Break the cycle of violence

2017-12-24 06:05

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While it can be argued that women must stand up and stop the enabling of abuse, our minister in charge of the women portfolio has remained an enemy to women by staying silent and doing nothing

Sixolise Gcilishe writes:

Dear Minister Susan Shabangu,

It is with great melancholy that, in less than five months, I find myself penning another letter to you.

It would have been tremendous had the content of my letter carried a congratulatory message.

This could perhaps have been about the prodigious progress you have made in placing your department on a solid position to successfully carry out its obligations, putting gender equality and safety of women at the forefront.

I would have thought that perhaps, by now, we would be celebrating and appreciating you as a legislator and your review of current laws and policies, to identify gaps that are not benefiting or serving women.

I would have thought, Minister Shabangu that, perhaps by now, there would be recommendations and strategies in Parliament, put forward by you, to combat the current issues women in our country are faced with.

I thought by now you would be armed and ready, walking hand in hand with women swapping out the 365 days of activism campaign.

I thought the plague of violence against women in this country mattered to you so much that perhaps you would have jumped on the issue of Rhodes University expelling black women for their gender activism.

I didn’t realise how much of an enemy of women you are, so much so that, at crucial moments, you remain silent.

Reports were made about a rapist named Jason, who, although he had been found guilty of sexual assault, was allowed to graduate from Rhodes University. Yet the black women who protested against rape cannot graduate, ever.

A number of women came forward with their stories and traumas at the hands of the university.

You encourage women to speak out against perpetrators of violence yet, when they do, you take cover.

Women need help, Minister Shabangu, we need political help. Women need leadership, women need an advocate. That is you, except you are not doing your job but continue to be given a salary in our name.

You have broken your oath of office by not doing your job. You have proven to be a tumour to women, together with the perpetrators of violence and the universities who oppress women for their activism.

The march to the Union Buildings in 1956, the year you were born, Minister Shabangu, goes down in history as one breathtaking victory.

Women converged, resolute and tenacious, yet in an orderly fashion, from all parts of the country. I want those images to haunt you.

I need you to know that when, as women, we decide to fill the lawns of the Union Buildings again, it will be to remove you from office, as you neither lead nor represent us.

We will mobilise each other to stop the department of women and your meaningless ways and make you account for not driving any agenda of women safety and empowerment.

You are treating the urgent matter, the precious lives of our people, as yet another service delivery promise that can be delayed. Leading both in government and the ANC, you refuse to speak or take action against your own.

Shaka Sisulu and Arthur Mafokate, who are well-known supporters of the ANC and big campaigners of the party, found themselves in a firestorm after news surfaced that they had assaulted women.

Mafokate remains a board member of Brand South Africa.

ANC Women’s league president Bathabile Dlamini came out unashamedly in support of former higher education deputy minister Mduduzi Manana, citing how his attacking three women is being used as a political tool.

The game has not changed. A woman gets into an argument with a man, he beats her with intent to do grievous bodily harm, yet she is told she provoked him and is accused of evil, only interested in destroying the man’s career.

The encumbrance of being a woman continues. Men have developed tactics to overwhelm women by displaying and using harmful and destructive behaviours towards us.

You remained tight-lipped as confusion surrounded the case of Zimbabwe’s former first lady, Grace Mugabe, who assaulted a young South African woman in a hotel room but failed to turn herself in to police to face charges of assault. No one condemned her or took action. Indeed, the country is running itself.

Minister Shabangu, you are responsible for championing the rights of women of South Africa, but you keep disappearing from the scenes as though you have no power. This, in overall terms, is a kick in the teeth for women from women leaders across government.

A week ago, Minister, you and your department came out of hibernation and served up meaningless platitudes about 16 days of activism. For the rest of the year you carry yourself in the most shameful way that does not serve the women of this country.

Perhaps the policymakers were on to something when they said retirement age is 60. Step aside Minister Shabangu, you have run the race.

Gcilishe is an activist and columnist

Sarah Setlaelo writes:

The first time you are a victim. The second time you are an accomplice.

According to Brazilian author Paulo Coelho in his multimillion bestseller The Alchemist: “If something happens to you twice, then it is likely to happen again.”

Furthermore, nobody can fight with you if you don’t enter the ring with them.

I say all the above because I am addressing the mechanics of the scourge of women and children abuse, which we can all agree is a global pandemic.

However, my perspective is not perpetrator based, but stems from the role the victim plays in the equation.

As a woman who has already lived four decades, I have had my fair share of exposure to the ugly underbelly of various forms of abuse.

I have personal experience of emotional and mental abuse and thank God often that I escaped other forms, such as sexual, physical and financial violation.

On further reflection I can recall that not all of those grievous acts were perpetrated by men only.

Sometimes women were accessories and even offenders too. Gender violence is a heterogenous problem.

The ultimate motivation behind the violence can be captured by the maxim: “Hurting people hurt people.”

We may applaud the government, NGOs and other civil society organisations for their valiant fight against gender-based violence – one cannot minimise the great benefit of a concerted movement to eradicate a social cancer.

Many activists will, however, lament that all those efforts are far from effective in turning the tide. I agree, but perhaps for different reasons.

I have recently become exposed, through my studies, to various scholars on the subjects of patriarchy, feminism and power dynamics between the genders.

As a result I am incensed by the universal plights faced by women.

Being a woman, my empathy naturally extends to my own sex. But I have noted that it takes two to play this unfortunate game.

My conclusion is that if men are perceived as a raging fire, ravaging and lapping up the landscape of social cohesion, women are its fuel. 

A man cannot make a woman his punching bag unless she is strategically positioned to be at the receiving end.

When a woman is repeatedly violated sexually, the man must have continuous access to do so.

Her dependence on money from him or his ability to monopolise her finances can only result in financial abuse when money is the glue that binds them.

Even more atrocious, if he can damage her children physically and emotionally, then her deficient maternal instinct instinct plays a key role in the violation. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am acutely sensitive to the psychological dynamics inherent in victimisation and that is why I am trying to propose a road to liberation.

Every child that is abused is normally under the custody and guardianship of a woman (another social issue to be discussed another day). If that child is hurt, somehow, for the first time, that is a horrific accident.

However, if a woman keeps the child in the same environment or even manipulates them to submit to the abuse for whatever reason, then she is an accomplice.

When a woman stays in a relationship with an abusive man for some form of security, she is signing a tacit contract for him to collect interest on his provision in any way he sees fit.

When a woman’s social and professional progress is hampered by a partner who is having a crisis of masculinity, she is normalising his dysfunctional state and should not be surprised when she too is rendered dysfunctional by contagion.

The number one alibi invoked by a victim of abuse is often that she loves her man. That’s all good and well.

But when loving him comes at the expense of loving herself, a parasitic relationship arises which can only result in her lifeblood being drained.

Once the host is depleted, what does this lovely man do? He finds another host that has the vitality he needs to continue feeding his pathology.

Beyond the calendar-scheduled activism against gender-based violence lies the responsibility to apply and practise the ethos of the movement.

I am not diminishing the intense mental transformation and sheer determination required to turn the tide of patriarchy.

Moreover, I am not proposing that it merely be replaced with feminism.

The utopia I wish for all, is one that supersedes those ideologies with healthy, functional relationships between the genders.

Whether you are a mother, sister, aunt, girlfriend or wife; do you realise how powerful your contribution is to the current epidemic of gender violence in our society?

Just letting one man get away with abusing all the women in his life and leaving a trail of devastation in his wake, you are unwittingly helping him to hurt those women.

Then, in turn, you get hurt by your own man, who was allowed to get away with such behaviour by the women in his life. Break the cycle by refusing to play Russian roulette with him.

Setlaelo is an author, writer and personal development practitioner

Read more on:    susan shabangu  |  bathabile dlamini  |  women abuse

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