We’re failing the country’s women
WITH apologies to The Script and Will.I.Am, women have scaled the heights of human development. They are students, teachers, politicians and preachers, leaders and astronauts – everything that a man can be, a woman can be.
So why is it that, in South Africa in the supposedly enlightened 21st century, we are in a situation where – according to Unisa’s Dr Nokuthula Mazibuko – one in four women is a survivor of domestic violence and one is killed by her intimate male partner every eight hours? And these statistics don’t include acts of violence – physical or emotional, fatal or not – perpetrated by men other than their intimate partners.
The Domestic Violence Act and a ministry and department intended, to a large extent, to look after the needs of women have had negligible effect on the scourge.
Victims are not bound to any race, culture, class or educational status, and neither are the abusers. Mazibuko’s research indicates that cultural attitudes – which entrench patriarchy and are difficult to break – play a huge role in perpetuating cycles of abuse: girls see their mothers enduring abuse and, in turn, endure abuse from their partners; boys see their fathers abusing their wives, and abuse their partners.
How do we break this cycle? Preventing the intergenerational transmission of domestic violence is an individual moral obligation and a social responsibility, says Mazibuko.
“Parents and guardians must unlearn all their previous lessons regarding the traits of femininity and masculinity.
“They must instil the values of love, respect and self-worth in their children earlier in life. Without these values, their children become adults who lack insight, the deep sense of love, respect and self-worth.”
Traditional and religious leaders need to play their parts too, for it is largely tradition and misinterpretation of religion that give rise to patriarchal attitudes.