SA men are under assault
Through socialisation, they may be as much victims in their way as the women they abuse
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.