Social development deputy minister claims cancer causes gender-based violence

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Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu. (@The_DSD, Twitter)
Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu. (@The_DSD, Twitter)
  • Social development deputy minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu has taken to social media with claims that cancer causes gender-based violence.
  • In a series of tweets, Bogopane-Zulu stated that cancer of the sexual organs may reduce sexual performance, and this could in turn lead to abuse.
  • However, Sonke Gender Justice said linking GBV to cancer grossly overlooks it root causes of patriarchy, gender-based inequalities and discrimination.

In a series of tweets, social development deputy minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu claimed "cancer can lead to gender-based violence".

Bogopane-Zulu was quoted as saying that "cancer is one of the unnoticed contributors to gender-based violence", when she attended a PinkDrive initiative recently.

In her tweets, Bogopane-Zulu said a man with testicular or prostate cancer may no longer be able to perform sexually and "as a result he may feel less of a man".

"Similarly a woman with cervical cancer may be undergoing intense treatment and may no longer be able to perform sexual activities at home. This can lead to al [sic] forms of abuse including their partner seeing it as their 'right' to cheat,” Bogopane-Zulu said.

Women receiving treatment for breast cancer may also face abuse, said Bogopane-Zulu.

"Because GBV has mostly been limited to physical violence, the emotional violence that causes equal if not more damage, often goes unnoticed. It is very important that we identify GBV in all its manifestation," said Bogopane-Zulu in a tweet.

Cansa spokesperson Lucy Balona referred News24 to PinkDrive for comment.

Noelene Kotschan, PinkDrive spokesperson, said: "At PinkDrive, gender-based violence caused by cancer is not really something we talk about. However, over the years there have been instances that we know of where, for instance, a woman has had a mastectomy and has come to us and said she's been beaten up by her husband because she is 'no longer a whole woman'."

Kotschan declined to comment further on the issue.

Sonke Gender Justice's Given Siqauqwe said linking gender-based violence to cancer undermined the work done to deal with the scourge facing society. 

"According to the work that we do the causes of gender-based violence are founded in power imbalances rooted in patriarchy, gender-based inequalities and discrimination. Gender-based violence is the most extreme expression of these unequal gender relations in society, and a violation of human rights, as well as a main hindrance of the achievement of gender equality.

"To link gender-based violence to cancer is to grossly overlook the aforementioned root causes and therefore undermining the work that is being done to deal with the problem of gender-based violence in our society."

Siqauqwe added: "However, it is possible that the emergence of cancer and any other disease for that matter may contribute to violence. Stress related to the challenge of having to deal with this devastating disease may cause strain in the relationship and may lead to violence. But this is not true in all similar cases. Many couples manage the diseases quite well and provide support to each other."

Twitter users lambasted Bogopane-Zulu for her opinions, saying they did not see the correlation and that men should be held accountable for violence against women.

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