Rampant patriarchy strikes again. And again
This week Sandile Mantsoe was sentenced to an effective 32 years behind bars for murdering Karabo Mokoena and burning her body. Pieter van Tonder will spend an indefinite period in jail for the savage murder of his ex-girlfriend’s baby. And Thabani Mzolo appeared in court on suspicion of murdering his ex-girlfriend — after posting a confession on Facebook. In other words, a fairly unremarkable week for women and children who live with the brutal consequences of rampant patriarchy in South Africa. A woman is murdered every four hours in this country, every other one by an intimate partner. This is four to five times the global rate. When we consider that violence against women and children often happens in the same families, we have the recipe for a selfperpetuating cycle of violence.
South Africa has good legislation to deal with domestic violence and sexual offences. Gun control has had a positive impact on the overall murder rate. Police resources have been boosted. Yet intimate-partner violence remains intractable.
The demeaning afterlife of apartheid and entrenched patriarchal attitudes to women have led to a society that accepts violence against women and children as normal. Poverty, alcohol abuse and lower levels of education feature frequently in studies of interpersonal conflict, as do infidelity and economic inequality between couples. Domestic violence usually happens in private, and is often not even viewed as a crime.
Some promising studies have identified factors that can help lessen the levels of violence, such as better education among women, school interventions and improvements in women’s socioeconomic status or financial independence.
Focusing on educating and empowering women and girls has been suggested as a solution to many other stubborn social problems too: more education for girls correlates with a fall in infant mortality, better family planning and better-educated children. Financial independence makes it possible for women to participate in decisions for themselves and their families — not the least of these being able to escape abusive husbands who control them through financial dependence.