Councillor Vasco da Gama writes:
Listening recently to the heart-wrenching stories of women and children who suffered the worst abuses at the hands of men made me realise that as a male figure, I too am implicated in these crimes.
These women told me and others of how their uncles, brothers, boyfriends, cousins, husbands and men known to the families force themselves on toddlers, the LGBTIQA+ community and pensioners. The scary testimonies of these brave women left me stone-cold in my seat at the recent 16 Days of Activism Symposium.
Despite the numerous campaigns aiming to raise awareness about these gruesome occurrences, and aiming to educate men, there remain those men who continue to perpetrate unthinkable and heinous crimes against women. In doing so they have brought shame to the dignity and standing of all men.
The recent spate of sexual violence, abuse and killings of women speaks volumes about the challenge that lies before us. The cases I speak of have grabbed the media headlines and the public has watched these horror stories unfold in our courtrooms. Sometimes, we glimpse the face of a perpetrator; many times, these faces show a disturbing absence of guilt or remorse. Some of these high profile cases include: Valencia Farmer, who was 14 years old when she was brutally gang-raped and murdered. She was stabbed 53 times. That was in 1999 and her killer was only sentenced for the crime 17 years later.
Beyond the marches and the hashtags such as #NotInMyName which were organised by some men earlier this year, we need to confront the crisis in every space. The silence of sexual violence, which often happens behind closed doors, has allowed this despicable crime to grow in size and defiance. We cannot afford to slack in our efforts – we need to confront it with all the might we have. Men must accept responsibility for the role they have played in creating an environment in which such abuse can occur, and worse, in which such abuse is normalised.
Africa’s own son, the world icon and the defender of human rights, Nelson Mandela, once remarked, “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
This is one of the most famous quotes by the former statesman that should still resonate with us today. It is the statement that calls every good man to action in defence of the vulnerable members of our societies, including women, children, elderly women, sex-workers and the members of the LGBTIQA+ community. It is a call which we must heed.
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