Today, we face dark days of a different nature, which is gender inequality and violence against women and children. The high rate of femicide and rape in South Africa is war waged against women and children. Children who are exposed to violence promote anti-social behaviour and if we do not break this cycle, we will erode the foundation that was laid down for us by the nation’s founding father, Nelson Mandela.
In addition to this, our government has regressed in its values and principles and this can be seen in how the government responds to issues that impact women’s lives negatively. Violence in South Africa is common despite our wonderful constitution and legislation. The violence comes at a cost not only to the victim, but to her family, the economy and to the state. Furthermore, it hinders women’s ability to exercise their constitutional rights to live and move freely within South Africa’s borders. (Thorpe, J, 2015)
The state would rather spend all its energy and resources to combat the cash-in-transit heists, that were starting to cripple businesses, than find solutions to keep women and children safe. The response from government to violence prevention has been very weak, and does not include social reforms.
Gender equity is another example. A few years ago, we had five female premiers and today, we have only one female premier. Who in government is addressing this matter? Leadership roles are still occupied by men mostly and women still earn less than men.
This is further exacerbated by this country’s deeply rooted system of patriarchy and misogyny. Just a few weeks ago, one of the women living in a shelter for abused women, went to apply for an interim protection order. The clerk of the court told her that it was not necessary for her to apply for one, as she has already been in the shelter for one month and her husband had not come to cause trouble there. The next day the staff accompanied the woman to the same court and were told by the same clerk, that there was a misunderstanding and the woman received her interim protection order without any hassles. This is a classic example of how endemic patriarchy is. It also highlights the dominant idea of manhood whereby one man will protect the other. We have positive male role models among us but men need to start calling men out. This is the only way, we will curb the tide of violence.
The White Paper on Families in South Africa states, “It is essentially through the family that each generation is replaced by the next; that children are born, socialised and cared for until they attain their independence; and that each generation is born, socialised and cared for until they attain their independence....” The reality is that today, women are trapped in abusive relationships due to involuntary dependence. This is largely because poverty and social inequity are key drivers of violence and South Africa is an incredibly unequal society. (Jewkes, et al. 2009)
So, while we celebrate Women’s Month, let us be mindful that our challenges are different today. We need to work towards positive change for the future. This year’s centenary of Nelson Mandela’s life is marked under the theme of “Be the legacy”.
Tata Mandela and Ma Sisulu left us rich legacies and we need to consciously question our actions and decisions on a daily basis - in our spaces - in order to make positive deposits into the future of our beloved country.
* Joy Lange is the executive director of St Anne’s Homes
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.