As the effects of the global health pandemic appear to be dying down in our country, we find ourselves firmly in the grip of another pandemic, one that is violent, one that is selective in its victims and one that has faces, this is violence perpetrated against women and children. Unfortunately, it is a pandemic that shows no signs of abating.
The latest crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) a week before the launch of the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, show an increase in rapes, domestic violence, and, perhaps most worryingly, in child murders.
In just three months, between July and September 2021, 9 556 people, most of whom were women, were raped. This is 7% more than in the previous reporting period.
Of the nearly 73 000 assault cases reported during this period, more than 13 000 were domestic violence-related. The rate of child murders has climbed by nearly a third compared to the previous reporting period.
In his statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that “Gender-based violence (GBV) is a problem of male violence. It is predominantly men who are rapists. It is mainly men who are perpetrators of domestic violence. Because it is men who are the main perpetrators, it should be men taking the lead in speaking out and reporting gender-based violence, in raising awareness, in peer education and in prevention efforts.”
On the 20th of November the world observed and celebrated World Children’s Day, which is an observance that raises awareness about the children around the globe who have experienced violence in forms of abuse, exploitation and discrimination. This day is also a celebration to highlight progress being made towards the realisation and promotion of the rights of children and it offers us an opportunity to promote and celebrate children’s rights that will build a better world for them.
Interestingly, the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign occurs after the observance of International Men’s Day on the 19th November, which honours the positive contribution that men make to society, as well as the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. Amongst others, International Men’s Day highlights positive role models and raises awareness of men’s well-being.
Therefore, as we move towards the launch of this year’s 16 Days’ campaign, it becomes evident that the elimination of violence against women and children cannot happen without the promotion of children’s rights (and the rights of women). These two activities need to be intertwined in order to have a meaningful impact. Yet, on the other hand, in order for these activities and campaigns to succeed, it needs to be with the support and the positive contribution of men.
Annually, in November, pledges to end violence against women and children are made; many mass mobilisation, marches and events are organised and attended, however, at the end of it all minimal progress is achieved in the fight against GBV. This is usually due to the fact that it is mainly women who are leading the fight and they do so with minimal support from men in their communities. How then can lasting change be achieved without the support of men? Men are integral in playing a more formative and present role in their families, particularly in raising their sons towards exhibiting healthy, positive masculinity that is respectful of both women and children.
Ending GBV can neither be the sole responsibility of the state, nor can the responsibility of ending this scourge be placed on the shoulders of the same women and children who are mostly affected by it.
Men, whether within workplaces, communities or community organizations; more men need to take a firmer and visible stance to work with all involved in the implementation of effective interventions for the ending of GBV.
In line with the 6 Pillars of International Men’s Day, men and communities at large need to:
The theme of the 2021 celebration of International Men’s Day was “Better relations between men and women.” This is quite appropriate, as without discernible improvement on the relations between men and women we cannot fight the scourge of Gender-Based Violence.
This calls for men to not be complicit in the crimes against women and children, either actively or by their lack of involvement in the fight against GBV, but rather to protect the rights of women and children towards the creation of a safer better world.
We hereby call on Men and Women to work together in order to end all forms of Gender-Based Violence and these activities need to extend beyond just the 16 Days campaign.