see the women in one negative light or the other..

    In addition to culture, I will say that the following factors are also sources of tension and conflict that explode (built up anger and frustrations) into violence…

    (1)… INCOMPATIBILITY ( having different aspirations and outlook on life in general)
    (2)…FINANCIAL PRESSURES (and different financial interests)
    (4)…AGE DIFFERENCES and its attendant consequences, especially in the bedroom.
    (5)…FATIGUE AND EXHAUSTION FROM OVER WORKING (the need to make money compromises family time, thus widening any existing gaps between couples)
    (6)…ABSENCE OF SOCIAL LIFE (leading to loneliness) or the other way round with only one partner (male) enjoying social life, leading to suspicions of cheating and jealousy..
    (7)…LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF BEHAVIOURAL AND MEDICAL DISORDERS IN CHILDREN AND WOMEN (such as ODD & OCD in children and Post Natal depression in new mums)
    (8)…MISREADING OF/ MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FEELINGS TOWARDS EACH OTHER (like and attraction is sometimes mistaken for love and over time, that dissipates away, leaving only frustrations behind..This affects many “SEMESTERS” on holiday)

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