According to Statistics SA, 21% of women older than 18 are being violently abused by their domestic partners.
Johannesburg - A teenager has laid bare the generational scourge of abuse experienced in communities after admitting that he beats his girlfriends because his uncle beats his wife.

* David, 16, from Katlehong in Ekurhuleni, admits he beats girls he dates when he finds them with other lads or when he has differences with them.

“Sometimes they don’t listen to what I am telling them. So the best way is to beat them. I often see my uncle beating his wife when she doesn’t listen,” says David, who is a Grade 9 pupil.

His confession comes as South Africa marks the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Children, which runs globally from November 25 to December 10.

David’s views underscore the entrenched patriarchy in some of the cultures in South African society and across the continent and the world.

The Medical Research Council estimates that half of South Africa’s children will be abused before they turn 18. According to Statistics SA, 21% of women older than 18 are being violently abused by their domestic partners. One in four has experienced gender-based violence, while more than 100 people are raped each day.

David sounds unashamed as he explains his inclination to abuse girls. “I think this (assaulting women) is the only option to make your voice heard as a man. You have to reprimand and remind them who you are when they not listening. You have to beat them. Even my girlfriends will tell you about me. They know who I am.”

He is aware that it is a crime to beat women, but he seems reluctant to stop.

“It’s not good to beat them all the time, but what can I do when they don’t want to listen? I hate it, but they push me. I can’t repeat the one thing with a woman more than 10 times. If they can’t hear with their ears then they rather suffer a physical pain. They must listen to me because they are in a relationship with me. So they must understand I own them.

“Sometimes I beat them when they tell me that our relationship is over because I am the who approached them, and I am the one to end relationships.” ‘

Among his victims is * Queen, a former girlfriend. The 15-year-old recounts how David brutally beat her after he saw her with a friend.

“Sometimes he would beat me for nothing, and sometimes he would just slap me. But I remember when he beat me until I bled.

“On that day my eye was swollen and my nose was bleeding. I remember he found me standing at a corner with a friend and he never even asked.

“He came straight and beat me up. I was afraid to report him to the police because I was deeply in love with him. Now I am single because I am afraid to be in a relationship,” she says.

David’s brother, * Mpho, says the propensity to abuse women is something they were taught by their uncle who told them that violence was the way “to discipline” women who showed “disrespect” for men.

But * Emma, David’s current girlfriend, is optimistic that he will change his violent behaviour towards women.

“I am not afraid of this man. I fell in love with him because I know what he is capable of. I know he will change. In fact I am going to change him.

“And I see he is slowly changing because he stopped drinking and is no longer cheating as he used to,” she says.

Mbuyiselo Botha, a gender activist from Sonke Gender Justice, says the propensity among men for violence against women could lead to serious crimes such as rape and death. Culture also plays a role, he says.

“Men are doing everything over women and women depend on men to survive, so men think they own them. It’s more like men are dominating and women should submit. I think there must be a way to help women to get out abusive relationships and support them to be economically independent.”

Lisa Vetten, a gender rights activist agrees, saying patriarchy is at the heart of violence against women. “Environment also plays a part. Many people are living in an environment where male dominates female, where men use physical power to solve issues.

“Even the movies play a part. Abuse is criminal. Culprits of abuse should face laws for their actions,” she says.

* Names have been withheld to protect the minors involved

The Sunday Independent