IT IS TIME FOR MEN TO STAND UP AN ADDRESS THE ISSUE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN OUR SOCIETY
Last Thursday South Africa celebrated Women’s Day. The whole month is in fact dubbed Women’s Month. Women’s Day owes its origin to the march on 9 August 1956. by more than 20 000 South African women of all races who went to the Union Buildings to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950, commonly referred to as the “pass laws”. The amendments were going to require black women, like their male counterparts, to carry a pass.The march was led by the likes of Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams. It was brave of all the women who participated in the march to confront the apartheid government of then Prime Minister JG Strydom. Indeed, it is proper that thru courage must be celebrated and a day set aside for such.However, when one looks at the problems that women still face in our society today, one wonders whether we should be celebrating or mourning. Femicide (the killing of women by their male partners) continues. Discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender still continues. The criminal justice system still continues to fail women who have been victims of gender-based violence. This is not a problem of women, it is our problem and has reached crisis proportions. According to Statistics SA’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey, one in every five South Africa women older than 18 has experienced physical violence. Four in 10 divorced or separated women reported physical violence
The reality is that gender-based violence is a crime of power – one that seeks to uphold patriarchal laws and control the female body in the framework of historically unequal power structures between men and women. It is a problem that belongs to society and therefore a crime by society in particularly men.
Men must face up to this crime and address it in our different spheres of operation – in education, the workplace, in our religious institutions, in our homes, and in just about every sphere of society.
Men being the common denominator in the suffering of women, I want to argue that an end to the raw deal that women continue to get depends, to a large extent, on us men. We can prevent violence against women by not personally engaging in violence, by intervening against the violence of other men, and by addressing the root causes of violence.
The vow never to personally engage in violence against women is something fundamental because it challenges men to take personal responsibility. Such a vow can be spread through popular culture and incorporated into the school curriculum of the boy child. Forums and sporting organizations targeting boys and young men can also be used as distribution channels for the wow. This could go a long way in shaping the outlook of boys on gender and thus influence their later behaviour towards women.
On intervening against the violence of other men towards women, as men we should never look away whenever we know or suspect a case of abuse. We should take it as our responsibility to help survivors report abuse to the police and help them to overcome the pressure so that they don’t withdraw the case.Ending the abuse and/or oppression of women by men will not happen unless we understand the root causes and are prepared to tackle them. For starters, the socialization of both the boy child and the girl child needs to change – at school and at home.
Gender stereotyping is deeply rooted at school and at home. For example, girls are socialised at an early age towards household chores, including taking care of young siblings. The socialisation process installs in the minds of the girls that they are inferior and subordinate. Thus, the whole socialisation process results in the deprivation of various opportunities for girls in society while the boy child is encouraged to explore.
The education sector must interrogate some of its content and practices. There are schools where girls are not safe by reason of behaviour by male students and teachers. We have seen how even universities have at times failed to be safe spaces for female staff and students. There needs to be a dialogue in that sector.
On understanding the root causes any further, it is important for us to appreciate the unequal power relations between men and women in society – and seek to change these. As men we tend to dominate and occupy strategic leadership positions in society. Either we can use these to advance women or to let the status quo remain.
In the judiciary and in Parliament men are still in the majority. Parliament can pass tough laws on woman abuse and the judiciary can impose the harshest sentence. A lot depends on us men.
I say all the above because unless society shows its seriousness about stopping the abuse of women, this problem will continue. We need everyone to grasp that violence against women and girls is a problem for us all to eliminate. Indeed, we expect those in government to be at the forefront of the battle against women abuse.
In this regard, it must enact legislative reforms in order to provide social information and facilitate access to the judicial system for women who are victims of gender-based violence. One would like to see the strengthening of the rule of law and the judicial processes against perpetrators of violence against women from police investigations up to the carrying out of sentences.
Comment by : Pastor Ray McCauley
PASTOR RAY McCAULEY IS THE PRESIDENT OF RHEMA FAMILY CHURCHES AND CO-CHAIRPERSON OF NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL (NRLC)