I saw a quote on social media this morning and it had me feeling very unsettled and caused me to reflect on a lot, it read:
“I can’t be free as a South African, if I can’t be free as a Woman”
Social media, the news and even office hallways are flooded with the latest #hashtags. We have #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, #DSTVMustFall and the list goes on; but one that stuck with me is the one about #SouthAfricanWomenMatter. Allow me the opportunity to change that, I’d like to change it to #AllWomenMatter. In South Africa we have foreign nationals or refugees if you may, that also suffer at the hands of MEN. Not black men, white men, coloured men or ‘men that does not respect women’, they suffer at the hands of MEN.
Just the other day I was at court and while waiting on court to commence, the most unfathomable thing happened. An admitted attorney, practising for zillions of years fixed his lips to utter: “There’s no such thing as an abused married woman”. He was at court to bring a bail application for his client who just so happens to be an already convicted domestic violence offender. I looked at him with so much disgust as he went on and on about how there is no such thing as an abused women and how domestic violence is just a pot of nonsense. He literally said women only lay complaints against their husbands (or man if you may) if she wants “time-off” for the weekend and how ‘abused’ women should just leave the man instead of opening false charges.
I swear if he was not so oblivious and ignorant, he would have gotten the disgust on everyone’s face. And that is when I decided to fix my lips to say:
“No woman walking this earth enjoys going to the police station to lay a charge of domestic violence against the man she loves. Whether it is a boyfriend, brother, father, husband or whoever, and that is all because of men like yourself. It is punishment enough being a woman in South Africa, so why would you put yourself up to be ridiculed by society.”
Yes, women are encouraged to speak up about domestic violence now more than ever. Just check your Joko tea packaging in the kitchen cupboard, you will see the purple ribbon along with several numbers you can dial in case of domestic violence.
BUT NO ONE ADDRESSES SOCIETY!
In my opinion, all the campaigns, projects and events will be in vain until society check themselves.
First of all, you can’t advocate for women to speak up about domestic violence but then ridicule and gossip about them in church-ladies’ meetings! Can you imagine how difficult it is to speak up about being raped by a family member for instance? Now add the fact that your community members will gossip about it, call you promiscuous and turn right around and blame you for not wearing ‘proper’ clothes. Or the infamous ‘she just opened a case against her ex-boyfriend because he left her, she’s just bitter’.
My favourite one of them all is ‘how can she do that to her husband, he’s been so good to her’. Why don’t you ask how could he do that to her? How could he beat her to a pulp and yet expect a warm plate of food afterwards or else she gets another beating? Or is it because ‘she likes it’?
Why don’t you ridicule and gossip about what a coward he is for turning to violence because he can’t get what he wants?
In the spirit of Youth day, Pride month, Ubuntu and just plain humanity, let’s really stand together. Don’t just share a #hashtag and wear black in solidarity of all the women that was killed, raped and abused. I want to urge you to go to Department of Social Development and get involved in their initiatives to help victims of domestic and gender-based violence. And the next time when you are in a company where a victim of these harsh crimes is the topic of discussion, call the gossipers to order and ask them if they did anything to assist her.
Let’s normalize not victimizing the victim!
And if you are a victim of these crimes or know of anyone who is one, reach out to our offices we will gladly assist you in getting the perpetrator before a court of law.