The past few weeks have to be one of the worst periods our post-apartheid state has been through. The South African society has gone through turmoil and upheaval that has torn through our society and I hope that there will be a change in the country that will put us on a new and better course.
The major issue that has reared up again is not new, yet we fail to resolve it as a nation. The abuse and killing of women and children, sadly keeps happening on a daily basis and it takes an event to make us all angry again. The murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana galvanised the country to say enough is enough! South Africa is tired to these senseless killings. All of these issues, in my view, we have misdiagnosed insofar as the language that we use to describe them.
Let us be frank, gender based violence is a sanitized way of labeling the constant killing of women and children by men. Yes, women and children are dying by the hands of husbands, sons, uncles, brothers, our friends, you and me!
You see language and words are important when you describe things because the correct use of language will lead you to a proper diagnosis and then lead to the correct solutions.
The biggest problem we need to address head on is the killing of women and children by the hands of men. This, if not addressed properly has the potential of turning this society into one where the lives of women and children mean nothing!
What type of men stand and watch whilst those who give birth to our future (and that very future is our children) die by their hands or doing?
We need to ask ourselves deep questions and reflect upon what is wrong with men today? The questions that must be asked are: “Does this violence come from a deep dark place in men?” “Are we inherently predisposed to commit these acts of violence?” I would say yes. My reason for this is that we need to look at the way that boys are raised and young men are socialised. Boys are exposed to talk and behaviour that demeans women. We know and have probably been in discussions where women have been objectified and we think that it is boys talk and laugh it off. We promote a culture in where boys must always conquer women – if they do not ‘chow’ then they are teased and called sissies or stabane. We need to correct this by correcting the type of language that we use. We need to call each other out when we objectify or belittle women. In your space of influence what are you doing to promote this?
Then there is a spotlight that we must throw at the legal justice system in that it does not do enough to firstly catch these perpetrators and secondly convict them. The policing of these crimes become very difficult as these crimes are happening in peoples’ private spaces and away from glaring eyes. We need our system to do better in assisting women in reporting these cases. Police do not take complaints with the seriousness they deserve. The protection orders that are given are not worth the paper they are written on because of poor enforcement of these orders. If men are caught the conviction rates are so low that men think that they can get away with the crime. The investigations are also poor where the onus is put on the victim to prove it happened and it should be the perpetrator proving his innocence. Then if a case does go to court the system is adversarial and allows the victim to be violated again.
These are structural issues that we have in the system and these can be easily fixed. I would consider these issues to be the low hanging fruit. Better training of our police officers and a change to our court system and the type of support that we give victims. When a perpetrator is convicted the sentences need to be long. Magistrates and Judges should also be trained on gender sensitivity.
Another solution is that we (men) need to link hands and resources with organisations that are already working in this space. What you can do today, tomorrow or next week is to find out how you can get involved in these organizations? They are better equipped and they have done the research and are working on this problem daily. They need to be supported so that they can serve their purpose.
Organisations that can be supported are:
Men and women against child abuse
Sonke Gender Justice
Soul City Institute for Social Justice
Women’s Legal Centre
We have a crisis on our hands! Did you know that South Africa’s femicide rate is 5 times higher than the global average? 41% of people that are raped in South Africa are children? Only about 4% of these rapes result in prosecutions.
The good men in society need to make their voices heard and their presence felt on this issue. The good men that are there need not leave the solutions to government, we need to put pressure on them to do better.
I would like to urge all South African males, regardless of age, to answer these three questions for themselves. Not for their parents, peers but for their journey to manhood.
- How would you describe a man?
- What makes you a man?
- Who is a woman?
The first question will help South African men to evaluate their actions and reasons of being masculine? It will also help elaborate what his views are on learnt culture and traditions, be it from the home or the street. We can then have a view on what needs to be corrected or reinforced.
The second question will focus us on where he, as an individual stands and how he views himself.
The third question will help us understand how he views women and girls as a counterpart in society and her importance and value as a human being. This can also help us to understand if there is anger, disappointment or love they experience with females.
What are your thoughts and feelings, dear reader?
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