Let's not forget the real meaning of Women's Day

2017-08-24 14:59

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2017-03-08 18:28

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As South Africans recently celebrated Women’s Day as a public holiday, many have forgotten the significance behind August 9th. 

National Women’s Day is a significant day in our calendar to remember the brave and strong-willed women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against legislation that required African persons to carry the ‘pass’.

Women’s Day is a necessary bias in a patriarchal world. Besides remembering these brave women who protested against apartheid’s evil laws, we need to empower and educate the new generation of women and young girls to stand up against gender based violence and abuse, prejudices and situations that keep women in “bondage”. 

At the time of writing this article, we are reading of some high profile cases of violence against women. Correctly, organisations and civil society are making calls that more needs to be done to address gender based violence in South Africa.

These reports and the subsequent public uproar have increased public attention to issues of violence against women and girls.
One of the biggest scourges in our communities and societies is violence against women. Socialisation, wrong perceptions and in some instances false religious beliefs and knowledge play a part in sustaining and driving gender based violence. 

Gender based violence stems from power, privilege and masculinity issues. These social constructs and ego-damaging, superiority complexes endorse men’s dominance over women. Statements like “boys don’t cry”, “be a man” add to these societal perceptions. Young boys grow up with these social opinions, behaviours and unrealistic classification of “what it means to be a man”.

Violence against women is widespread and affects every community, religion and social class. The pervasive and intractable nature of violence against women needs immediate strong action from all sectors of the community and government. It has family, economic and other serious repercussions like harmful and damaging health consequences and impacts for South Africa. 

Violence against women affects different aspects of women’s health. For example, emotional and other psychological problems resulting from trauma or numerous incidents of violence over a period of time can lead to suicide, or to the abuse of drugs and alcohol that in turn can result in death. Furthermore, gender based violence can also lead to social ills like prostitution. These and other factors provide an urgency to act.

The costs of gender based violence are huge and enormous. They are crippling to economies, societies, humans and families, especially the children. Women and girls have different experiences of gender based violence throughout their life cycle. Violence can occur during any phase of women and girls’ lives. 

Increasingly, we hear of close relatives and even fathers physically and in some instances sexually abusing their daughters, nieces and girls in their guardianship or care. These experiences often prevent them from appreciating their God given rights as equal human beings or to pursue a career.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights affirm and reinforce the rights of all who live in South Africa, including women and young girls. These rights do not necessarily translate into lived realities in the lives of women who still face systemic forms of abuse and violence. 

In order to address gender based violence like prejudice, bias, intolerance, discrimination, stereotypes, femicide and all other forms of gender unfairness, intimidation and physical assault like rape and murder, the time is now to impress upon all those in charge of legislation, policing, justice, education and the different religious sectors to be more involved in efforts to address violence against women and girls. 

The immense damage caused by violence against women and girls and the urgent need to act against one of the most widespread human rights violations cannot be over emphasised.

Let us all join hands in fighting this scourge and help build our proud nation. 

- Mohamed Saeed says probing the media headlines, critical thinking, creating waves and promoting fundamental rights, social justice, rule of law, dignity and values is his passion and mission in life.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    women's month  |  women's day

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