Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) – When we raise awareness and vow activism for no violence against women and girls, we uncover the issues that feel so comfortable to society such that they are accepted as normal, writes Dr Zanele Zuma.
By Zanele Zuma
Research (Makhene; 2022) shows that there is no decline in gender-based violence (GBV); the reported cases of GBV+F are increasing in our communities including tertiary institutions of higher education.
Nonetheless, the scourge of GBV+F continues to cloud the global communities taking different shapes.
Two days to the commencement of 16 days activism for no violence against women and children, Minister of Police Bheki Cele announced crime statistics for just a period of three months (July to September) where 10,000 women and children were raped, 986 women killed and 325 children killed during the same period in South Africa.
South Africa has the highest reported cases of violence against women and girls in the world.
As a result, the high prevalence of GBV has ranked South Africa as one of the most unsafe places for women to be.
Research demonstrates that about 50 percent of female homicide cases in South Africa stemmed from intimate partner violence, the second-highest contributor to disease burden in South Africa.
November 25 marks the beginning of yet another commemoration of activism for no violence against women and children that is characterised by awareness campaigns, marches, conferences and a whole number of activities to address the scourge of violence.
A pertinent question is: Is the 16 days activism enough to address the scourge?
Have we done enough to change attitudes about the scourge of GBV that is increasing at an alarming rate?
There has been minimal change of GBV in South Africa since the inception of 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children.
It is time that we reflect as a nation on possible other means to address the scourge above raising awareness campaigns at both local and national scale.
The National Strategic Plan (NSP) initiated in 2020 to fight GBV is an indication that there is still more that could be done to address GBV.
Two years since its establishment, the NSP has met challenges in its implementation phase.
In addition to campaigns that advocate against violence directed to women and children, should be companied by change of attitude and the resultant violent free society.
Sixteen days of activism against GBV should be continuous for 365 days until we see change.
Activism should be everyone’s responsibility starting from our household, communities, and places of worship extending to all the facets of life.
Staging protests, campaigns or support for the victims of GBV is not enough.
Most women particularly from the marginalised backgrounds lack knowledge of their basic human rights.
When women and girls are educated about their basic human rights, they will be empowered with knowledge that will make them distinguish between abuse and love.
So often, women and girls fall victims of abuse by their intimate partners.
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is the most form of GBV that mostly ends in fatalities.
It is pivotal to scrutinise factors that are precursor to GBV such as poverty, teenage early sexual debut, household lifestyle, the political system among other factors.
Poverty is the main driving force to women subordination and inferiority.
If women are self-reliant, have relevant skills to support themselves and their families that will minimise instances where women rely on their male counterparts for support.
It will minimise young girls opting for transactional sex lifestyles because they will have been equipped at an early stage to be self-reliant.
Poverty is partly responsible for young girls who are in intimate relationships with older men because they can provide a lavish life for these girls.
Besides the control that older men have over the lives of young girls in intimate partner relationships, these girls are prone to all forms of abuse by these men who claim ownership of girls.
A burning issue linked to GBV is the high rate of teenage pregnancies that interfere with the progress of girls at school and subject their lives into the domestic sphere widening the gap of inequality.
Inequality that is pervasive in our households is the breeder of GBV.
Therefore, activism should also extend to such circles that have been for long cocooned by ideologies of patriarchy.
This assertion is by no means an attack to our culture however; it is also a call for cultural authorities in their various structures to address the issues of GBV that tend to pollute culture.
Gender-based violence is a contagious disease that plagues everyone in society.
It has become part of people’s lifestyles, in households, community engagements, in institutions of learning, governmental structures such as health institutions amongst others.
The unfortunate part with South Africa has the most renowned constitution that addresses human rights in the global arena.
Conversely, high crime and GBV statistics indicate that they are at its peak in South Africa when compared to the global communities.
This is concerning particularly because such violence inhibits development and economic grow of the country’s citizens.
The social chaos that emanates from violence bears far-reaching effects on the mental health of victims.
Nevertheless, attending to victims of violence does not address GBV nor does it eliminate it.
Instead, it widens a gap infiltrated with hate and power hierarchy that further deepens the roots of violence directed at women and girls.
All around the world women share a common element of vulnerability to gender-based violence.
Research demonstrates that post conflict countries such as South Africa are prone to experiences of GBV.
Eras of conflict in South Africa both colonisation and apartheid affected women the most.
Even though GBV cuts across racial lines, scholars have demonstrated that GBV vastly affected black women.
Therefore, GBV has been a vicious circle directed at women population who are defenceless and stripped their human rights by perpetrators who show more power and dominance over them.
It is therefore essential that when we raise awareness and vow for activism of no violence against women and girls, we uncover the very issues that feel so comfortable to society such that they are accepted as normal.
Dr Zanele Zuma is a post-doctoral fellow at the School of Public Health at Wits University.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL