Relationship strategists Mo and Phindi tackle the topic of domestic violence and say in light of the death of Karabo Mokoena and the hashtag #MenAreTrash which has been trending this week, we need to do more – much more
“Man beats wife to a bloody end”, “Man confesses to raping and killing women”, “Boyfriend stabs girl to death”, “Police shoots wife and kids dead”.
These headlines our national and regional media platforms cover almost on a daily basis. Some, equally or even more gruesome, don’t even make the news. And many of those that do make the news, fade into the justice system and are wiped out of our memory until the next one we select as worthy to talk about.
While women across the globe fall victim to physical or sexual violence every day, African women are particularly vulnerable to this regard.
It has been concluded that African countries have some of the highest levels of physical and sexual violence against women in the world.
However, the statistics are sometimes considered unreliable due to poor reporting probably as a result of fear. Our domestic violence report as a country, partly links the low reporting and conviction rate of violence perpetrators to the post-apartheid public perception of the police force.
Karabo’s tragic death
Discussing this, in the wake of the tragic death of Karabo, allegedly gruesomely murdered by her boyfriend, we kept wondering how many of us actually pause to consider why these are such common occurrences.
What is happening in our society that is causing men or allowing men to believe that violence against anyone whether verbal, physical or sexual is acceptable?
In recent years there have been numerous theories that have attempted to answer this question, but most take a reductionist approach to the problem. Male violence is a result of the complex formation of the hegemonic male and the view of women as the “other”.
The face of violence against women in our country is male. Uncontrolled masculinity, where men are socialised and hence believe they are superior and therefore should display of physical or emotional dominance over women, is very problematic in our homes.
We believe the socialisation of the hegemonic male is the root of gender violence. Furthermore, the core of the problem is that the masculinity of males is not stable; it is constantly being challenged and reconstructed resulting in a continuous internal struggle to be the hegemonic male.
Various research has found that when a man’s behaviour is not congruent with the gender role he believes he should fill, he tends to have lower self-esteem and psychological distress. In addition, the masculine gender role stress is associated with higher levels of anger, anxiety, and health-risk behaviour.
And it doesn’t matter how we rationalise it in order to try find lasting solutions that may address the issue from its roots, at the end of it all, violence against women is a crime.
Violence against women is a crime
Violence against women whether physical, sexual, economic, psychological, emotional, represents a violation of human rights and dignity with lasting effects and consequences both for women themselves and for the communities we live in. It is a crime. It must be treated criminally.
Our collective responsibility as a society made up of both men and women, must be to condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Our condemnation of it has to go beyond social media and hashtags, into our families and friends.
One the most shameful things about social media activism is that we all update in the comfort and safety of our zones.
More than a hashtag
And when a new trending hashtag comes along, we’re all spinelessly tossed in its direction and forget about yesterday’s trending hashtag.
What a shame. In so doing we compromise on a possible decisive actions we ought to have taken against social ills like domestic violence.
It ought to more than just shock us that one in every four women is physically abused by her intimate partner in our country, and that every six hours, a woman is killed by her current or former intimate partner. It ought to disgust us but also challenge us to action.
It ought to propel us to ask what do we do about the man next door we fully know is abusive to his wife? What about the one in our family? What do you do when you come across a man beating his girlfriend in the street? What do you do with the woman that stays comfortably under such circumstances?
While intimate partner violence is triggered by many factors, alcohol use and abuse had often been found to be a risk factor for a man to abuse his partner and for women to be victims of violence. How do we engage with alcohol manufactures and retailers to mobilise them to contribute to resolving this scourge?
The attitudes and prejudices of the law enforcement agencies, as well as the inaccessibility of services that should be made available to the public, especially in rural areas, are also part of the problem.
Most South Africans still regard the police as agents of oppression like during the apartheid regime; thus, poor faith in the police to actually help is still built in the post-apartheid country. How do we engage with SAPS as well as the entire justice system to contribute to the resolution of this problem?
Go beyond looking woke
The point is, we have to go beyond wanting to look woke on social media condemning this evil. We have to get our hands dirty.
One of the saddest things about violence against women and domestic abuse is that many of the people on whose social media updates we comment, and those who comment on ours, are in fact abusers.
But they will never volunteer that information, and are happy to condemn those that are caught.