16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December. It was initiated in 1991 by the first Women's Global Leadership Institute, held by the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University.
This year, the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign will take place from 25 November to 10 December 2017. This year the campaign will be held under the theme: “Count Me In: Together Moving a Non-Violent South Africa Forward”.
Upon reflection, it is imperative that we define the concept of violence, in order to account for it accurately. Violence is, by definition, behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. The variations of violence in this context, involve physical and sexual violence, were the perpetrator is at a position of power, and the victim is powerless. In a classic case is that of the perpetrator having a relationship with the victim, where the lines of abuse seem blurry as the perpetrator has found means and ways to manipulate the situation?
On average, one in five South African women older than 18 has experienced physical violence, but the picture of gender-based attacks varies according to marital status and wealth. Four in 10 divorced or separated women reported physical violence, as has one in three women in the poorest households. With these alarming statistics, it is therefore imperative to look at how patterns within society shapes, and perpetuates the Act of physical violence.
It is imperative to dismantle the notion of “free lunch”. There is an ongoing belief in the corporate world that a woman should “pay” back any favour through performing a sexual act. This is evident in statistics which reveal that two out of five women in the workplace have been victims of some form of sexual harassment, and the number is rapidly increasing. Many cases go unreported as women fear losing their jobs. Patriarchy in itself has made it difficult for women to enter the corporate space, as roughly 4% of women in Africa, are reported to be holding CEO positions. Therefore, to penetrate any male dominated industry, women are “forced to sleep their way to the top”. One may be of the view that this, is consensual sex amongst two adults, however, the element of undue influence brings the issue of sexual violence on the table. Women are, at times, forced, drugged, and dragged during such acts, and that ends up qualifying as means of consent in many court cases. Violence is not exclusive to a specific social class, race, or industry. Women are forced to endure harsh conditions and abusive, as the perpetrators are physically stronger, and are in positions of power. This is evident in the statistics that reveal sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Safe havens” such as the church have become home to many perpetrators to continue violating women and young children. Such unregulated institutions, disregard the law in dealing with such cases, as the moral code of conduct encompass values such as forgiveness and turning the other cheek. The cycle of lack of accountability continues for years, and cases fall between the cracks of power held by the perpetrator, and fear by the victim.
Classic cases of violence have been highlighted over the years, and the media has managed to draw attention on this growing pandemic of young, bright women who suffer in silence in the hands of their lovers until ,eventually, they are killed. Reeva Steenkamp, and the women below, were unfortunate casualties of violence by their supposed lovers, and unfortunately ended up dead.
• 1.Priska Schalk 29, was stabbed to death with knives in February. Boyfriend arrested.
• 2.Mananki Annah Boys 28, stabbed, burnt and hidden in April. Boyfriend confessed.
• 3.Nicola Pienaar 28 was murdered and then buried in shallow grave in January. Boyfriend arrested.
• 4.Akhona Njokana 31 was shot dead in January 2017 . Ex-boyfriend in custody.
• 5.Thapelo Ramorotong 26, was killed and burnt in a vehicle. Boyfriend arrested.
The above cases, only capture a fraction of many cases of violence.
To effectively deal with this, requires a robust approach, were the perpetrators and any associates aware of this are held accountable, at the hands of the law. It is not enough to wait for the victim to report because, as in most cases, the emotional abuse and manipulation has already clouded their judgement. The victim has been broken down mentally, so as to impair their judgement to see the severity of the situation. Furthermore, due consideration should be applied in dealing with any red flags, irrespective of their relative significance. Lastly, the law should fulfil its initial duty by protecting victims, irrespective of the status of the perpetrators.
As we reflect on these 16 days, let us continue to engage, serve, and protect women and children.