Every year the 25th November marks the first day of 16 Days of Activism on No Violence against Women and Children campaign in South Africa. Over the past years I have often observed that during this time of the month is the only time where everyone seems to talk about the fact that domestic violence does exist within our society. There is no doubt in my mind that the 16 Days of Activism on No Violence against Women and Children is a good initiative. However, I think that the message behind this campaign is not getting across, and I think our culture plays a major role in the resistance.
Culture has never favouored women and beating up a wife and child is often seen as part of a husband’s duty among South African men, especially here in the rural areas where women are too dependent on their men financially. A woman’s role in a relationship is usually to obey her husband no matter what. Should she question him in any way she could get beaten up.
Many men around here are just not ready to let go of their abusive ways because they it as part of their culture. Their father and father’s father beat up their wives, so naturally men from this generation still think it’s right to beat up their wives. To men, beating up a wife is not abuse but a way to discipline her and their way of maintaining control in a relationship. As long as that kind of thinking continues, no change will come. The 16 Days of Activism on No Violence against women and children will never have any real impact in our society.
We recently had a community meeting that was called by the local police at Tinswalo Village as part of the 16 Days of Activism against women and child abuse. The police pled with women to report such incidents of violence against them by their partners. But somehow I think that message, as always, fell on deaf ears. It seemed to me that the women in my community fear losing their husbands more than anything else. I think women have been brain washed into believing that getting beaten up by their men is a good thing because it shows that he cares for you.
The police also asked people to speak up against child rape. In some cases it is the children’s relatives or even the fathers who abuse the children sexually. These kinds of abuse somehow remain a family secret as children continue to suffer at the hands of the people who claim to love them.
According to the police, 43 percent of children in South Africa are abused. Also, eight in ten women are in abusive relationships. And what’s even worse is that some women end up being killed by their so-called lovers. Yet most of these incidents are never reported to the police. And as a result the violence against women and children continues to play a big part in many families.