Gender Based Violence:Why Does The Conversation Always End Up In The Same Place?

Last week the internet was up in arms after the murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana,a 19 year old University of Cape Town student who was tortured,raped and then killed by a male worker in a post office in South Africa. The general public as well multiple public figures from all across the world came out to condemn her murder and her name was trending worldwide.

As commendable as the worldwide outrage the death of Uyinene invoked,unfortunately it will not be first and last time that a woman will be receiving the sympathy of the world in her death. Last year was Karabo MokoenaKim Wall and host of others whose cases did not make it the headlines, this year was Uyinene and next year will be more.

The modus operandi of outrage is always the same. There is the initial shock,then the outrage,then a hashtag showing solidarity with the deceased and her family and then a "this should never happen again" plea which include "we should do better gents" and "real men do not hurt women" comments from men, promptly followed by debates,or rather arguments, between the women and men about how the latter should be implemented.

The women always argue,and rightfully so, that the only way to stop the killing of women by men is well, for men to stop killing women,simple. The antagonizing men's input to the conversation is not that their fellow men should stop killing women but rather that women should not place themselves in situations that can put them in danger of being assaulted.The inexhaustible list of these situations,according to them,include not hanging out with strangers,not hanging out in insecure locations and dressing respectably etc. According to their logic,if women follow these steps,all should be well.

Uyinene was killed in a post office,which one would count as a "secure location". Kim Wall,a journalist, was raped,killed and decapitated by a man she was interviewing. Karabo Mokoena was killed,as with most cases of femicide,by her partner and not "stranger". Infants are raped and killed and they do not wear skimpy clothes.

So clearly,the problem is not that women place themselves in situations which make them susceptible to femicide because even when they do all that is suggested to ensure their safety,they still get violated.The problem is as it always been, that men find it ok to kill women. When women state this with hashtags like #MenAreTrash,the men again go up in arms,stating that the statement generalizes men even those who do not do these inhumane acts of violence against women.

Like Muhammad Ali said when rebutting the "not all white people are racist" claim in 1971,when one sees 10000 snakes coming down the aisle and they know that 1000 of these snakes are nonvenomous,should they keep the door open and search for the nonvenomous snakes or just close the door altogether?Obviously the latter is the most effective and efficient way of being safe from the snakes.

The same analogy applies to men and gender based violence including femicide. Yes they are men who do not violate women but how many women have been brutalized by men who do not fit the description of a "stereotypical" violent man?How do we even describe and identify stereotypical violent men because women are being abused and killed by successful,good looking,funny etc men.

Women are not abused killed by lonely,pervy,fat and ugly men like it is mostly depicted in either conversations or movies etc. They are killed by "real men" including friends,uncles,fathers etc. The issue should therefore not center around how women should pick and choose between abusers and non abusers when calling out gender based violence. That is a trivial and useless aspect of the topic. What matters and is of importance is that men should drop the mentality that it is ok to violate women.

How do we then go about ensuring that men indeed abandon the mentality of thinking that it is ok to physically hurt women? As i have already said on this post,the problem is that the system of patriarchy which is in place in most,if not every society,circumstantially endorses and promotes violence again women,a situation which leads to the normalization,by society again,of issues of violence against women.

The other day i was in a taxi home when the driver,telling a story of how some female passenger annoyed him earlier when she was talking too much,explicitly said "ha ne ele mosadi wame ekabo ke sa bolo go mo kgaola thogo",loosely translating to "if she was my wife i would have long decapitated her" in English. All the passengers chortled at the statement and although i did not,i still failed to rebuke him for that statement which means he went away with the mentality that there was nothing wrong with what he had said.

Even if he had said that as a way of just expressing his annoyance,it is the normalization of such toxic behaviors and attitudes towards women that goes a long way in aiding the scourge of femicide. By not making men aware that some of their actions,no-matter how seemingly innocent and trivial, are not ok,society are creating an environment where men will abuse women and see absolutely nothing with it.

Most "boy talks" amongst male friends is rife with elements of misogyny which contribute towards the normalization of problematic attitudes towards women even-though they may be meant to just be banter between a group of friends. Some actions on social media like "slut shaming" as well others also go a long way in normalizing a culture of violence against women.Even when raising awareness against this violence,some statements like "who would kill such a pretty girl" are problematic because they make it seem ok to instead violate "unattractive" women.

It is these seemingly unrelated actions coupled with a culture of patriarchy that,when one minutely scrutinizes,it starts to become clear that they are contributing to the daily cases of femicide.No woman, regardless of what she looks like,what she is wearing or who she is with deserves to get violated.

By policing actions of women to "ensure that they are safe",what you are instead doing is normalizing a culture of men thinking that it is the women who have to make an effort to stay safe instead of encouraging men to stop violating women in the first place,unconsciously fueling violence against women.

If men knew,understood and appreciated that it is not ok to hurt women,women would not have to take those measures in the first place.If men knew,understood and appreciated that it is not ok to hurt women,no men would have to worry about being called "trash".To ensure that this knowing,understanding and appreciation takes place, the onus falls on society to adopt a culture which is not going to normalize oppression against women like it is currently the case.

It is going to take a long time for these to happen because this has been imprinted in most societies' way of life but the first step in this quest for change of attitudes is for men to stop thinking that they know better about how women should behave but instead call out their fellow men for their toxic actions and attitudes towards women.


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