We’re fail­ing the coun­try’s women

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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