Address by MEC Lebogang Motlhaping at the occasion of the 16 Days to End Violence Against Women and Children Awareness Campaign, Pick ‘n Pay Circle
…it is on days like today when I feel the higher hand of calling reaching out to me and, I believe, everyone here to see how we are destroying ourselves and to make it stop. On days like today the realities of violence and its impact on the most vulnerable in our communities is made all the more clear and all the more real because we are forced to take time out to grapple with our apparent unrelenting need to hurt each other.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is on days like these when I realize that we are SO wrong to only reflect and act against violence against women and children on days like this.
The heart of any society, its capacity to care and protect, its goodness and moral health is determined by how it treats its most vulnerable and, I must say, I realize with a deep sorrow, that we fall so short of making the safety of our women and children a priority.
I am not referring to safety being only a policing or government issue. I want to start at our homes – there, behind closed doors, where the prying eyes of neighbours do not see and preaching of love and respect from Pastors do not reach us, where the sirens of police vans are not heard, it is here that we breed the atmosphere conducive to the bodily violation and the perpetration of psychological warfare on the self-same people we were supposed to protect and nurture.
Each and every one of us is the culmination of a complex coming together of genes, upbringing, culture, context, education, beliefs and values.
We may come of trauma and childhood situations that would scare most of today’s children. Some of us come from backgrounds where women are regarded as mere commodities and entities to serve the ego and needs of a man.
Some of us witnessed violence on a daily basis and to such an extent that acts of violence have normalised – seeing someone hurt or hurting someone has become so commonplace we do not even have the good sense of empathy at the face of suffering.
Some of us are so conflicted and twisted we only feel at home in a world where confrontation and conflict affirms itself in our anger and the rage we dish out, not to people greater and stronger than us, but to those that cannot defy us or defend themselves.
Ladies and gentlemen, behind the curtain that divides the kitchen from the bedroom we make our women slaves to our aggression and we beat them into submission with our weapons. When we feel like they have not learned their lesson we beat our daughters and even our sons into submission, my point is we make the weak pay for all the places we cannot assert ourselves in.
It is a sick reality that we make our families suffer for our failings as men and fathers. This needs to stop. We walk around with a lordship borne from the happenstance of us being male and, rather than protecting those entrusted to us, we use it as guns and knives.
We embed such legacies of terror in the faces and hearts of our children they move out into the world carrying it with them, multiplying it. We create societies where we do not value or respect life.
We do not stop in our homes and our communities we insist even harder to debase the integrity of our daughters in our schools and our sisters in places of work, by relegating them into sexual objects, existing for our own grim pleasure and the force of our own will.
Having teachers mess with children is a blight in the face of the solemn task of education. We have bosses at work enforcing discipline and compliance onto women by forcing them to into lurid sexual affairs.
We have the same men insisting on exacting that masculine lordship by keeping women in check and disallowing them to either make decisions or being allowed to have a voice. If they do not do as we please or show their submission we shall deal with them, is that how the narrative goes?
Violence comes in many shapes and forms. There is a treacherous kind of violence that does not speak with fists but lies at the heart of the regard we have for women.
We, as men, need to stop being terrified of the wonderful talents and capabilities of our sisters. I don’t even believe their intention is to compete with us, yet we fiercely protect turfs that do not even belong to us. As a society and in the world of work we need to celebrate the unique contributions each of us can make into realizing our common goals.
On 2 November 2018 we saw the release of the Declaration of the Presidential Summit Against Gender Based Violence and Femicide. This was the result of the deliberations of more than 1 200 delegates from all walks of life, who came together to unpack Gender Based Violence and come up with real ways within which we may address this plague.
The reason for the summit was the alarming escalation of Gender Based Violence that includes the rape and killing of women and children and some of the ineffective judicial processes that fails to bring the evildoers to book. It was also about how government can work together to implement collaborative efforts to address this matter at various levels.
Any situation is real in its consequences. We have more than 25% of our men and between 25 and 40% of women walking around with the scars of physical and sexual violence. As a society this, alone, should shake us out of our ignorance and apathy.
Gender Based Violence, femicide and hate crimes, it follows, is an affront to our common humanity and a violation of the Constitution of South Africa and obstructs sustainable human development. ‘The realisation of a prosperous and vibrant democracy is deeply compromised by the effective disabling of more than half the country’s population.’
This document is eye-opening. It calls on all of us, the Department of Transport, Safety & Liaison, the South African Police Services, all our stakeholders and the broader Northern Cape Provincial Government to be real in our efforts to establish multi-sectoral, coordinating structures to respond to Gender Based Violence and femicide and allocate the necessary and adequate resources required to develop strategies that can be implemented across the province.
Through our collaborative efforts we need to ensure that political and community leadership support and champion the eradication of Gender Based Violence. We need to resource safe spaces like Thuthuzela Care Centres, sexual offenses courts, victim friendly units and shelters that respond to the needs of all people, including people with disabilities and the LGBTI community.
We must, going forward, make sure that our programming and interventions are gender-responsive and promote women-centred economic development. At the heart of it, we must embark on targeted, social behaviour change programmes to address patriarchal values and norms and structural drivers of Gender Based Violence.
This should be targeted at all sectors, including individuals, families, communities, civil servants, religious and traditional leaders, the private sector, the media community and others that are strategically placed to influence attitudes, behaviours and practices, supported by an effective, resourced communications strategy. The declaration further calls on us to look at how images of women’s objectification, men’s entitlement and normative gender roles contribute to fuelling levels of Gender Based Violence.
We need to look at some of the sectors that bear the brunt of secondary victimisation at our police stations and in courts. The LGBTI community has a long, protracted and wretched history of being at the receiving end of violence, sexual and hate crimes with a system that mocks and further debase them when they muster up the courage to report.
We cannot tolerate a situation where we, through our own prejudices and ignorance humiliate and demean fellow South Africans just because we do not understand or approve of them. No one’s approval is necessary to do the right and honourable thing of providing services or protection to anyone in need.
I would like to take the opportunity to appeal to everyone here, whether you are in public service or sitting here as a member of the community – begin today to take stock of your beliefs and values and how you, as a person, play a role in the realisation or justification of violence in your space.
Take the time to open your eyes to the suffering of those around you and see how you contribute to it and how you can make it stop. Starting with the people around you, have conversations about masculinity and femininity, religion, culture and how our belief systems and values contribute to the unfortunate and terrifying escalation of violence in our houses and communities.
In your schools, places of work and worship be alert and do not turn a blind eye to a blue eye. Our humanity lies in our capacity to care for each other. DO put your nose in other people’s business if it seems they are hurting each other.
Start your legacy building in your own homes by raising sons and daughters who respect each other and are not threatened by the contribution each of the sexes can make in the realisation of a society characterised by harmony, integrity and unity.
Men – take a long, hard look at yourself and, upon finding that you are either instigating or condoning violence in any form, call yourself back to order and follow your sacred task of protecting your people.
I thank you