FIGHT AGAINST GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE STEPPED UP

Gender-Based Violence is a term used to describe violence directed at an individual based on their agenda. This violence includes verbal, emotional, sexual, physical and psychological abuse. Although both men and women experience GBV, the statistics in South Africa show that women and girls are the worst affected.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed three gender-based violence (GBV) bills into legislation, meaning the country has just stepped up its protection for women and children, and survivors have a better chance of receiving justice.

The bills introduced in parliament in 2000 following public outcry for government to take GBV cases seriously, particularly after the rape and murder of University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana in August 2019.

While the Bills are set up to protect and support victims post abuse, the best remedy is no abuse at all.

“We must continue the task of preventing abuse from occurring in the first place,” Ramaphosa said in a statement. “This task entails men and boys checking their own values and behaviors that cause them to regard women and girls as targets of control and abuse. It also entails building a society based on advancing fundamental human rights and dealing severely with people who violate others.”

Under the new laws, the definition of domestic violence included victims of assault in those engaged to be married, those who are dating, those in customary relationships, and those in actual or perceived romantic, intimate, or sexual relationships of any duration.

 This prompted a group of non-governmental organizations to release a statement on social media following the news, calling it a “major breakthrough in tackling the extremely high rates of GBV in communities countrywide.”

“It better protects those who have suffered abuse and makes it harder for perpetrators to escape justice,” the statement read.

Gender-based violence is a scourge which affects people regardless of class, color, creed, or geographical location. The US publication The Washington Post last month carried an article about a Pennsylvania man, aged thirty-two years who decapitated his girlfriend and police found him dismembering her with a machete, because he thought she was a ‘threat to his masculinity.’ The horrific murder was a sad reminder of the danger women face daily globally.

The police report showed a neighbor ‘woke up to loud screaming in the neighboring apartment. Police arrived on the scene find the man using a machete to saw off the leg of his girlfriend’s body, who had already decapitated.

If nation’s character is based by how, it treats women and children, then we are falling desperately short. Gender-based violence is after all, a problem of male violence. Because it is men who are perpetrators of domestic violence, it should be men taking the lead in speaking out and reporting gender-based violence, in raising awareness, in peer education and in prevention efforts.

South African need to play a greater role in preventing GBV. They need to understand what constitutes gender-based violence, especially sexual violence. The latest crime stats show four thousand women raped in their homes or that of the perpetrator, and in four hundred reported rape cases the victim and perpetrator had a relationship. This suggests that men do not understand that sexual activity without explicit consent is a crime.

Men must respect their wives and girlfriends and understand that being in an intimate partnership is never a justification for domestic violence.

If each man gathers two men and the three pledge to never to rape a woman, never lay hand on a woman and hold each other accountable to this pledge, we can start to seriously tackle gender-based violence in South Africa.

Phola Director Ncazelo Mlilo once observed, “Domestic violence is a major crime everywhere. Sometimes a neighbor interceding allows us to solve a crime, stop a crime or prevent a crime.”

Narrative therapy examines gender discourses that support women’s oppression and men’s engagement in practices of entitlement and dominance. By engaging in collaborative conversations, men in narrative therapy may develop a flexible awareness that creates space for alternative ways of being.

 Phola is a nonprofit organisation providing psychosocial support, mental health, counselling services in Johannesburg North and surrounding areas. The organisation is currently expanding and deepening its flagship programmes in communities, particularly OUTTRAGED Methodology.

OUTTRAGED is non-blaming and non-judgmental methodology developed by Phola Director Ncazelo Mlilo.

It is a collective narrative therapy framework that facilitates conversations with men and boys for the prevention of violence and gender-based violence.

It emphasizes narrating of men’s problem-saturated stories, externalizing men’s issues, and challenging masculine metaphors.

 In a nutshell OUTTRAGED Methodology aims to shift from awareness to accountability and create an environment for men and boys to play a greater role in the prevention of gender-based violence.

The framework supports men and boys to become community champions and agents of social justice in the prevention of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.

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