SA must fight gender inequality to turn tide of violence


Once again, at our shores is another occasion of gender-based violence. The music artist Bongekile Simelane, famously known as Babes Wodumo, was "allegedly" seen live on Instagram being physically assaulted by her boyfriend, another famous musician, Mampintsha, real name Mandla Maphumulo.

Predictably, society was up in arms, including the minister of arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa, calling for Mampintsha's arrest.

I contend that as a country, we only pay lip service to the fight against gender-based violence. After a few days, this charged reaction evaporated, and it was back to business as usual, as we wait for another case of a similar nature and resort to social media activism again.

Last year, Sandile Mantsoe was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Karabo Mokoena and setting her body alight. A couple of years ago, world champion paralympian Oscar Pistorius shot through a locked toilet door, killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Again, as a society, we did not disappoint in our social media activism. Our action was usually misguided because it is informed by a misdiagnosis of the root problem.

The circumstances around gender-based violence in SA are so ominous that a woman is murdered every eight hours. Put into context, if you start work at 8am, by the time you knock off at 5pm, a woman has been murdered. According to Statistics SA, one in five women older than 18 years has experienced physical violence.

Gender-based violence is a symptom of gender inequality. Unfortunately, instead of eradicating this gender inequality, we seem to entrench it deeper. At the work place, we continue to under pay women.

The Labour Statistics SA Survey reveals that women earn between 23% and 27% less than men. Women still face sexual harassment for promotion and appointments.

After more than 20 years of democracy, a girl child still faces more barriers than a boy child. In some rural and peri-urban areas, a girl child loses up to a quarter of her school days in a year because of her menstrual cycle, and endures harassment, including rape.

Last year, police minister Bheki Cele revealed that 40% of all rapes are committed against children.

When a girl falls pregnant while still at school, the stigma and abuse she faces from teachers, fellow pupils, nurses and family is huge. While she cannot fall pregnant by herself, she is the only one to miss a year of schooling - the boy will continue with his education uninterrupted.

Minister of basic education Angie Motshekga revealed that about 15,000 pupils fall pregnant during the academic year, with a large percentage dropping out.

In some religious groups, and traditional leadership set-ups, women are not allowed to occupy positions of leadership, a practice still common in the 21st century.

In sport, within the same sporting code, men teams receive more support and sponsorships than women teams.

To turn the tide, SA needs to deal with gender inequality in the same way that it fought the scourge of HIV/Aids. Indeed, until we begin to put more of our efforts into fighting gender inequality, women bodies will perpetually flock to intensive care units of hospitals, mortuaries and cemeteries in droves.

Ndaba is a public servant at the Gauteng office of the premier, and a master's of management in governance (development and economics) candidate at Wits School of Governance.

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