A plan for end­ing gen­der-based vi­o­lence

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

OVER the last few weeks, our coun­try has wo­ken up to daily news of the grue­some killings of women and girls by men who are mostly known to them. And, quite cor­rectly, our coun­try has been united in con­demn­ing these killings.

Since the bru­tal death of Karabo Mokoena, the young woman who was al­legedly mur­dered and burned by her part­ner, the me­dia, in­clud­ing this pub­li­ca­tion, has ded­i­cated com­mend­able re­sources to en­sur­ing this cri­sis is high­lighted. For once, politi­cians and civil so­ci­ety have also been play­ing their role in iso­lat­ing the per­pe­tra­tors. Also wel­come has been the role played by men, es­pe­cially the youth of our coun­try in the form of or­gan­i­sa­tions such as #NotInMyName, who have dis­tanced them­selves from these hor­ren­dous acts of crim­i­nal­ity.

Slowly but surely these cruel men among us are run­ning out of space to hide. There are many rea­sons why our so­ci­ety’s men, who are sup­posed to be pro­tec­tors of our women and girls, have turned into their own killers. For a start, it is true our coun­try has a vi­o­lent past. Colo­nial­ism and apartheid were vi­o­lent ide­olo­gies which dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected women and chil­dren.

Vi­o­lence against women and girls is rooted in gen­der-based dis­crim­i­na­tion and so­cial norms and gen­der stereo­types that per­pet­u­ate it. Given the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect vi­o­lence has on women, ef­forts have mainly fo­cused on re­sponses and ser­vices for sur­vivors.

Since the dawn of democ­racy in 1994, we have done a lot to ad­dress the legacy of apartheid and its vi­o­lence. The Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion (TRC) was one of the most imag­i­na­tive ways of deal­ing with our painful past. And the es­tab­lish­ment of the Moral Re­gen­er­a­tion Move­ment (MRM) was an­other step in re­viv­ing our moral fab­ric as a so­ci­ety.

How­ever, the re­cent spate of killings of our moth­ers, our wives, our girl­friends and our girls shows that the im­pact of such in­ter­ven­tions as the TRC and MRM is wan­ing. We need to rein­vig­o­rate these ef­forts.

Law en­force­ment agen­cies can help, but their help nor­mally comes af­ter the fact. Af­ter all, re­search shows that much of the vi­o­lence against women and girls is per­pe­trated by men who are known to the vic­tims and be­hind closed doors.

Stiff sen­tences, such as life in im­pris­on­ment, can act as a de­ter­rent to would-be of­fend­ers but, again, like ar­rests, jail terms are a blunt tool in deal­ing with this scourge.

My hum­ble sub­mis­sion is that the best way to end vi­o­lence against women and girls is to pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing in the first place. We can do this by ad­dress­ing its root and struc­tural causes.

First, pre­ven­tion should en­tail a thor­ough and deep anal­y­sis and di­ag­no­sis of the root prob­lem and the re­sul­tant so­lu­tions of the ex­er­cise.

Sec­ond, pre­ven­tion should start early in life, by ed­u­cat­ing and work­ing with boys in pro­mot­ing re­spect for women and girls, as well as gen­der equal­ity. Work­ing with our youth is our best bet for faster, sus­tained progress on pre­vent­ing and erad­i­cat­ing gen­der-based vi­o­lence. For it is a crit­i­cal time when val­ues and norms around gen­der equal­ity are forged.

Third, aware­ness-rais­ing and com­mu­nity mo­bil­i­sa­tion, in­clud­ing through me­dia and so­cial me­dia, is an­other im­por­tant com­po­nent of an ef­fec­tive pre­ven­tion strat­egy.

And fourth, pre­ven­tion should in­volve work­ing with men’s or­gan­i­sa­tions in­stead of de­mon­is­ing them. This will help ac­cel­er­ate progress in pre­vent­ing and end­ing vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren.

This week­end, in an ini­tia­tive sup­ported by our gov­ern­ment and en­dorsed by Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini, we be­gan the process of for­mu­lat­ing a com­pre­hen­sive plan. Un­der the aus­pices of the SA Men Move­ments United, around 500 men from all walks of life gath­ered in Boks­burg, Ekurhu­leni, to de­lib­er­ate on a plan.

The pur­pose of the con­fer­ence, which brought to­gether gov­ern­ment; po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tions such as the AIC, UDM and Cope); churches; and other men’s or­gan­i­sa­tions, sought to pro­duce a plan to end in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence against women and girls through pre­ven­tion, ad­vo­cacy, ed­u­ca­tion, law, de­part­men­tal syn­er­gies and work­ing re­la­tion­ships, to cre­ate a safe en­vi­ron­ment for our women and girls.

Char­ac­terised by mu­tual re­spect and can­dour, the dis­cus­sions were coura­geous, con­struc­tive and cor­dial. They in­ter­ro­gated all the fac­tors that en­abled men to turn against their loved ones. These fac­tors in­cluded the role played by the le­gal frame­work, the eco­nomic and work­place en­vi­ron­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, sports and cul­ture and spir­i­tu­al­ity. Cru­cially, the del­e­gates pro­posed bold mea­sures on how each sec­tor of so­ci­ety can as­sist in end­ing this cri­sis.

It is sig­nif­i­cant to point out that the con­fer­ence shouldn’t be seen as a sil­ver bul­let. Nor should it be seen as a re­place­ment of all the other ini­tia­tives that have been un­der­taken over the past few weeks since the resur­gence of gen­der-based vi­o­lence. Our mod­est goal for this week­end was to start a move­ment that will en­sure our homes and pub­lic spa­ces are safe for our wives, moth­ers, girl­friends and girls. As heads of our fam­i­lies, we want to join hands in lead­ing this crit­i­cally im­por­tant na­tional ef­fort. Work­ing to­gether, we be­lieve vic­tory is within reach.

Jail terms are a blunt in­stru­ment in deal­ing with this scourge

The author, cur­rently se­nior di­rec­tor at GN Min­istries and over­seer at Men-In-Prayer, is chair­man of SAMMOVU

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