DESPITE calls from many sectors for a collaborative effort to end the violent nature that has come to characterise South Africa, it continues to be prevalent, with no end in sight.
And as the country commemorates the international 16 days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, reports of abuse and death make headlines every day.
The 2023 theme “Accelerating actions to end gender-based violence and femicide: leaving no one behind”, launched by the government and with which stakeholders run, started late in November, and will run through to Human Rights Day on December 10. But, many have said, year after year it misses the mark.
The government said: “The 16 Days international campaign, now in its 25th year, focuses on raising awareness to the devastating impact that gender-based violence and femicide has on women and children, and on the social fabric of society.
“The theme speaks to the importance of ensuring an all-society and multi-faceted approach to fight GBVF.”
They called on everyone – individuals and communities, to actively fight the scourge in the home, in communities, the work place, and positions.
Everyone had to challenge cultures and practices that perpetuate gender inequalities and the consequent abuse of women and children at personal and societal level.
“Reject and report abusers. Act and don’t look away! Do not protect abusers, report them! Sign the Pledge Against Gender-Based Violence. Do not engage in abusive activities and become an abuser. Stop abuse!” were some of the slogans they put out as a guide and to encourage activism.
But, different stakeholders continue to challenge the methods used, as statistics have shown that both women and men, young and old, were subjected to violence across the country.
“The landscape in which we live in painted red, not only with the blood of women, but men too,” Mannie du Plessis of Stop!ViolenceNow said.
He said the campaign had to change focus and break the stereotype that women were the only – or main, victims. “Once we as a people understand that, the idea that a hurt man can and will bleed on women and children around him, we will appreciate that it is the same for women too.”
His NPO said there was need for violence to be discussed as a broader concept than the murder and pictures and reports of women with ‘blue eyes and broken lips’, and that it starts from understanding that everyone had to actively understand violence, all year through.
“Sometimes one can murder, maim, abuse, another due to deep seated feelings. It can be the result of traumas they have not addressed, from home, from childhood, from school, society, and the workplace,” said the NPO.
These could be so deep seated they did not understand or appreciate them themselves, and it calls for a whole cultural shift.
The NPO said: “Kindness and understanding of who one is and where they come from; where they are and what they might be or have gone through is the major ingredient.”
It had to start from home and move out and upwards into pre-school into school, the playground and classroom, the street and shopping malls.
“As activists say, damaged people damage others. A man might appear normal and macho, appear to grow up in the best home and have the best of life, then boom, they are accused of murder. This is a symptom of something society does not recognise, and so turns a blind eye towards,” du Plessis said.
The message from across the spectrum has been that once identified, people with emotional issues, even if they did not see it in themselves to become violent, had to find personal help. “Safe spaces for everyone – young and old, male and female, must be available,” Gauteng psychologist Paul Malatse said.
People, men and women, needed to be encouraged to examine their inner most feelings, be they of hurt, rejection or being slighted.
“These can manifest in violence against others, but, in this country men are preferred strong, so they keep abuse away from others. Women, on the other hand, are encouraged to speak about it, even though what we see is only a drop in the ocean of what really goes on,” he said.
Sonke Gender Justice Group said all perpetrators of violence had to see their day in the justice system, and be held accountable regardless of their status in society.
‘’This is the only way that we will see the tide turning against gender based violence, by ensuring that justice is served. We are also calling on men to reflect on their behaviour and limit all actions that create vulnerability and exposure to violence for women,’’ said Bafana Khumalo, who is co-executive director at the organisation.
And Malatse further said the country did have the capacity to do this. “Women are known to ‘hate’ other women; children bully each other in the playground, both boys and girls.
“Men, well, their violence is well documented, as they are major perpetrators of domestic abuse, of road rage, even of crimes committed against others when drunk. This is because they lack the proper training to understand who they are inside, and we need to work on this. It must not be normalised.”
There have been alls for violence to be a 360 day 24 hour obsession in South Africa, and for it to be understood in all its many shapes and forms, for it to go down and eventually be non-existent.