Raise boys kindly

2019-09-11 06:00

THE public outrage aimed at violent men abusing women, the marches and the constant media publicity on the subject are welcome steps in drawing attention to something that has somehow become woven into the culture of our society.

The Witness editorial of September 9 exclaims, rightly, that “Men must change their attitude.” But how?

While all this public condemnation is needed, it won’t solve our problems. Men are not born violent.

We need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that the way we raise boys in the family home does not prepare them for the relationship challenges they will face as men.

These children see a lot of violence on the streets, on television screens and in Parliament. Corporal punishment in schools was, until recently, an accepted form of discipline.

As we emerge from a past that was defined by state violence, political violence and domestic violence, we’re a society with few role models for peaceful engagement.

If parents are beating up their children at home, and subjecting them to verbal aggression and humiliation, it is a form of bullying, subjugation and coercion.

People of my generation, as I approach 50 now, will know that this is how we were raised. Nothing’s changed today, despite the progressive legal protections now in place.

There’s still no shortage of people calling for the reinstatement of corporal punishment and the death penalty, which shows that violence is deeply ingrained in our national psyche as a way of managing disputes.

This destructive way of socialising children is what got us to where we are now. Violence breeds violence, and inevitably this pent-up anger in many young and older men who were treated violently as boys, will express itself in sexual violence and homicide.

Therefore, the enduring solution to gender-based violence lies in the family home. Parents must treat their children, boys especially, with care, respect and love, and must stop the beatings.

If disputes between parents and children are resolved through dialogue, negotiation and persuasion, young men will grow up to be men who treat women and everyone else with more respect because they will have learnt to use their brains and not guns and knives to manage conflict.

Laws and jails will not solve gender-based violence.

WARREN OLIPHANT

Bellevue

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