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.