We live in a world in which the abuse of women in some form or another has become commonplace. Our response to this mass violation of human rights says everything about us as a society. We can be passive and do nothing; we can get angry and make a lot of ineffectual noise; or we can dig deeply into the real reasons behind it and take whatever action is necessary to fix it. Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a threat against one half of humanity and an indictment against the other half. We need to act.
Violence against women is not a uniquely South African issue, but the scale of it in South Africa is in a league of its own. We have the worst levels of GBV in the world and the highest incidence of rape per capita on the planet. Quite understandably this has caused widespread outrage. We have seen angry marches, social media rants, hashtags such as #noexcuse, #countmein, #menaretrash and celebrities of all kinds speaking out. But how much does any of this do to truly cure the societal cancer that is GBV? It creates awareness, which is a very good thing, but mostly offers little in the way of real solutions.
GBV is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women which means it is male behaviour that needs to change, not female. Yet the problem is not men or masculinity; it is wounded men with a distorted concept of masculinity.
True masculinity loves, serves, protects and provides. The solution is to heal men and correct false notions of what masculinity is. Men are not born rapists or abusers, they become that way through brokenness, fatherlessness, bad role modelling and distorted messaging about masculinity. We don’t need to redefine masculinity, we need to rediscover it.
Telling men who are abusive that they are trash won’t change them. It may, in fact, make them worse. Stigmatising men as deviant mostly serves to drive men further into darkness and alienate and disempower one of the greatest forces for good in society – the innate drive of men to protect. GBV is a human rights issue. It is not a war against men or a battle between the sexes – it is a war against broken masculinity. It is a fight to heal deep scars and honour the humanness and dignity of every man, woman and child.
Gender Based Violence is not something that will self-correct. It will take emphatic, strategic and sustained action based on an understanding of its true causes, to break the cycle. The action needs to be led by men. Men who are passive while GBV continues unabated are complicit in one of the greatest evils of our time. Men are designed to be dangerous, but never, ever to women, children or society; dangerous to whatever threatens women, children or society.
Perpetrators of Gender Based Violence should fear true masculinity. Abandonment, abuse, prejudice and corruption should all fear true masculinity because true masculinity would never tolerate them. DM
Craig Wilkinson is founder of NPO Father A Nation