The end of August marks the end of Women’s Month and possibly the deferment, yet again, of women’s dreams for equality, justice and the end of gender-based abuse.
The euphoria from the commemoration will subside and the nation will again fold and tuck away the dream until the moment is relived again next year. In the interim, more women and girls will lose their lives, get maimed and live in fear of their spouses and men in general. This despite a rights-based Constitution and numerous legislative frameworks in place to enhance their equality, safety, protection and the basic right to life.
The victims of gender and sexual-orientation-based abuse, feel the Constitution fails them daily in their homes, community, public institutions and spaces. It has failed to ensure their positive human relations with men of all cultures, creeds and races since its inception more than 20 years ago. They are failed by traditional and modern institutions and practices, and the attitudes, conduct, and behaviour of persons entrusted with the power, responsibility and obligation to affirm their rights and ensure a rights-based culture.
A child and gender activist Elizabeth Mokwena said while men were the main abusers, society as a whole should introspect deeply on the challenge.
As an example, she singled out young women in Alexandra who she alleged precipitated the abuse by trusting in their partners, against the wise advice of their parents. She said, “They shun positive cultural practices when getting into masihlalisane (cohabiting) relationships. “When the pact sours, they are abused and chucked out, and they find it difficult to return after investing their emotions, time and resources improving their partners’ lives and homes.”
She urged these young women to be patient, build their careers and be financially independent and mature enough to make informed decisions supported by parents, relatives and genuine friends. Mokwena said maturity and stable careers would prevent their financial dependency and physical and psychological trauma from abusive partners which are also passed on as secondary trauma to children.
This assertion relates to findings by Statistics SA on the role of women’s attitudes in their own oppression. Responding to a questionnaire on husbands hitting wives:
- 5,2 per cent of women compared to 6 per cent of men said it was okay if the wife went out without telling him
- 6,5 per cent of women compared to 7,6 per cent of men agreed it was okay if she had neglected their children
- 6,8 per cent of women compared to 7,7 per cent of men agreed it was okay if she had argued with him
- 2,6 per cent of women compared to 3,1 per cent of men agreed it was okay if she had refused to have sex with him
- 1,3 per cent of both women and men agreed it was okay if the wife had burnt the food.
The agency estimated that 51,1 per cent of men and 33,8 per cent of women polled, approved on some forms of women abuse;
that 73 per cent of women and 67 per cent of men approved of limited Constitutional rights to the women deriving from women’s limited level of knowledge about the Constitution.
Details: Crime against Women in South Africa Report 03-04-05 www.statssa.gov/report/publications