By: Nelisiwe Dlamini
There is a scourge among us that is Gender-Based-Violence. It is attacking the very backbone of this nation- womxn and children. It is a reality that we should not have to prepare families for. As South Africans, we cannot continue to accept the increasing number of life-less and missing bodies as normative to our culture.
We remember the lost life of Liyabona Mabishi (aged 16) who was stabbed 13 times on the 21st of March 2020, on Human Rights Day, in Khayelitsha. Liyabona was walking with a buddy to another friend’s birthday party when she accidentally bumped into a group of 3 men, who all reacted by stabbing her to death.
The 16-year-old was allegedly murdered because she was a lesbian. Hate crimes perpetuated against homosexual womxn is just one of the many facets of gender based violence (GBV) that is rampant in South Africa. The victim’s mother has had to face one of her nightmares as she always feared that her daughter could be targeted for corrective rape because of her sexual orientation. Nothing can prepare a family for this sudden and violent death.
As Africans, we proscribe and prescribe to a unifying set of ideas and practices in how we interact with each other in our family units, our community and the world at large. Due to the existing inequality between men and women, there are already unfair accepted behaviors towards women resulting in violent displays of ‘’discipline and correction” related to putting a womxn in her place.
Through generations of stagnant traditional beliefs, the average South African man has been socialized to accept or deny a certain kind of womxn in the world. Womxn and children who fall outside of this bubble can, in the hands of the wrong men, end up badly bruised or in a coffin.
This violent culture, prevalent in South Africa, is rooted in accommodating a man’s “need” to use violence to protect his family and the honor thereof. The lines have become blurred, we see it in the way this same “need” seeks to “discipline” a womxn if she dares to oppose a man, and the same “need” that makes men think that it is okay to rape a womxn. There is a salient authority given to men, by other men, to willfully dish out punishment to an offensive womxn. Men have taken a unique aspect of their physique- that being physical strength- and use that to overpower womxn and the children that they should be protecting.
There is a tendency, among perpetrators, to use the shame and judgement that will consume a victim of GBV, as protection and justification for their actions. Too many times women are silenced into living with the scars because of fear of being blamed for provoking a man, not only by the community but also by other men within the family. Also, a womxn who has what is deemed an “unsavory” sexual past or orientation is the perfect victim of GBV.
The fight against GBV cannot be fought by women alone. We need men to take accountability for the conversations and ideas that they encourage. Ideas such as what defines a man need to be assessed. Out of the 3 men that attacked Liyabona, we needed 1 man to protect her life at the risk of losing the friendship and camaraderie of other men.
Tradition has never been meant to be so taboo that it stunts the development of a nation. We need men who want to be remembered for respecting a womxn as an equal and saving/ protecting a young child’s life. The list of GBV victims is screaming for change, the missing children’s reports are crying for a change and the graveyards are full of silenced voices that need us to remember and have their names screamed in remembrance.