South Africa has become a terror for women and children because of its high levels of GBV and other related issues, which are commonly making news headlines. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
South Africa has become a terror for women and children because of its high levels of GBV and other related issues, which are commonly making news headlines. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

GBV has become normalised in South Africa

By Opinion Time of article published Dec 12, 2020

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by Siyanda Magayana

No country exists free of violence, whether moderate or severe, and South Africa is no exception. Hence, it is customarily referred to as having a “culture of violence”.

As a country, South Africa is also widely known for its scourge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), to the extent that it is notoriously known for being one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman. Statistically, South Africa is ranked number 38 out of 163 of the most violent countries in the world.

Given this violent culture, South Africa has become a terror for women and children because of its high levels of GBV and other related issues, which are commonly making news headlines. The scourge consequently threatens the existence of its citizens, particularly women, children, and the LGBTQ+ community. South Africa has one of the highest rates of intimate partner violence, where rape and sexual violence have become the order of the day. Women and children die at the hands of men every day – abused, assaulted, harassed and murdered.

As a country, we are at the mercy of the calamity. It penetrates and impinges on every facet and fabric of our society. For this crucial reason, we need to come together as communities and end this entrenched crisis.

Institutions of higher education are a playground for GBV incidents.

Incidents of GBV are increasing at a concerning rate in and around South African institutions of higher education. They have, to a large extent, become playing fields for this scourge. The increasing pervasiveness of such incidents is a worrying factor, especially because evidence points out that cases of rape and all related issues are a major under-reported matter in universities.

This fact then urges us to make an intensive effort to eliminate this at our universities, because GBV threatens and undermines the principles and laws that uphold human dignity and human rights, as articulated in the Constitution. Some survivors of GBV have experienced depression and many others have committed suicide because of it. Several students have left institutions without completing their studies, consequently threatening the development of a skilled workforce and sound youth in the country.

In addition, it is ironic that a large number of incidents of GBV occur in the very institutions of higher education that our society expects to be exemplary and to serve as a moral compass. Institutions of higher education are supposed to teach and instil principles of respect for human rights for all.

Institutions, therefore, need to rethink all related policies and mechanisms set up to address and prevent GBV incidents.

The way forward?

The GBV scourge has become somewhat of a normalised phenomenon in our society, where South Africans read about it every day. This has become evident in how all women are feeling less and less safe each day, both in public and in their homes. It has become evident in the ruthless nature of the rape and murder incidents reported each day and the lack of accountability of the perpetrators and society at large for this scourge.

The time has come for all South Africans to rethink how we can decisively deal with this problem for the safety of women and children and the progress and prosperity of the country.

The complexity of the phenomenon requires multifaceted strategies and responses from all institutions and every citizen.

In addition, it has become evident that South Africa lacks the culture of accountability and consequences for perpetrators of violence. Therefore, South Africa needs to start by being a country that accounts for and takes outright responsibility when it comes to GBV. We need to come up with and improve services for women who have suffered any kind of abuse, notably health-care services and referral networks of reporting GBV.

Siyanda Magayana says students are increasingly under attack.

Other initiatives vital to tackling this scourge include continuous training, monitoring, and sensitisation of police officers who respond to cases of GBV. It also involves developing and improving policies for GBV cases and educational material at all schooling levels. We also need to assimilate gender and queer discourses and make them compulsory in post-school education and training curricula. We also need to incorporate GBV into a crucial research discourse in the post-schooling system. Lastly, we need to initiate programmes that focus on young men and boys.

The prevalence of GBV in institutions of higher education and our communities is reflective of the calamities that the country is faced with, such as the underlying challenges in the curriculum, toxic institutional cultures, and so forth. GBV is a thorn that is continuously poking with every step we take as a country. This scourge is and has been a terror to women across all communities. We need to rid our nation of this terror. We need to rid ourselves of this “new normal”, which has negatively impacted the identity of our people and nation.

* Siyanda Magayana is with the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice, Qwaqwa Campus, University of the Free State.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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