Patriarchy Must Fall – Stop the violence against women
By Sweet Rhymes
South Africa is a deeply violent society. It continues to tackle the impact of years of structural violence and other factors which undermine positive social cohesion. International bodies have reported that South Africa is one of the most violent countries in the world, with one of the highest murder rates outside of a war zone. On a yearly basis, SAPS murder reports reveal a high level of contact crimes and murder. The most vulnerable people to these crimes are women and children. This piece calls attention to the vulnerability of women as the ultimate victims of a society at war with itself.
South Africans wake up to daily reports of the senseless and horrific reports of the murder, sexual and physical abuse of women. While the South African government claims to have acknowledged the crisis of violence against women, there has been a lack of concrete solutions to fight the scourge. This is highly problematic because it undermines the constitutional rights of women to life and dignity. The recognition that violence against women is a serious problem in our society, requires us to accept that there is something in our country which enables it to happen. There are contextual factors which make it acceptable for large numbers of women to get violated on a regular basis. There is a consensus among scholars that the contextual factor at play is patriarchy. Violence against women is enabled by patriarchal gender norms which breed gender inequality. The patriarchy in South Africa is deeply embedded in cultural, religious, economic and societal factors which have a tendency to punctuate male dominance. Although women fall prey to many perpetrators, the most common are intimate partners.
Patriarchy has manufactured a toxic form of masculinity which makes men believe that they are entitled to women and to women’s bodies, and that men have a final say over women. This is especially in the context of rape where men are reported to pursue proving that they are entitled to the bodies of women regardless of the woman’s wishes. Rape is used as a weapon to assert patriarchal power “enforcing submission and punishing defiance”. It is an act of aggression and power enacted against those who aren’t physically equipped to defend themselves well. As atrocious as rape is, women in South Africa are subject to a wider net of forms of violence. Femicide, which has become a norm in South Africa, has been recognised as the most extreme form of violence against women. Statistics of the prevalence of femicide indicate that there are higher rates of women being killed by their intimate partner and slightly lower rates of women being killed by a non-partner. Patterns in femicide clearly communicate that women are not safe even in the home where they should take refuge. They also perpetuate the stereotype that that a home is a man’s domain, which women must enter at their own peril.
The high levels of violence against women make it abundantly clear that perpetrators are everywhere, and are not a small clique of misbehaving men that society can ignore. As a result, women are collectively socialized to accept the ever-presence of violence and having to be “vigilant”. It is only in an unfair society that victims of brutality can be expected to be their own saviours by demanding vigilance as a deterrent to the effects of patriarchy. Efforts to stop violence against women should be targeted at perpetrators as opposed to victims. Thus, the onus rests on individuals to play their role within their personal settings to not tolerate violence against women. There needs to be an enforcement of a transformative masculinity. Men need to redefine masculinity and begin to embrace a masculinity which is not dominant, entitled, and violent. Particularly they need to embrace a masculinity that sees women as equals, respectable, and does not objectify their dignity or their bodies. In the words of Pumla Gqola (2015) “we need psychological liberation from violent masculinities.”
Violence against women needs to be stemmed as it compromises the entire fabric of our society. Perpetrators of such horrid acts of violence should be made less comfortable, and potential perpetrators made to repent before committing any such crimes against all of humanity. The criminal justice system has long failed women. Extra measures should be considered to protect the most vulnerable in society. These measures could include hard conversations, not associating violence with “animals” or “monsters” but ostracizing those who ill-treat women within our circles and forcing rehabilitation. We need to be intolerant of the deep and primitive South African culture that violence is a form of retribution and male power. All parents and teachers need to inform children in their care that violence is not a solution.
What are you and those in your circle of influence doing to eradicate violence against women?
12 June 2020
Sweet Rhymes writes in his personal capacity. Post comments below.