When I was growing up in a very tiny village outside Queenstown, Eastern Cape, there was this bizarre belief among us young boys.
It was passed to us by older men of course. I must have been about 12 or 13 years old when I learnt about this weird and harsh belief.
We were taught that if you want your girl's undivided attention and love, you have to hit her once in a while. “Sweet boys” who did not hit their girlfriends turned to be viewed as weak by the girls and often got dumped.
As young boys we believed that because at the time, we noticed that girls tended to stick around the boys who were hitting them.
Until we were old enough to understand the dynamics of abusive relationships, some of us didn't understand why the girls stayed with those men and why they “loved” them more.
We were made to believe that “sweet boys” often got dumped within days of a relationship.
I was probably 11 or 12 years old when I first experienced the pain of being dumped by a girl. She must have been the same age as me or younger. When I communicated the break-up to my friends, I got a real tongue-lashing. How did I allow her to dump me, they asked. It's because I never hit her, that is why she was brave enough to dump me, others said.
I grew up surrounded by this kind of talk throughout my teens. I would see my female cousins, and sometimes my sisters, coming home from school with bruised eyes and swollen lips. Adults in the house would probe this, but it would not go far.
It happened across the village. Boys would beat up girls and in the end these boys would be celebrated as strong men who were able to keep their girls. There was this generalisation that girls were attracted to aggressive boys who carried knives and displayed fake tattoos.
At the time, I did not make sense of that myself. All I knew was that something was just wrong about it. As a young boy, I would avoid physical fights at all costs. For that I was constantly emotionally bullied. I would be called igwala (coward).
Hitting another person was just wrong as far as I was concerned and in the end I appeared weak among my friends and most girls.
This is the way some of us boys were introduced to patriarchy and male power in the village. I’m sure this was not confined there.
The many problems of gender-based violence that we are experiencing in our country today were created by these bizarre beliefs, traditional beliefs of patriarchy and dominance of male power.
Recent studies have shown that at least one in five South African women experience abuse in one way or the other.
Many of the issues facing young women today stem from how men have always dominated in society. Certain beliefs need to be rooted out if we are to address the scourge of gender-based violence.
Boys from an early age need to be taught to respect girls. Patriarchy continues to define relations within the home, where women are not allowed to have a say on certain things.
For me, it is not acceptable that in some African families mothers still don't have a say on whether their sons would go to the mountain or hospital. As men, it's time that we take a stand and speak out about all these issues.
This is the reason I am challenging all men to join the 100 Men March that is being organised by the government on July 10.
As modern men, particularly those of us who live in cosmopolitan settings, we have a role to play in changing the mindset of patriarchal attitudes that still persist in rural settings of our country.
The #100MenMarch, which will draw 100 men from each sector or spectrum in our society, gives us an opportunity to take a lead as men and boys in combating violence in our homes, communities and in the workplace.
The #100MenMarch coincides with the centenary celebrations for former president Nelson Mandela and Struggle activist Mama Albertina Sisulu. Both of them envisaged a society where women were protected and valued. Let us all go out and use the march to renew our commitment to teach our young boys to always value and respect young girls and women.
Chris Bathembu works for the Government Communication and Information System. He writes in his personal capacity.