2nd Runner-Up of CR Writing Competition 2020| The onus of society, particularly men in dismantling and de-normalizing gender-based violence by Nomfundo Sithole

We cannot deny the fact that men were naturally given predominance under which women should submit. Both in a religious and cultural context, men are providers and protectors instinctively. Subsequently and sadly it has become more of a disadvantage than a benefit to women. In the longing to receive protection and care, instead, women are now terrified of the mysterious forces at the hands of men. These are the very same people who we love and should love us back as women.


Our tradition and certain societal cultures seem to contribute negatively to the rise of GBV cases. Look at tradition-driven men who struggle to understand the principle of gender equality, a lot of them have misunderstood it for role reversal which made many men angry. Nonetheless, the subject has been explored in a manner that does not devalue our diverse cultures in South Africa. More so because it was mainly directed in empowering women in the workplace environment. Men and women should not have conflicting views on who has the upper hand, especially in their homes. There is absolutely no need for such confusion as it may fuel GBV. 


Also, tradition has taught us so much of gender-based roles and responsibilities. As a result, some perpetuated GBV through misconceptions and superstitions. To name a few, some interpret a man’s way of providing as his woman being a full-time housewife while he reports for duty. Others believe that a woman’s modesty is measured by the length of her skirt. Or even worse they held on the indigenous principle that succession is through the male line. This is an undesired additional power that men can misuse leading to GBV. Unfortunately, these are norms that we inherited from our forefathers and have damaged the mentality of most men. However, some of these are not practical anymore for our generation. We can all agree that times have changed and people have to adjust to new norms. On the contrary, there is an ongoing need to earn a decent living and pay bills. A contribution from both parties is a necessity. It would be ridiculous to say women must stay at home because it’s traditional. The way a woman looks and dresses does not mean she’s out to lure men and definitely not an object that men can mess with. Also, I am certain that inheritance has nothing to do with gender. 


On the side of good learnings, we duly acknowledge and respect our traditions. However, we cannot continue to foster certain traditional practices if they do not add value to our lives. We need to take preventative actions to reduce GVB in our country and eventually end it. 


Men can start by doing little things such as accepting fatherhood. To date, about 60% of children in South Africa do not have present fathers. Of course, there are different contributing factors to this, tradition included; where a man would have polygamy and fail to treat his children the same. I feel that if men can be willing to take a simple parental responsibility it would be a good start to break the circle. It is written on texts that many of the abusers already have a shallow foundation and lack role models. 


Men really need to reprogram their minds and align with modern society. Forget about the traditional norm that says strong men do not voice out their feelings, you know “indoda ayikhali” (a man should not or does not cry). It is about time men talked about issues that potentially lead to inhumane killings of women. They need to open up, be true to themselves, and stand for the truth. Good men in particular must stand against GBV. They need to bring about the change that we all want to see.


This can be normalized through forums that will provide a knowledge base to young males and publicly address GBV. These things need to be discussed without shame in all gender perspectives. The programmes must aim at eradicating patriarchy that is often seen in the traditional practice of primogeniture. And also address traditional customs that are discriminatory towards women. The programmes can also be incorporated into the education system and made compulsory especially for boys to attend. It should cover taught values that do not promote patriarchy and gender stereotypes. It is better to teach them while they are still young after all, they are the future. 


Women have spoken out and shouted for the whole world to hear but there is still no end to this sad reality. Thus, I believe the end of this violence is in the hands of the perpetrators, men. Their male children need to be raised by great men who are capable of instilling good morals and values. 


It is erroneous to have integrity for our culture if it does not promote ubuntu. Because men to women brutal killings are not the kind of humanity that our culture encourages. There will not be cultural inferiority if we strive for a balance between traditional practices and the reality beyond sexual categories. 

To conclude, a caged bird sings because it is mentally and emotionally free long before the cage door is open. Our cultural practices ought to make women free and safe in their own homes and experience even greater freedom outside. 


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