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Factors contributing to gender-based violence

The Masivuke Community Development group singing outside the East London magistrate's court.
The Masivuke Community Development group singing outside the East London magistrate's court.
Image: Mark Andrews

There is no single reason why people commit gender-based violence or why we have high levels of gender-based violence in SA.

The following are some of the factors that contribute to gender-based violence:

1. Patriarchy is a source of male violence. Patriarchy refers to “a system of interrelated social structures through which men exploit women”.

Some use the term to refer to “a general structure in which men have power over women”.

It is important to note that patriarchal attitudes in many communities have softened. For instance, gone are the days when women were not allowed to vote and to enter the labour market.

2. Alcohol and substance abuse are the key drivers of gender-based violence.

It is true that drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs can make it difficult for some people to control their anger and actions.

People who are intoxicated may experience impaired thinking. Thus, alcohol and substance abuse do contribute to gender-based violence.

3. Obsessive possessiveness or jealousy contributes to gender-based violence.

Some court judgments have found that obsessive possessiveness or jealousy has led perpetrators to commit violent acts against their victims.

4. Certain types of personality disorders or mental illnesses can contribute to gender-based violence.

While this can be true, we need to be careful not to think that male violence is only caused by mentally sick men or is the result of impaired masculinity in a few men.

Male violence is so widespread in our country that it can’t be associated only with mental sickness.

5. People who grow up in a violent family are more likely to commit gender-based violence.

Research shows that family violence can cause a cycle of abuse, where those family members think it is acceptable to abuse others.

6. Gender-based violence is largely a socioeconomic consequence.

Some research has revealed a direct link between socioeconomic status and gender-based violence.

7. Men’s violence against women is particularly facilitated by women’s weak economic position.

One of the main reasons victims of gender-based violence have cited for remaining in a violent relationship is because they are dependent on their spouses for basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

8. Men learn to be violent through the process of socialisation.

Some research has shown that in some cultures, initiation school graduates demand subservient respect from girls and girls who do not comply are prone to violence.

9. Male chauvinism, misogyny and toxic masculinity are to blame for high levels of gender-based violence.

Different dictionaries define these concepts as follows: Male chauvinism refers to “male prejudice against women or the belief that men are superior to women in terms of ability and intelligence”.

Misogyny refers to “the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against, women”.

Toxic masculinity refers to “harmful behaviour and attitudes commonly associated with some men, such as the need to repress emotions during stressful situations and to act in an aggressively dominant way”.

10. Men often validate their masculinity through violent behaviour towards women, girls, gay men and boys and lesbians.

As in other patriarchal cultures, traditional and outdated ideals or notions of masculinity and femininity are still prevalent in this country.

Historically, men were taught that being masculine meant to revere violence and stoicism and to hyper-sexualise women.

As a result, boys are often pressured to distance themselves from associations of weakness and homosexuality.

Thus, it is argued that to fight gender-based violence, we have to demonstrate care and understanding to boys and assist them in dealing with the internal and external pressures that can make them abusive.

11. Homophobia is the main cause of violence against people who are not heterosexuals or who are perceived or thought to be homosexual.

Homophobia has been defined in some literature or textbooks as “the fear of homosexuality and homosexual people and of all things associated with homosexuality”.

Homophobes react differently to people who are perceived or thought to be homosexuals.

Some avoid having anything to do with homosexual people, including any conversation about homosexuality.

Others have physically, verbally and sexually attacked people perceived or thought to be homosexual.

Corrective rapes have been reported in many communities across the country.

Corrective rape is defined in some dictionaries as “the act of raping a lesbian woman in an attempt to turn her heterosexual”.


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