SA men are un­der as­sault

Through so­cial­i­sa­tion, they may be as much vic­tims in their way as the women they abuse

Cape Argus - - OPINION - ERIC MOTAU

SOUTH AFRICA: home to the Spring­boks, Table Moun­tain and mil­lions of rapists. There is some­thing deeply wrong with our coun­try.

South Africa re­mains a male-dom­i­nated so­ci­ety across the board. Un­for­tu­nately, the com­monly held be­liefs around what makes a man a man come at great cost, not only to the women of this na­tion, but also to the men .

It is per­haps im­pos­si­ble to ac­cu­rately mea­sure the ex­tent of gen­der-based vi­o­lence in this na­tion. We know that it is high. While the num­ber of rape cases is high, un­re­ported rapes may be nine times as much. As many as one in three women say they have been raped.

Per­haps even more dis­turb­ing is a South African Crime Quar­terly pa­per in which nearly one in three men that they ran­domly (and anony­mously) sur­veyed said they had forced a wo­man to have sex with them at least once.

This shock­ing find­ing brings home the truth: rape in South Africa is not the re­sult of a small per­cent­age of psy­chopaths; it’s en­demic, it’s just about ev­ery other man.

We have a se­ri­ous prob­lem, and af­ter more than 20 years of con­certed ef­forts to pro­mote gen­der equal­ity, even at par­lia­men­tary level, the prob­lem is go­ing nowhere.

With ev­ery news re­port of a hor­rific crime against a wo­man or child, there are fresh calls for im­proved puni­tive mea­sures and fresh en­thu­si­asm for women to learn self-de­fence.

But they don’t get to the root of the is­sue. Rape is not sim­ply a crime in this na­tion. It’s a cul­ture.

What is it about as many as one in three South African men that makes them hate women?

A com­mon find­ing in the re­search is that while al­co­hol use, peer pres­sure, re­venge and rape myths may all act as com­pound­ing fac­tors, the most com­mon root of the prob­lem lies in South Africa’s ac­cen­tu­ated gen­der hi­er­ar­chy.

Put an­other way: we can do all we like at a pol­icy level; Par­lia­ment can lead by ex­am­ple; we can im­prove our po­lice sys­tem and have ex­cel­lent aware­ness cam­paigns, but, the re­al­ity is that the is­sue starts at home.

Par­ents need to so­cialise their boys into men who re­spect women. Men need to model re­spect­ful be­hav­iour to­wards women and, cru­cially, boys need to know there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween phys­i­cal dom­i­nance and true strength. Such cul­ture is per­pet­u­ated from early child­hood.

South African men are not happy. How can I make such a claim? In my view a happy, men­tally strong per­son does not rape.

Fur­ther­more, 14 men com­mit sui­cide in South Africa ev­ery day. That’s five times the num­ber of women. More than 400 men ev­ery month.

I’m not link­ing rape and male sui­cide, but what I am say­ing is that our coun­try’s ac­cen­tu­ated gen­der hi­er­ar­chy con­trib­utes to both.

It is clear that South Africa’s over-em­pha­sis on the al­pha male pro­motes rape cul­ture. Less clear is that it also re­sults in a cul­ture that views de­pres­sion as some­thing to do with emo­tion, and there­fore some­thing

I’m not link­ing rape and male sui­cide, but our coun­try’s ac­cen­tu­ated gen­der hi­er­ar­chy con­trib­utes to both

which is shame­ful and un­manly.

The “boys don’t cry” phe­nom­e­non goes all the way to man­hood, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for male suf­fer­ers of de­pres­sion to ask for help.

There’s no quick fix to chang­ing a na­tion, but per­haps one small step along the way is the re­al­i­sa­tion that ad­dress­ing rape cul­ture re­quires a new way to bring up our boys, and that will di­rectly ben­e­fit both our women and our men. Motau is coun­try direc­tor for the Re­gional Psy­choso­cial Sup­port Ini­tia­tive, which main­streams psy­choso­cial sup­port in pro­grammes and ser­vices for girls, boys and youth in East and south­ern Africa.

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