South Africa, Life, etc

Op-Ed: Speaking to Men

By M Stevens, T Mofokeng & A Thompson 21 January 2016

We, the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition, would like to commend Minister Bathabile Dlamini (President of the ANCWL) for risking being vulnerable and for spelling out her frustrations in her letter to men regarding patriarchy, power and the continuing oppression of women in all spheres of society. We support her. By MARION STEVENS, TLALENG MOFOKENG & ANDREA THOMPSON.

The Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition, formed in October 2015, is a grouping of close to 90 South African individuals and organisations from diverse backgrounds. The Minister’s letter addresses many of the challenges our coalition seeks to overcome.

We support her because we understand the importance of an intersectional approach to addressing human rights violations, in particular acknowledging the role of patriarchy in propagating oppression and the need to dismantle such in order to achieve social progress.

We support her because our society has for a long while been confronted with racism, both overt and the micro aggressions which impact the lives of all South Africans, and so too do sexism, homophobia and other equally detrimental forms of discrimination.

We support her because patriarchy and homophobia lurk closely and are interlinked as barriers to all our freedoms.

We support her because violence against women is commonplace and women do not feel safe: rich and poor, black and white, lesbian and transgender, on a daily basis in the streets and many of the homes of South Africa.

We support her because she is calling out systematic homophobia which is rife and needs to be redressed. Lesbians endure unbelievable treatment, many have been hounded, raped and murdered for their sexual orientation.

We support the Honourable Minister in taking a stand against institutionalised discriminatory practices perpetuated against women. The acknowledgement of patriarchy in her own party – the ANC, the opposition, NGOs and businesses alike, is an important and brave conversation to have.

We support her because too many women are afraid to speak out and some in high positions suffer in silence, afraid to break ranks because they will be labelled disloyal.

We support her because speaking out can enrich dialogue, because internal reflection is good and if allowed to take place, can make any party, formation and organization stronger.

And we call on men to support her too. Men need to have these conversations. Conversations with colleagues, comrades, peers, family, opposition and friends about oppression, about male privilege, about gender-based violence, about the way patriarchy makes all our world’s a little smaller every day. Sometimes those violating do not realise their micro aggressions while others feel entitled to violate due to misguided beliefs of their superiority. Those in positions of power need to recognise the role that patriarchy plays across all sectors and areas of our lives and the ultimate benefit to all that comes from dismantling the structural social constructs that unfairly divide us.

Thank you Minister Dlamini for being vulnerable, taking risks and speaking out.


Marion Stevens (Chairperson), Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng and Andrea Thompson

The Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition.


Photo: Minister Bathabile Dlamini (GCIS)


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