South African women experience violence on a horrific scale and our country shamefully ranks as having amongst the most abusive men in the world.
Men harass, assault, rape and murder women daily, leaving women to live in fear at home, at work, at school and in public spaces. The vicious cycle of toxic masculinity must be addressed at the source.
This is why Independent Media’s award-winning Don’t Look Away campaign, in support of the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, will this year challenge men, young and old, to break the cycle of violence, to end toxic masculinity and to never look away from gender-based violence. Join us in our campaign using the slogan #talk2yourboys to make SA safer.
The agonising question is what is it that drives South African men to commit such horror on women and girls purely on the grounds of their gender? Hourly, daily, weekly, women are harassed, molested, beaten, stabbed, shot, suffocated, tortured, raped, and bludgeoned to death.
The horror they suffer until their lives are prematurely ended is shocking, the terror unspeakable.
You will recognise some of these women and children from reports we carried at the time they went missing and were murdered. You will also notice blank profiles on this wall of remembrance.
Don’t be fooled by the facelessness of statistics. Behind the façade of that blank profile there is a real woman, a real child, who was dearly loved by her family but who was brutalised and slaughtered by an equally faceless toxic male who mercilessly preyed on her.
Shockingly there are a great many instances of toxic masculinity, of gender-based violence that never make it into the news, and scores more where the cries and screams of the victims go unheard and the full extent of this national crisis remains unknown.
But the pain does not end with the death of a femicide victim. It crushes both survivors, and grieving families who hold on to the only thing they have left – their memories and their photos.
But even in this deep agony there is the pain of a parent or family who does not even have a photo because they were simply too poor. There can be no question that gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa has reached pandemic proportions.
It is no longer enough just to #WeRemember. It is imperative that we reflect deeply on this crisis and engage in decisive interventions, now.
Role models who shape our youth, from parents and teachers to social influencers and leaders, all need to make themselves acutely aware of how trauma, language and stereotyping contribute to men growing up using violence as their default setting.
It is time to #talk2yourboys and raise them to be better men who have greater empathy, tolerance and understanding of gender equality and respect. As much as men are the perpetrators of GBV, they too need to be part of the solution by standing up, speaking out, and raising the bar of what it means to be a man.
* GET INVOLVED! Share your thoughts on toxic masculinity and how it affects our society via Whatsapp on 074 557 3535. Remember to add #DontLookAway