Today marks the first day of the annual international campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The South African Police Service (SAPS) released their crime statistics in September that speak to this effect.
The stats painted a picture that is a constant reminder of why this campaign is necessary.
In all that we do, we have not arrived at a place where we are practically and intentionally checking on how we continue to socialise and teach boys and men about accountability. I say this because I believe that they are the core cause of gender-based violence (GBV).
According to the SAPS, in 2018/19, a total of 2,771 women were murdered in South Africa, down from 2,930 in 2017/18. This means a woman is murdered every three hours. A total of 1,014 children were murdered in the 2018/19 period.
Furthermore, according to SAPS stats, the number of reported sexual offences increased to 52,420 in 2018/19 from 50,108 in 2017/18. Most of these were cases of rape. The police recorded 41,583 rapes in 2018/19, up from 40,035 rapes in 2017/18. This means an average of 114 rapes were recorded by the police each day. The rape rate increased from 70.5% in 2017/18 to 72.1 in 2018/19.
Of course these stats do not say that men are not killed, nor are they in any way suggesting that men don’t kill other men or women don’t kill men. It shows how most women and children are suffering at the hands of our society.
It is a fact that women don’t rape themselves. They are victims of boys and men. If we continue to exclude boys and men in our campaigning and movements against rape, we will be doing very little to fight the scourge.
We are also warned by the Institute for Security Studies to not view these rape statistics as accurate measures of either the extent or trend of this crime.
However, this is a reflection of our society and how much it is in ruins. I would like for us to have a shift on the matter of sexual violence, particularly rape. I strongly believe that if we are to socialise our boys differently, progressively and inclusively, we may achieve better results.
I say inclusive because we all have to be aware that there are no short cuts to solving or eradicating our social ills. Usually when we speak about GBV, we exclude boys and men. It is usually gatherings of girls and women. This sends a wrong message to boys and men. It sounds like they are not part of the problems and solutions.
The interesting point is this: we are not shy to point out that boys and men are the problem. We speak with so much consistency that boys and men are the main perpetrators. However, when the time to deal with these social ills and crimes come, we exclude them.
The time to fully involve perpetrators and potential perpetrators is now. Fighting GBV is not just about finding safe spaces for children and women, it is very much about changing the boys and men to be better and violence-free human beings.
16 Days of activism should activate the participation of boys and men, too, in fighting GBV.
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