Many placards at the #TotalShutdown march in the city, and nationwide, sent a clear message that women will no longer tolerate being discriminated against and abused. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)
It is an indictment of South African men that women have to march to highlight the scourge of violence meted out to them.

Too often the violence experienced is at the hands of the woman’s intimate partner, someone she should be able to trust implicitly, someone she may be raising a family with.

We do not blame women for having banned men from their marches - after all, why would the sheep march with the wolf?

However, the organisers must realise that they have to involve men at some point to achieve their aims.

Men are all too ready to justify their violence against women. Much of their behaviour is learned from observing parents and other adults caught in the trap of patriarchal systems which encourage such violence, and perversely women are encouraged to accept such violence as a sign of love and care.

The truth is there is no justification, ever. And behaviour learned can be unlearned.

Unisa researchers say one in four women is a survivor of domestic violence, and one is killed by her intimate male partner every eight hours - that’s three a day and nearly 1100 a year. These are sobering numbers indeed, and should prompt a call to action to stem the tide.

The Minister of Women in the Presidency should be at the forefront of such efforts, ensuring that the Domestic Violence Act is enforced, but Bathabile Dlamini has left it to civil society to show the way. This is unacceptable.

What is needed is a major national drive akin to a voter registration drive ahead of elections, where all the state’s resources are brought to bear in a concerted effort to boost voter numbers. Primarily, the public broadcaster must be roped in to ensure that people are educated in their vernacular.

Additionally, traditional and religious leaders must be made to play their parts, too, because tradition and misinterpretation of religion are the primary drivers of patriarchal attitudes.

Support must be given to women to abandon abusive relationships because it is often difficult for women, who take the lead in caring for children, to leave a breadwinner.

But most importantly, men must be taught that they do not own the bodies and minds of women, and that women are not beholden to them for anything in any circumstance.

This will not be a quick process, but it is a process that must be embarked on - now.

The police and courts must be educated to take domestic violence cases seriously and examples should be made of men who refuse to learn the lesson. With elections looming, it will be interesting to see how domestic violence features in parties’ manifestos, and which parties field known abusers of women as candidates.


Cape Argus