16 Days... Is it enough?

2009-12-02 08:11
Marianne Thamm
It’s that time of the year again. And every year I’m not sure how I feel about the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign that kicks off tomorrow and runs until December 10.

The campaign is a United Nations initiative and the significance of the dates are that the 25th is International Day of No Violence against Women and December 10 is International Human Rights Day.

Sometimes the problem in this country just seems so overwhelming and the statistics on a number of fronts are mind bogging. It somehow seems futile to repeat the numbers of women and children who are raped, maimed and murdered each year. Without the faces, the names and the facts we can turn right over to the TV page.

And then there are other studies that have found households headed by single women are now the norm in this country. Men are simply absent. In July this year the Times newspaper quoted a survey that 7 million children are being raised by single mothers.

In October, IFP MP, Helen Makhuba, during a debate on the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women, remarked that even though we have been more vocal in our condemnation of violence against women and children, “the truth is that very little progress has been made in halting violence against this section of our society.”

 “Unlike other crimes, victims of sexual offences and domestic violence are often highly-stigmatised. Because far too many South Africans condone such violence, women often feel ashamed and remain silent,” she said adding “momentum needs to be built from grassroots level. Many of the stereotypes regarding the traditional roles of men and women are still prominent today and these will persist and be passed on to future generations unless a concerted effort is made to change them. At schools, both boys and girls must be treated as equals and given equal opportunities and at home, the actions of adults, and in particular men, must reflect the fact that men and women are equal.”
We have many prominent women and men, political leaders in the ruling and opposition parties who regularly speak out and speak the horrible truth about why levels of violence continue to be so high.

We all agree that the biggest threat to South African society as a whole is rogue masculinity and parasitic patriarchy where men are led to believe, through a variety of cultural and religious codes, that they have dominion over other people and the earth. It is a grandiose notion of selfhood that broaches no argument and that leads those who are deeply embedded in this worldview to violently resist change. These are the men who should be stigmatized for it is they who are destroying communities and the lives of others.

Macho men should not be celebrated or admired. They are weak and prey on others in order to feed their own egos.

The question as to how good men and women can begin to effect a change in the dominant culture of violence remains unanswered. With the best intentions, we can suggest that boys and girls understand that they are equal, but unless this is their experience when they go out in the world it will make little difference.

Women have to be given opportunities, incentives and support to escape the many traps that limit them. Good men also must be rewarded and celebrated.

But the most effective deterrent for those men who continue to exact this terrible toll on the country and its citizens is for them to be caught, tried and punished. Perhaps we in the media should use these 16 days to unearth or uncover and highlight these types of court cases, their progression and their outcome.



  • Rob - 2009-11-24 09:04

    Perhaps you women in the media should stop making pious comments and stop colluding in the objectification, commodification and exploitation of women by the media.

  • Neela - 2009-11-24 09:33

    Yes, it is a very worthy campaign and it has become a feature on the media calendar which is very important. I spend so much time trying to keep my own life together and this is a reminder to reach out a little more to contribute toward building this country. I think it should be called 16 days of Activism for the protection and rights of women and children because that's really what we want to rally toward. The campaign never goes far enough to suggest active ways to safeguard the wellbeing of children in communities. I'd like to see mothers and women becoming playground guards and creating a sense that children are valuable and percious enough to be watched. We give car guards a R2 to watch our cars but we let kids play alone in public spaces all the time.

  • Michelle - 2009-11-24 13:03

    A very good campaign. But PLEASE NOTE: 16 DAYS IS NOT EVER ENOUGH. People need to be reminded on a daily basis that abuse of women and children are not acceptable. Men take women and children for granted. They feel that only they have rights and that we do not matter.Don't even speak about getting the cops involved. They do nothing to help protect us against abusive men. The courts are not far behind the cops. Cases get thrown out of court because the cops did not take evidence from the woman that was assaulted. So don't expect help from the law. Protect yourself and your children on your own.

  • Vuyo - 2009-11-24 15:51

    Marianne..like you I have mixed feelings about campaigns liek this becasue I think the issues are so much more complex than simply a patriarchical culture and/or a culture of violence. Even women in high income groups, with lots of alternatives encounter domestice violence - and find it just as difficult as any other woman to break free. This is an issue for all of us to confront: men, women, fathers, sisters, mothers etc. It's a societal issue - look at the man who beat his wife into a coma becasue he suspected infidelity - his whole family and even some prominent friends rallied around him,petitioning the judge to show mercy! attitudes like that can't be changed by a 16 day campaign

  • Pandora - 2009-11-24 15:58

    This is all a very good idea, but with the examples set by our government, what do we expect from our youth? That sort of Macho Take What You Want attitude equals overseas trips, jail free cards, lots of woman and fast cars.

  • Harriet - 2009-11-25 07:32

    Oh please, has any of these campaigns made ANY difference? I think the answer to that is a resounding no - look at the stats. How to make a difference? You just need to make a few examples of rapists: public castration and string them up in the closest tree. The so-called justice system isn't working -that's also obvious. Bloodthirsty perhaps but we're fighting a war and unless we're prepared to stand up for our rights + defend our children we'll continue suffering. Domestic violence - leave him and then hire a couple of bouncers to beat the c**p out of him with the promise of more if he should even consider lifting his hand against you or any other female ever again. And please - enough sob stories about that not being the solution. If violence is the only language these sub-humans understand, use it. Enough talk - laws aren't working and social initiatives don't have any short term effect. It's time to make a stand.

  • faithless - 2009-11-25 15:37

    Men abuse women; men kill women....it is as simple as that. Because they think they have the right to. Only when that MENtality changes will there be a difference. 16 days is just a media hype to pretend that they doing something...what about the other 350 odd days

  • Carol - 2009-11-25 15:45

    It is all very well for us all to rant and rave about abuse, whether it be physical or verbal and the uselessness of the campaigns for this. The fact remains that it is still happening every day. Every little bit, every campaign helps even if it only helps one person out of 1 million. At least that is one more person saved. It is also very well to say that we need to get the men involved. But look at most of us and who are the care givers - The mothers (woman) Lets us also start from young and teach our boys and for that matter our girls as well that it is not acceptable for them to abuse each other. We very often tell our children that if you get pinched/ hit or anthying to that effect that they must do it back to the child who did it to them in the first place. To a certain extent yes our children need to stand up for themselves and maybe as Adults they will learn to stand up for themselves then as well, but if we teach them not to hit in the first place then maybe as Adults we will not have stand up for ourselves. I know that maybe this is an unrealistic point of view, but if we as woman teach our boys of the future that it is unacceptable then maybe they will know as men in the future that it is unacceptable. Rmember THE FIRST SEVEN YEARS OF EVERY CHILDS LIFE IS THE FOUNDATION FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE.

  • Tyamm - 2009-11-25 17:30

    Firstly I think this is a great initiative however I wish they could label it in such a way that it sends a message to women as well that violent acts to men are also not acceptable. Men are also being victimized outthere but because of their stereotype we expect them to act all fit and well as a result such violents surface a lot less vs female and children abuse.

    For each violent act we need to learn and understand why such is happening. We tend to overlook the perpetrator when it comes to giving remedial counselling to the victims. When a man beats a woman we immediately assume that the man is at fault. Yes he is by bieng violent but what led to his behaviour is the question we should ask.
    I strongly believe that we should fight the problem as much as we focus on the victim to prevent the act from happening again.

    The issue of single mothers in my opinion is not a difficult one to address. People must refrain from sexual activity until they are married. But of course once you are married there's infedility by some married men and women which lead to divorce and single motherhood. Aids is another contributor to the statistics. I think all these are human crafted and can definitely be overcome if we all act responsible.

    I stronly believe that a happy living is the medicine the world needs. It takes someone who is unhappy about his life to victimise others. People must be encouraged to live happy lives. This begins with taking charge of all spheres of your life. It's usually people who are miserable about life who resort to negative behaviour.

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