Gender-based violence is a symptom of gender inequality

Picture: Pixabay

Once again, our screens are displaying another incident of gender-based violence. The music artist, Bongekile Simelane, famously known as ‘Babes Wodumo’, was on Instagram Live being physically assaulted by her boyfriend, another famous musician, Mampintsha (real name: Mandla Maphumulo). Predictably, society is up in arms, including the Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, calling for the immediate arrest of Mampintsha.

I contend that as a country, we only pay lip service to gender-based violence. After a few days, this charged reaction will evaporate, and it will be back to business as usual, and we’ll wait for another inevitable case of gender-based violence and revert to our social media activism.

Early last year, Sandile Montsoe was convicted for killing his girlfriend, Karabo Mokoena, and set her body alight. A couple of years ago, a world champion paralympian, Oscar Pistorius, shot through the locked toilet door killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Again, as a society, we did not disappoint on our social media activism, where we acted, our action was usually misguided because it is informed by a misdiagnosis the root problem.

The circumstances around gender-based violence in South Africa are so ominous that a woman is murdered every eight hours. Put into context, if you start work at 8 o’clock in the morning, by the time you knock off at 5pm, a woman has been murdered. According to Statistics South Africa, one in five women older than 18 years has experienced physical violence.

Gender-based violence is a symptom of gender inequality. Unfortunately, instead of eradicating this gender inequality, we seem to entrench it deeper, in our various spaces. At the work place, we continue to under pay women. The Labour Statistics South Africa Survey reveals that women earn between 23% to 27% less than men. Women are still facing sexual harassment, for promotion and appointments, men are still favoured.

More than 20 years of democracy, a girl child is still facing more barriers than a boy child. In some rural and peri-urban parts of South Africa, a girl child loses up to a quarter of their school days in a year because of her menstrual cycle, endures harassment, including rape.

Last year, Bheki Cele, Minister of Police shocked the nation when he revealed that 40 percent of all rapes in South Africa are committed against children. As if that was not enough, when a girl child falls pregnant while still at school, the stigma and abuse she faces from teachers, fellow pupil, nurses and family is overwhelming. Moreover, while the girl child cannot fall pregnant alone, she is the only one to miss a year of schooling-the boy child will continue with his education uninterrupted. Accordingly, minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga revealed that about 15 000 pupils fall pregnant during the academic year, with a large percentage resulting in drop outs.

In some religious groups, and traditional leadership set-up, women are not allowed to occupy positions of leadership, a practice still common in the 21st century. Even in respect of traditional meetings, women are not allowed to set foot at the venue.

In sport, within the same sporting code, men teams receive more support and sponsorships than women teams. In South Africa, a men soccer national team, Bafana Bafana earn as high as R60 000 for a win, R40 000 for a draw, where as a women soccer team, Banyana Banyana earns R5000 per match, through their salaries.

To turn the tide, South Africa needs to deal with gender inequality in the same way that it fought the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Concerted efforts must come from civic organisations, private sector and government, and importantly, the struggle for gender mainstreaming advocacy must continue.  Gender mainstreaming is one of the powerful measures for fighting gender inequality. In simple terms gender mainstreaming refers to making policies, strategies, programmes, projects, activities, actions and decisions gender sensitive and conscious. This is beyond the numbers game, since at the core of gender mainstreaming is ensuring that the environment is conducive for women to thrive-whether at the work place, parliament, universities, churches, etc.

Indeed, until we begin to put more of our efforts into fighting gender inequality, women bodies will perpetually flock to Intensive Care Units of hospitals, mortuaries and cemeteries in droves.


Sifiso Ndaba is a public servant in Gauteng Office of the Premier, and a Masters of Management in Governance (Development and Economics) candidate at Wits School of Governance.