On August 1, women across South Africa will participate in a protest against gender-based violence. This action is necessary in light of the fact that violence against women does not seem to garner the attention it deserves. Doubtlessly, there exist laws that protect the rights of women including The Domestic Violence Act No 116 of 1998 and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offense and Related Matters) Act No 32 of 2007. These laws, notwithstanding have not prevented acts of violence against women, neither have they been steadfastly and robustly enforced against perpetrators of violence against women.
Nearly 50 percent of South African women are reported to have been violently violated. Some research findings point out that more than 50,000 cases of rape occur annually; this despite rape cases been “severely under-reported .” The lack of successful prosecution of domestic violence cases is the culprit . For example , the South African Police reported in 2007 that “between April 2006 and March 2007, a total of 52,617 cases were reported, of which 7 % were successfully prosecuted. This condition has persisted up to now.
A report on South Africa’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey indicated that “one in five women older than 18 has experienced physical violence.” In rural communities, one in three women has reported physical violence”. The Medical Research Council found in 2009 that “one in three women die at the hands of their intimate partner every day.”
Violence against women is manifested in several ways such as physical violence, sexual violence including corrective rape, psychological violence, emotional violence and economic violence. These are all expressions of the violations “of human rights and the dignity” of women. What is more, these violations have enduring consequences for women.
As has always been pointed out, violence against women is linked to power and control. Masculinity in our society expresses itself through violence. Our men are brought up to believe that women are their punching bags; that women are the possession of men to treat as they please with no discernable repercussions and accountability. An atmosphere of impunity is a result. Thus, “intimate partners” are the most likely perpetrators of violence against women.
The perpetrators of violence against women cut across all social strata including race, education, and economics. It is, as well, a global phenomenon and a case of male privilege. The #MeToo movement is clearly instructive in this regard.
This conduct is underpinned by the "preservation of patriarchal power” that “may have many cultural specific forms, but ultimately violence against women – or the threat thereof – is the prevailing form of social controls” Accordingly, violence “keeps women in conditions of poverty and fear of poverty keeps women trapped in conditions of poverty.”
This nefarious environment is enabled by the culture of “blessers”, a perverted and misnomer which celebrates the abuse of young women by men old enough to be their parent. What is more, individuals of state power have engaged in this behaviour . What can one make of the fact that a former President who is more than 70 years old fathering a child with a woman who is not even 30 years old yet?
I n addition, we have a member of Parliament, no less a senior government official convicted of violently violating a woman and the ruling party is so spineless that it cannot outrightly dismiss him. He is allowed to voluntarily resign his position as a Member of Parliament. The powers that be clearly demonstrated by this conduct that its commitment to stop the abuse of women is lacking in its political will. This, therefore, lent an air of impunity to this reprehensible and criminal conduct.
When issues of criminal conduct are espoused by those entrusted with political power, it is within the realm of robberies, cash in transit heist, gruesome murders committed against the rich or celebrities. These criminal offences are pursued with gusto as they should. However violent crimes against women are normalized. To violently violate a woman is normal; it happens all the time and there is nothing we can do about it.
This behaviour has to stop and only we as women who have a vested interest in this crusade can stop it and stop it we must. There is no other issue more important than this blemish on our national conscience.
Our actions, to make this a national priority must be unequivocal; we must insist that this criminal conduct is not acceptable and therefore not normal. Unless we act by ensuring a successful shutdown, unless we continue to make pronouncements on this issue every day and at every opportunity, the powers that be and its institutions including the police and the courts would not act with the alacrity and determination to stop this scourge in its tracks .
The women of South Africa constitute more than 50% of the population, the overwhelming majority of whom are victims of violence; mostly perpetrated by men including intimate partners. This exercise in Male Privilege must stop and it must stop NOW! That is why I will march on August 1.
We want men to join us in this endeavour but women must lead; after all those responsible for the violence against women will not undertake to do so since they are not the one suffering the brunt of this scourge. Our bodies and our space - not a crime scene!
* Brenda Madumise is an advocate and a prominent businesswoman.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.