Professor Julie Claassen the University of Stellenbosch renowned feminist theologian once opined:
“Feminist is not about ovaries”.
Radical feminists hold a different view that all men are beneficiaries of patriarchy it follows that men cannot be feminist. This argument self-cannibalises when considering that in South Africa during the fight the apartheid system that was premised on white hegemony, there were many white activists who fought to end apartheid. To put it succinctly, it will be absurd to say all white people are racist. It is with this in mind that we hosted a panel of all males to discuss the men as allies in the fight against GBV.
It reels of intellectual dishonesty to divorce the high levels of violence in this country from the legacy of apartheid. It should be borne in mind that violence in South Africa was institutionalised and normalised. The United Nations declared apartheid as crime against humanity, in essence the whole state edifice was characterised by wanton criminality. The systems of accountability and the respect for human rights was largely absent. We had a police service that was more concern with curtailing civil liberties than serving the population.
This legacy is still with us today, as a result the SAPS is probably one of the most corrupt police services in the world. The result is that the rate of criminal detection is very low let alone successful prosecution. All of this is a ripe condition for GBV to fester and continue unabated, the result is that VAWC is the highest in the world. In South Africa, girls and women faced the prospect of being sexually violated from cradle to advanced old age. The toxic measure of unacceptable levels of violent criminality and misogyny has resulted in an untenable situation where women and girls are safe from sexual violence from their private homes to the public sphere.
The language we use to describe acts of sexual violence against women and girls makes the society desensitise to violence. Recently, in the media there has been reportage of high number teenage pregnancy for girls between 10-14 years old. In a normal society there will be national outrage about the statutory rape of minors resulting in their pregnancy. We have yet to see the Minister of Basic Education or Minister of Justice telling us, what are they going to do with perpetrators of this injustice. Women and girls are left to their own devices without material support from state agencies.
It follows that men need to be involved as partners in the fight against GBV. It is men who bear the responsibility of speaking to other men about the harmful effect of GBV. Men are both the implicated and potential solvers as such men need to in collaboration with women eke out solution for this terrible state of affairs.