A collective intervention in dealing with the scourge of Gender-Based Violence

By: Thembeka Pama

A few months ago, our country was rocked a spate of rapes and other types of gender based violations. It was a sad day for all South Africans who make strides in ensuring that we live in a peaceful and orderly society where rights afforded to us as citizens are recognised and upheld. This was the time when all efforts for common humanity were flouted beyond reprieve.

 It is my view that the crisis that we find ourselves in at the moment is deepened when we see even more gruesome atrocities in the form gender violence emerging from all corners of our country and I want to refer to the recent death of Anene Booysen’s as a case in point (amongst others). The challenge in dealing with gender based violence which in some cases translates to rape, is finding a way to deconstruct the actual construct of “gender based violence” mainly because there is a common belief that there are several elements that are systemic in nature linked to gender based violence, more especially violence against women and children. What is even more challenging is the fact that from the silent hinterlands of our nation, places where historically chieftaincies ruled as well as the current epoch of our times, systems were created to keep watch over similar crimes and violations that we now witness in huge proportions.  From both the customary and conventional legal systems, instruments were always created to deal with matters of this kind. With the passage of time, leading up to the current crisis that has befallen us it then begs the question as to “what has happened?” to us as a society.

In an attempt to deconstruct the construct of gender based violence one is likely to link gender based violence (as an outcome) to socio economic issues, human related issues that are steeped in our psyche, our violent and unstable past as a nation, to mention but a few. From the factors connected to problems of gender based violence, it is clear that there are several mechanisms of intervention and support are needed in order to deal with systemic matters.  

It is a common expectation that various arms of government should be at the epicentre in rendering solutions to the scourge of GBV, thereby promoting  a violent free society.  The “family” is one of these Institutions.  Socialisation of children and rearing also necessitate values, carved to build a nation of individuals whose outlook encompasses principles that are gender-sensitive and non-violent. Civil society organisations also have an important role to play in this arena. When we woke up to the recent spate of rapes in South Africa a few months ago, civil society organisations rose to the fore through several initiatives such as “one billion campaign”, “black Friday campaign” to name but a few. Another important social institution that is important is the “school”. I am still to see a schooling system that includes curricula that speaks directly to the discourse of gender equality, gender inequality as well as gender sensitive discourse. It is therefore important to encourage our counterparts in the education sector to look into this matter so that gender mainstreaming is advanced within the current and future curricula.

Mainstream media plays a large role in influencing behaviours and general outlook of readers and audiences and it is thus important that they hold their editorial responsibilities in a way that our society that informs and educates readers (and audiences) on the subject of gender based violence.  Through their agenda setting methods, media houses also have a responsibility to help engender a tone that seeks to aid all sectors of society in dealing with the scourge of gender based violence through their editorial policies.

I was encouraged by the fact that there have been talks and debates amongst government structures about the establishment of a National Council against gender based violence which has been welcomed by relevant stakeholders in the gender sector. From this development, most of us who work in the gender sector eagerly await the adoption of a national strategic plan that will mobilise South Africans to deal with Gender Based Violence. It is our hopes and prayers that the Council will prioritise the development of the plan to enable South Africans to depart from the same vision and achieve the same outcomes. Furthermore the plan will assist to establish a government wide approach that identifies, coordinates, integrates, and leverages current efforts and resources.   I cannot emphasise enough that what has befallen South Africa in the last few months is stark reminder that whilst efforts were very much discernible in certain quarters, a lot more needs to be achieved. Whilst we wait for the action plan from the National Council Against Gender Based Violence, it remains crucial for us as South Africans to engage ourselves and ask ourselves, as to what has happened to us as a people? It remains important for us to remember that is our past collective efforts, we were able to thwart the oppressive machinery and achieved the gains that bore fruit in the form of democracy. In our past efforts we were able to galvanise our communities towards one common goal. There was a lot more we achieved in our own efforts and thus we were able to justify to the world the need to liberate ourselves during a dark period. I believe that in the same spirit, we will be able to deal with current social challenges only if we work together.