Why do we tolerate gender violence?

2012-02-14 00:00

DESPITE years of studying and working in the field of gender issues, I’m still trying to understand the reason for the feud which exists between men and women in our society.

Both women and men need to acknowledge that South Africa has a serious problem of abuse against women and children. I don’t hear loud enough voices condemning this evil. I so wish that real men could come out strongly in public campaigns and say “enough is enough” to this abuse, and I so wish that women would take a visible stand and make their voices heard, as they did in 1956. Unfortunately, it seems as if women are not as united and as focused as those of 1956. They have become so numbed and powerless that they don’t feel like fighting for their rights anymore. This weakness is unfortunately understood by women haters who use it against them.

I recently attended a gathering in Europe to discuss gender issues. A colleague from South Africa and I attended a commission on discrimination against women. A colleague from Fiji burst into tears, saying she felt sorry for the women of Africa, who are daily experiencing discrimination, and especially those in South Africa because of the high rate of rape and women killings there. All eyes turned towards the two of us. We were both angry at her for embarrassing us and speaking about our country like that. But was she lying? She said that they did not have rape in her country and they are proud of their men because they treat their women well.

People from Latin America, who dominated the commission as a bigger group, confirmed that they experience domestic violence against women in their countries, but they fight it together like they fight the spread of disease.

The following day we took a study tour to the city where we met a friendly woman who was happy to practise her English on us. She wanted to know which countries we came from. When I told her mine she got very excited and shouted “Ubuntu”. I was happy to translate the meaning of the word to my colleagues, but saddened by the fact that in two days my country had been described in such opposite extremes: as the champion of ubuntu and the society which beats, rapes and kills its women and children.

I still have to learn what makes South Africans so tolerant of this violence. We came together in support of the World Cup in 2010, why can’t we do the same to stop the war which is waged against the marginalised groups of our society?

• Bridgette Dlamini is a gender practitioner in the Institutional Transformation Unit of the KZN Legislature

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