Scourge of violence against women has to be stopped

About 800 marchers armed with placards calling for the dismantling of patriarchy and the protection of women during the #TotalShutdown march.
About 800 marchers armed with placards calling for the dismantling of patriarchy and the protection of women during the #TotalShutdown march.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

Yesterday, women of South Africa held a protest against violence. This action was necessary in light of the fact that violence against women does not seem to garner the attention it deserves.

Doubtlessly, there exist laws that protect the rights of women, including the Domestic Violence Act No 116 of 1998 and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act No 32 of 2007.

These laws have not prevented acts of violence against women, nor have they been steadfastly and robustly enforced against perpetrators of violence against women.

Nearly 50% of women in SA are reported to have been brutally violated. Some research findings point out that more than 50000 cases of rape occur annually.

Violence against women is manifested in several ways, such as physical violence, sexual violence including corrective rape, psychological violence, emotional violence and economic violence.

As has always been pointed out, violence against women is linked to power and control. Masculinity in our society expresses itself through violence. Our men are brought up to believe that women are their punching bags, that women are the possession of men to treat as they please with no discernable repercussions and accountability.

An atmosphere of impunity is a result. Thus, "intimate partners" are the most likely perpetrators of violence against women.

It is also a global phenomenon and a case of male privilege. The #MeToo movement is clearly instructive in this regard.

This conduct is underpinned by the "preservation of patriarchal power". Violence "keeps women in conditions of poverty and fear of poverty keeps women trapped in violent situations".

This nefarious environment is enabled by the culture of "blessers", a perverted misnomer which celebrates the abuse of young women by men old enough to be their fathers. What is more, individuals of state power have engaged in this behaviour. What else can one make of a former president who is more than 70 years old fathering a child with a woman who is not even 30 yet?

In addition, we have a member of parliament, a senior government official no less, who is convicted of violently violating a woman and the ruling party is so spineless that it cannot dismiss him outright.

He is allowed to voluntarily resign his position as an MP. The powers that be clearly demonstrate by this conduct that their commitment to stop the abuse of women is lacking political will.

Robberies, cash-in-transit heists and gruesome murders committed against the rich or celebrities are pursued with gusto, as they should be. However, violent crimes against women are normalised.

This behaviour has to stop and only we as women, who have a vested interest in this crusade, can stop it, and stop it we must.

There is no other issue more important than this blemish on our national conscience.

Our actions to make this a national priority must be unequivocal; we must insist that this criminal conduct is not acceptable and therefore not normal. Unless we act by ensuring a successful shutdown, unless we continue to make pronouncements on this issue every day and at every opportunity, the powers that be and their institutions, including the police and the courts, will not act with the alacrity and determination necessary to stop this scourge in its tracks.

This exercise in male privilege must stop and it must stop now! That is why I marched yesterday.

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