Men need to stand up for women

Violence and abuse against women is the most pervasive and profound human rights violation, sapping women’s energy, compromising their physical health and eroding their self-esteem.

The fact that men are seizing the opportunity to play an increased role in ending violence against women through awareness forums, marches and social media campaigns such as #NotInOurName, is a positive step.

The marches and social media campaigns organised by several non-governmental organisations and civil society groups confirms that men, as the main perpetrators, can play an incredibly important role in ending and preventing women abuse. After all, domestic violence happens in our communities because we let it, and therefore we have to bring men into this discussion if we are ever to break the cycle.

It is a pity that some of the most insidious forms of violence against women like domestic violence, marital rape and sexual abuse are often viewed as private matters and as no one else’s business.

When that happens, domestic violence and abuse of girls and women remains hidden behind closed doors, characterised by shame and secrecy and even internalised by the victims.

The fact is violence against women is not a private family issue or a woman's issue. It is a public health and human rights issue that affects everyone – not only the victim and perpetrator, but their families, communities and everyone around them.

We must bring this hidden violence into public spaces and debates, speak out, break the silence and act to eliminate it.

The #NotInOurName is a movement which we must all embrace.

Here is what we all know: domestic violence comes in the form of physical, sexual, emotional and economic abuse; it does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability or socioeconomic status; children are adversely affected when they witness and experience violence in their homes; and fear of retribution and feelings of guilt and self-blame often prevent victims from seeking help or leaving the relationship.

If we are truly committed to ending this social scourge, it is men who must increasingly speak out and lead the education against it.

Violence usually starts with an insult, taunt, shove and finally comes to blows. Abusive language is a huge red flag: If we catch it early, we can take steps to avoid deadly blows.

Lest we forget, young men like to bandy about insulting names for women, thinking that just because the use of these names is “playful” it is harmless. Not so!

Calling women insulting names degrades them and bolsters the underlying attitude that they are worthless, that they're only good for cheap sex, and that in some way we men own them.

This is the very opposite of respect. Nonviolence is all about knowing your feelings and needs and then finding the words to express them. Foul language does the opposite.

Ask yourself: If a boy hears older men using degrading words and names to describe women, what kind of attitude is he likely to develop towards women? Eliminating such language has to be the first step to ending domestic violence and rape.

While a criminal justice response to domestic violence is necessary, a cultural, social shift is required.

How? Violence is learned. It is perpetuated when children see their fathers beat their mothers and sanctions are not applied to say this behaviour is unacceptable.

Therefore fathers should develop relationships with their sons and talk about their relationships and remind them that they must never use violence against women regardless of how much they might disagree on something. Building a relationship is key to having a teen or young man talk about something troubling them in life.

We must teach our children that battering women is wrong, both morally and in terms of the law. Men who do this must give up their sense of entitlement if they ever want a healthy and egalitarian relationship with a woman.

Whether children witness violence or hear it from the next room, it can cause fear, anxiety, even depression and, without the right support, it can massively damage a child's life chances.

We must educate and re-educate our sons to accept our responsibility – that domestic violence won't end until well-meaning men become part of the solution.

Phumulo Masualle is premier of the Eastern Cape. Follow him on EC_Premier

VIOLENCE and abuse against women is the most pervasive and profound human rights violation, sapping women’s energy, compromising their physical health and eroding their self-esteem.

The fact that men are seizing the opportunity to play an increased role in ending violence against women through awareness forums, marches and social media campaigns such as #NotInOurName, is a positive step.

The marches and social media campaigns organised by several non-governmental organisations and civil society groups confirms that men, as the main perpetrators, can play an incredibly important role in ending and preventing women abuse. After all, domestic violence happens in our communities because we let it, and therefore we have to bring men into this discussion if we are ever to break the cycle.

It is a pity that some of the most insidious forms of violence against women like domestic violence, marital rape and sexual abuse are often viewed as private matters and as no one else’s business.

When that happens, domestic violence and abuse of girls and women remains hidden behind closed doors, characterised by shame and secrecy and even internalised by the victims.

The fact is violence against women is not a private family issue or a woman's issue. It is a public health and human rights issue that affects everyone – not only the victim and perpetrator, but their families, communities and everyone around them.

We must bring this hidden violence into public spaces and debates, speak out, break the silence and act to eliminate it.

The #NotInOurName is a movement which we must all embrace.

Here is what we all know: domestic violence comes in the form of physical, sexual, emotional and economic abuse; it does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability or socioeconomic status; children are adversely affected when they witness and experience violence in their homes; and fear of retribution and feelings of guilt and self-blame often prevent victims from seeking help or leaving the relationship.

If we are truly committed to ending this social scourge, it is men who must increasingly speak out and lead the education against it.

Violence usually starts with an insult, taunt, shove and finally comes to blows. Abusive language is a huge red flag: If we catch it early, we can take steps to avoid deadly blows.

Lest we forget, young men like to bandy about insulting names for women, thinking that just because the use of these names is “playful” it is harmless. Not so!

Calling women insulting names degrades them and bolsters the underlying attitude that they are worthless, that they're only good for cheap sex, and that in some way we men own them.

This is the very opposite of respect. Nonviolence is all about knowing your feelings and needs and then finding the words to express them. Foul language does the opposite.

Ask yourself: If a boy hears older men using degrading words and names to describe women, what kind of attitude is he likely to develop towards women? Eliminating such language has to be the first step to ending domestic violence and rape.

While a criminal justice response to domestic violence is necessary, a cultural, social shift is required.

How? Violence is learned. It is perpetuated when children see their fathers beat their mothers and sanctions are not applied to say this behaviour is unacceptable.

Therefore fathers should develop relationships with their sons and talk about their relationships and remind them that they must never use violence against women regardless of how much they might disagree on something. Building a relationship is key to having a teen or young man talk about something troubling them in life.

We must teach our children that battering women is wrong, both morally and in terms of the law. Men who do this must give up their sense of entitlement if they ever want a healthy and egalitarian relationship with a woman.

Whether children witness violence or hear it from the next room, it can cause fear, anxiety, even depression and, without the right support, it can massively damage a child's life chances.

We must educate and re-educate our sons to accept our responsibility – that domestic violence won't end until well-meaning men become part of the solution.

Phumulo Masualle is premier of the Eastern Cape. Follow him on EC_Premier

Please sign in or register to comment.

X