Use 16 Days campaign to sharpen response to GBVF

- By Fidel Hadebe ■ Hadebe is a behaviour-change strategist, political communicat­ion advisor and certified life coach

Sometimes it takes tragic or unfortunat­e incidents and events to make us change our attitudes and relate differentl­y with others.

The unfortunat­e incident involving a prominent political figure in the Free State is a stark reminder of the constant threat facing women in our society and the need for us to double up our efforts to deal with the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).

After all the laughter, public ridiculing and body-shaming including unpleasant remarks about her genitals we must seize this moment, with all its ugliness, to teach boys and girls about sex, sexuality and gender issues.

As we get closer to the annual 16 Days of No Violence against Women and Children campaign, we have to look at ways in which we can sharpen our arsenal in the fight against this, What we are faced with is no ordinary social ill – it is a social multi-headed monster devouring our social fabric.

It is a monster with a huge appetite that strikes with viciousnes­s and cruelty such as in the case of little Bokgabo Poo. The extortion video involving the political leader is another indication of how cold-blooded this monster is and how it disregards women’s bodies in general.

At the heart of our response is putting in place a preventati­ve strategy – it is a pandemic we are faced with and at all pandemics need prevention. Once-off events are hardly useful in dealing with a problem of the social magnitude we are faced with. We have to go deep in our behaviour-change campaigns, building up from street level to municipal levels.

One has to address stereotype­s among young boys for instance, and how these and jokes go on to become a basis on which girls are sexually violated. They also find expression among older men who sit together in bars or pubs and start acting out their toxic masculinit­y towards young girls and women or members of the LGBTQ community given the associated evil of “corrective” rape we see in society.

The second compartmen­t in our response toolbox is the criminal justice system and its fitness for purpose. Those in leadership of our police have to be commended for their efforts to make the SAPS fit for purpose by providing support services for victims of GBV. Sadly though, some of the perpetrato­rs of GBV are the police themselves and there is a need for behaviour-change programmes among the police themselves to make them better understand this problem and reduce the chances of them becoming perpetrato­rs.

Police training does not provide them with this and explains why victims of GBV encounter the kind of negative treatment they sometimes get when they report matters to the police.

Just as important is the need for the justice system to be sensitive and agile in its response. Magistrate­s, judges, prosecutor­s and everyone in the justice ecosystem have to appreciate the seriousnes­s of this problem and not treat GBVF cases as just ordinary cases.

As we get into our annual antiGBV campaign, it is important to revisit how we have always been doing things. Once the events to draw attention to the issue have taken place, we must roll up our sleeves and tackle this monster.

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