A 16-day festival of empty promises

2012-11-24 08:56

Sorry, but this year, City Press is not doing the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. This is not because it is a campaign absolutely impossible to say in a single breath, but because it makes no impact whatsoever. It is a loud noise signalling nothing.

At every year’s end, as spring turns to summer and just before the country takes a break, there is a festival of promises.
Promises that we will stop beating up, raping, and abusing our women and children. There are plays, marches, reports, speeches, activities, and lots and lots of articles.

We beat ourselves up, come up with all the best solutions, hear the voices of abused women and children (some who have survived, some who are like the walking dead), and then we put this most urgent of crises in the cupboard until we dust it off for the next 16-day festival of nothingness.

City Press will mark December 1, World Aids Day, because there is palpable progress, but the designers of the 16 Days campaign should stop to think what they have achieved.

Are there any marked signs of a decrease in rape and sexual violence? The annual release of the national crime statistics would suggest not. The reported rate of incidents generally does not move down.

This may well mask improvements and greater confidence as the statistics will rise as more people report to the police.

But generally, our view is that for all the money we throw at the pandemic of gender violence, little headway is being made to change the way the power relationships are constructed between men and women.

In addition, the structure of family life and the rise of unemployment have made day-to-day life tougher, making fractured homes and lives ever-present dangers. The root cause of violence has not changed and neither has our response.

So, instead of dealing with the problem properly and fulsomely, we have consigned gender violence and child abuse (the two should not even be conflated so serious is each) into 16 days at the end of the year when we pretend to care.

Civil society and government should not be numbed into believing that this is effective activism or governance. It is not. It’s a palliative to pretend we are dealing with gender violence when in fact we are not.

Like poverty and unemployment, it is an issue of such importance to our wellbeing we must work against it every day wherever we are.

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