It’s up to each and every one of us to root out gender-based violence
Women’s Month is drawing to a close much as it usually does — steeped in the blood of slain women whose murders occasion a cacophony of protest and renewed calls for decisive action to end gender-based violence in our country.
Just two years ago, the entire nation was horrified by the rape and murder in a Cape Town post office of first-year UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana.
This time, it is the gruesome murder of University of Fort Hare law student Nosicelo Mtebeni earlier in August that has led to calls for action in our province, with some going so far as to demand a return of the death penalty.
Her boyfriend, Alutha Pasile, has been charged with her murder.
Attacks on many other women made headline news in the two years since Mrwetyana’s murder led thousands of protesters to gather and ask “Am I next?”.
Still more victims never made it to the news. They were just another statistic, mourned by their loved ones alone.
It sounds clichéd again to assert that GBV is a scourge, an epidemic in our country. But it is true.
It is also true that GBV is but part of a perturbing high level of violent crime taking place in our country.
The government has repeatedly identified GBV as a major issue, though some say it could do more to ensure GBV is uppermost on the agenda.
The government has taken a number of measures, including designating 32 regional courts as sexual offences courts; training thousands of detectives in family violence, child protection and sexual crimes; repurposing buildings as shelters and supplying sexual assault evidence kits to police stations.
Parliament is considering legislation to tighten the law on domestic violence.
When cases make it to court, offenders often get harsh penalties.
These are all steps in the right direction but the criminal justice system alone cannot solve GBV.
The roots of the problem lie partly in SA’s deeply skewed socioeconomic structure; partly in the way boys and girls are socialised in families, schools and other institutions; and in how a culture of toxic masculinity is perpetuated.
Until there is a comprehensive programme to challenge this culture, GBV is likely to remain the norm.
UFH council deputy chair Dr Siphokazi Koyana says the situation amounts to a “second pandemic” and has called for a “strategy of zero tolerance against GBV”.
We concur with Koyana that “it is the duty of each and every one as South Africans to help solve the problem”.
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