In search of peace in the home and the world
“We need peace in the home and peace in the world,” reads the global theme for this year’s 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence.
A simple statement filled with thunderous resolve to thwart rampant cases of gender-related violence.
The 16-day-campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by groups around the world to call for the elimination of all kinds of violence against women and collaborate with different legislative policies put in place by governments to curb the abuse on women.
Experts have identified various forms of gender-related violence.
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) came up with a new classification it calls “intimate partner violence”.
This relates to both men and women – though there is not disputing that more women suffer violence than men.
Intimate partner violence is defined as behaviour in an intimate relationship which causes physical, sexual or psychological harm; it includes aggression and controlling attitudes.
Sexual abuse is classified as a form of gender-based violence and explained as attempt to attain sexual act, unwarranted sexual comments, sexually using coercion by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim and it includes rape.
Men have been the major culprits of gender violence as the WHO multi-country study reported 15-17 percent of women experiencing physical or sexual violence were in an intimate relationship.
While SADC has upped its strategies in tackling gender-related violence through protocols designed to reduce all forms of violence against women and children, research has shown the inadequacies of these protocols.
Critics have argued that the enactment of domestic violence acts by some member states and the sprouting of anti-women abuse organizations such as Kivulini Women’s Rights Organisation in Namibia, Musasa Project in Zimbabwe and Sonke Justice in South Africa have failed to contain the situation.
Research has shown that violence against women and children perpetrated by men is still a challenge to the world, including in Southern Africa where South Africa tops the list of reported cases of rape.
In a survey conducted by the Community of Information, Empowerment and Transparency in South Africa, one in three of the 4 000 women questioned said they had been raped in the past year (2010).
And among 1 500 school children in Soweto township, a quarter of the boys said that “jack rolling” – term for gang rape – was “fun”.
Last year, research by the government-funded Medical Research Foundation (MRF) reported that in Gauteng Province, home to the country’s most populous city Johannesburg, more than 37 percent men admitted to have raped a woman.
South Africa boasts of the most women representation in politics among African states but has the highest cases of sexual abuses against children with more than 67 000 cases reported in 2000. Press reports from Zimbabwe carried in a report by the Musasa Project, a local organization that deals with domestic violence, reveal a significant rise in the number of cases being reported.
Between March and September 2009, the report said there was an increase from 14 to 26 rape cases reported in a month, not to mention those swept under the carpet.
Most worrying is the fact that it appears most of these crimes are committed by people in positions of trust, such as older relatives and guardians. The report goes on to give examples of outstanding cases of abuse with one senior administrator at an orphanage raping two teenage girls and a 24-year old man who raped his step-daughter and poured hot water on her genitals to try and conceal the evidence.
Further evidence of the atrocities committed against women revealed by the Musasa Project report pointed out to a bizarre case of sexual abuse of teenage girls to appease spirits.
Professor Suzzanne Madlala, a researcher attached to the University of Kwazulu Natal, has attributed the growth of the sexual violence against women not only to gender inequality but to a common myth that having sexual intercourse with a virgin cures HIV or AIDS.
“The myth is not only confined to South Africa but most parts of the continent as my fellow researchers in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria have also confirmed to me the existence of this rhetoric belief which is also to blame for the high rate of sexual abuse on minors,’’ Madlala said on a gender outreach website
Reading out her presentation at a recent crime and justice seminar in Pretoria, Professor Rachel Jewkes, director of the National Research Unit, said while the women’s and perceived community’s attitude towards gender equality have changed positively this does not seem to have any effect on the perpetration of gender violence as statistics show the upward growth of abuse cases.
“In South Africa, patriarchy generally manifests as a sense of sexual entitlement, there is a feeling that women are under control of men and when they resist they should be punished’’ she explained.
Sonke Justice spokesperson Mbuyisela Botha told South African media that the acts of violence against women were paralyzing society and challenged political leaders to lead by example.
He criticized suspended ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s disparaging comments that; “When a woman didn’t enjoy it (sex) she leaves early in the morning, those who had a nice time wait until the sun comes out and ask for taxi fare.” This was in reference to a woman who accused President Jacob Zuma of raping her.
“It is the representation of a notion of what it means to be a man in South Africa instead of perpetuating rape myths, public figures should make it clear that rape can happen anywhere and the rapist could be anyone,” said Botha.
As it fights domestic violence and on a mission to bring men together to discuss cultural and social issues related to gender justice and equality in Zimbabwean, Padare/Enkundleni Mens Forum advocates for a men-driven movement to curb injustices against women and children.
The organization’s national director Kelvin Hazangwi said men take advantage of their physical superirotiy over women and abuse this power by bashing the fairer sex instead of protecting them.
“You find that because of the male-dominance ideology inherent in men, when as head of the house he fails to put food on the table he turns to violence as a weapon to make up for his irregularities and inadequacies. A simple failure to understand a situation on a man’s part can lead to domestic abuse,” Hazingwi told The Southern Times.
He said men use violence as a controlling measure. This, he said, would be used as a mechanism to maintain power and dominance in relationships, especially marriages.
Hazangwi called out those in power to help create platforms for men to engage in introspective dialogues to challenge negative notions of masculinity. “Creation of synergies and collaborations between men and women’s organizations so as to facilitate cross gender dialogue will assist in improving gender relations,” he suggested.
It is until such matters can be addressed and the full implementation of protocol policies and elimination of patriarchal practices that we can have peace in the home and peace in the world.