Gender-based violence is a topic that has received increasing attention in the country and abroad, accompanied by calls for stringent measures to mitigate against this social ill. Concerning the safety of women, Chapter 12 of the National Development Plan (NDP) stipulates that “gender-based violence in South Africa is unacceptably high”.
Gender-based violence is defined as violence that targets individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their gender, and mostly affects women. But what if women are the enhancers of this social ill? Should we say nothing about women’s attitude towards women’s issues? I think this needs to be addressed especially if it means women who gives Power to Patriarchal Abuse are our biggest problem in solving Gender-Based violence.
The expectations associated with different genders vary from society to society and over time. Patriarchal power structures dominate in many societies, in which male leadership is seen as the norm, and men hold the majority of power. Patriarchy is a social and political system that treats men as superior to women – where it is assumed women cannot protect their bodies, meet their basic needs, participate fully in society.
Have you ever heard of such conversations? No? Yes?
“He slapped me”, irritably reports a young married woman.
“What did you do that caused him to slap you”, responds a mother.
“If he doesn’t need you anymore, he must bring you back home. You still have a family that loves you”, bursts a father.
Here is another popular one.
“He raped me Mama”, a girl says nervously.
“You seduced him”, says a mother in defence of the accused step-father.
Unfortunately, Women cannot get protection from men when they do not see a need to protect each other. These conversations demonstrate reality and the prevalence of violence against women is sometimes caused by women’s attitude which is affirmative to Gender-Based Violence.
Everything begins in the human mind. Attitudes and perceptions play a very important role in shaping human behaviour, including criminal activity and vulnerability to crime. Attitudes towards women, driven mostly by cultural and religious beliefs, determine how women are treated in society. This includes attitudes of women about themselves.
Hence, I honestly have a problem with some women that make noise about Gender-Based Violence yet they are the protectors of abusers. For me, violence is violence, the minute you defend it, deny it, scrutinise it, doubt it, overlook it, you are a problem and you actually enhance its prevalence.
There is nothing remotely excusable about violence against women anywhere, at any time. Nothing. Let’s just be blunt about it. Criminal violence against anybody is a public health problem in epidemic proportions. We see it in our streets, in our homes and in our communities. Violence of any sort is an affront to society, an abomination that is simply unacceptable.
We know stopping violence against women requires strong, coordinated action by our communities. Therefore, it is important that our communities across the country have an absolute resolve that our sisters, mothers and everyone are liberated from the scourge of violence. But what matters, is to liberate women from themselves. Women must first help themselves from Gender-Based Violence through:
Taking the pledge to be part of the solution of ending violence; starting the conversation with their family, neighbours and co-workers about creating healthy and equitable relationships, respecting boundaries, and ending violence; change societal attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate and make excuses for violence, particularly against women; and build a network of resounding voices that support and advance and promote the safety, liberty and dignity of all of us.
Women in South Africa not only have to contend with the reality of rape, physical abuse and murder but also other kinds of abuse like stalking and harassment, this is revealed by 2017/2018 crime statistics for South Africa. Available literature also shows that the reasons for women to remain within abusive relationships are diverse. They include being advised by their mothers to endure, feeling of helplessness, fear of economic security, feeling of failure, protecting the children, culture and religious beliefs and the normalisation of abuse by the society.
Therefore, women in particular need education about their own rights. Also, laws need to be strengthened and we need tougher penalties for abusers. There is also an urgent need for identifying and empowering women in abusive relationships, but they must first be empowered by other women instead of being judged and misled by other women. Beyond all that, society must put out an unequivocal message that violence against women is vile and reprehensible, and will no longer be tolerated.
Siwaphiwe Myataza, a Political Science graduate from the University of the Western Cape. Managing Director of Village Girl Creatives, a Media Hub.