Sonke Gender Justice’s Bafana Khumalo.
- The ANC and its alliance partners have launched a dialogue on gender-based violence, focusing on the role men can play in bringing an end to the scourge.
- They have called for an end to patriarchal social systems, and for analysis and intervention in the role South Africa’s traumatic past has played in gender-based violence.
- The party’s president Cyril Ramaphosa said a big campaign with carefully-crafted literature will help conscientise many on gender-based violence and women’s empowerment.
The ANC and its alliance partners have called on South African men to self-reflect, be accountable and go beyond paying lip service to gender-based violence (GBV).
They said they believe mass mobilisation and the reorientation of men and young boys might go a long way in turning the tide in what has been largely described as a “shadow pandemic” and a war against women and children’s bodies in the country.
The governing party, SACP and Cosatu, together with some provincial leaders, held a dialogue on Monday focusing on getting men in the alliance involved in discussions around GBV.
This came after the murder of heavily pregnant Tshegofatso Pule, whose body was found hanging from a tree. Her murder and that of countless other women and children left the country reeling.
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Co-founder of Sonke Gender Justice Bafana Khumalo has called out political leaders for inconsistencies in their calls for an end to GBV in the way they carry themselves, even in the National Assembly.
He lambasted the weaponising of women’s bodies, and the way political leaders make disparaging remarks about women. He also touched on a culture of abuse in political spaces.
“You, as leaders of society, must lead from the front, when society observes you behaving in particular ways, many take it as a norm to be followed,” Khumalo said.
He said political leaders needed to understand their actions mattered even more than what they said.
“It’s not about what you say in your pronouncements, it’s about more. It’s about how you behave in public and private spaces,” he said.
Khumalo expressed confidence in the country and ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, saying while bold leadership was needed to guide the country through the “treacherous maze”, the president showed “forthrightness” in moving South Africa in the right direction.
Ramaphosa himself joined the dialogue, speaking alongside the likes of the SACP’s first deputy president Solly Mapaila and ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini.
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Ramaphosa said men in the country had to not only join the battle but to lead the struggle against GBV.
“We need to speak to the hearts and souls of the men of our country because it is they who disrespect women, who dishonour women, who destroy women’s lives,” Ramaphosa said during the alliance’s dialogue.
While he said there were a number of avenues his government was looking at to ramp up the fight against GBV, he believed socio-analytical experts and mass mobilisation would also help to change mindsets as well as assisting women to become more economically empowered.
“If we need to be evangelical and preach these kinds of messages, so be it, everything to reach out to the hearts of the men of our country… this is a real scourge,” said Ramaphosa.
He praised the demonstrations led by Act Now, which handed over a petition to Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola over the weekend, saying he was touched when he saw men going down on their knees in their calls for an end to violence against women and children.
“A call to the men of South Africa: Let’s honour, let us love and let us respect our women. Women of South Africa are our mothers, they are the ones who bring life into this world. Not a single man has not gone through their hands,” Ramaphosa said.
“We should literally go on our knees and respect the women of our country,” he said.