Society at large perpetuates gender-based violence

Slain Leighandre 'Baby Lee' Jegels in action against Liliana Gonzalex from Argentina at the Orient Theatre in East London.
Slain Leighandre 'Baby Lee' Jegels in action against Liliana Gonzalex from Argentina at the Orient Theatre in East London.
Image: ALAN EASON

Many say that this year's Women's Month ends on a very sad note which is true, but it also ends on a real note. The reality is that women face gender-based violence every day and it is not halted during Women's Month.

The death of karate and boxing champion Leighandre Jegels who was shot and killed, allegedly by her police officer boyfriend, and the revelations of domestic abuse Dr Thandi Ndlovu endured when she was alive, have highlighted the calamity of femicide and gender-based violence.

The deaths of both women, who were different in many respects, has unmasked the truth about domestic abuse or gender-based violence.

It has revealed that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, despite their background, their prominence and how tough they may seem. Women are urged to speak out, but is it enough?

The truth is women don't have a voice in our society. At times, society is hard on women, people judge women harshly, and when they speak out, they are often criticised.

Why didn't she leave him and why didn't she report him, people who are clueless will often ask. But the truth is that domestic violence or any form of gender-based violence is not as straightforward as it seems.

For example, Jegels had a protection order against her boyfriend who allegedly killed her. Why was a protection order not enough? Ndlovu on the other hand, who was an MK operative able to handle an AK47 and was financially independent, was battered for years by her husband.

How can a prominent business woman be battered, many have asked? The reality is that successful women are often abused because of their success and often men become jealous of that success and so they become violent.

Women are often trapped in abusive relationships because they are manipulated by their abusers, who are known to gaslight their victims and then shamelessly act like the victim.

Gaslighting is when a person will make you doubt your own sanity and your own recollection of the truth. Women also become trapped in abusive relationships because the abuse may not be happening daily but regularly.

The abuser will apologise today and after a few days batter their victim physically or emotionally and soon apologise again. This becomes a vicious cycle, without the victim being aware.

That is why at times victims of abuse are seen happy with their partners, so when details of abuse emerge, their stories of abuse are doubted and criticised by society.

A close friend of Ndlovu told mourners at her funeral that Ndlovu was often told "to go home and fix things with her husband" when she attempted to report the violence. The calamity of gender-based violence is exacerbated by a sleeping justice system that is disconnected to the reality of gender-based violence challenges.

Our laws on domestic violence may be world class, but there is disconnect in that most women may be unaware of the legal mechanisms in place. Or perhaps the problem is a proliferation of laws and no change in societal culture?

This may be true. I have seen how men who do horrible things to women are often aided by other men, even women. Good men and women become bystanders and onlookers, when they are aware of violence against women.

They sit back and do nothing. They do not want to be involved, because it's not their problem or it is too messy.

It is that which must also change.

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