As the country marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign, President Cyril Ramaphosa believes that men and boys can break the cycle of violence .
In his weekly newsletter to the nation, the President said the country marks the start of this campaign in the shadow of a terrible crime .
The President recalled that earlier this month images were circulated on social media of a young male student stabbing his partner, also a student, on the campus of the Peninsula University of Technology .
“The fact that the attack happened in broad daylight and in full view of the public, shows that some perpetrators of gender-based violence seemingly do not even care if there are witnesses to their crimes, nor do they fear apprehension .
“I commend the students who tried to intervene even as they were threatened, as well as those who stepped in as the alleged perpetrator was being attacked by a crowd .
It is significant that other male students attempted to ward off the attacker of the young female student,” the President said .
President Ramaphosa said that one of the reasons gender-based violence continues is that there is a culture of ambivalence among men who see crimes against women and children as a ‘private matter’ or a ‘family matter’ .
He added that in most cases of gender-based violence, including domestic abuse and sexual violence, the attacker is known to the victim .
3rd Men’s Conference on Positive Masculinity
The President said it is fitting that the African Union (AU) will convene the 3rd Men’s Conference on Positive Masculinity in Pretoria this week, which will call on men to reject toxic displays of masculinity .
South Africa is co-hosting the conference with the AU Chair and President of the Comoros, Azali Assoumani .
The inaugural conference was held in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2021 and the second one was held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2022 .
“For the AU, as it is for our own country, ending gender-based violence is a priority .
Discussions are currently underway on the content of an African Convention to End Violence Against Women and Girls, executing a decision of the African Union Summit earlier this year .
“Once adopted, the convention will be the first continental legal instrument for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls,” he said .
South Africa is a part of the AU Circle of Champions which is an association of African Heads of State who have committed to implementing programmes at national and continental levels that promote positive masculinity and encourages more men and boys to be part of the fight against gender-based violence .
“We have long maintained that interventions aimed at eradicating gender-based violence in our society must focus on prevention .
“If we are to raise a nation of men who are positive role models, who take care of their families, who exhibit positive masculinity and who would not countenance hurting a woman or a girl, we must work with young men,” he said .
South Africa adopted a national strategy to combat gender-based violence .
One of the pillars of the National Strategic Plan to Combat Gender-Based Violence and Femicide deals with prevention .
Government, he said, has been engaging with civil society, academia and researchers, traditional leaders, youth organisations, the faith community and the private sector on the issue of prevention .
He further highlighted that a number of initiatives are underway across a range of sectors that are providing space for young and older men to discuss notions of masculinity .
“Men are called on to critically consider their own prejudices, preconceptions and chauvinisms that abet gender-based violence,” he said .
A number of government departments have interventions in place that are focused on promoting positive masculinity through dialogues, workshops, awareness-raising campaigns, psychosocial support and behavioural change programmes .
In August this year, the President was part of the Presidential Young Men and Boys’ Indaba in Soweto where he had the opportunity to talk with a group of young men as part of the ‘What about the Boys’ initiative .
The aim of this programme is to get young men to open up in a safe space about their own experiences with masculinity and how this impacts their own attitudes to gender-based violence .
“Speaking to them, I acknowledged that young men in South Africa today face a lot of pressures that affect their attitudes to women and girls .
These include the lack of positive male role models, absentee fathers, vulnerability to recruitment by criminals, pressure to drop out of school and earn a living, and pressure to become sexually active before they are ready to,” he said .
The President said the AU Men’s Conference aims to advocate for more initiatives and dialogues where young men and boys can talk about these issues among their peers .
“We need to inculcate a mindset that sees young men as part of the solution, and not just the problem .
While men are the main perpetrators of violence against women and children, men must also be at the forefront of bringing about a new society that respects the equal rights of women and girls, where gender-based violence has no place,” the President said .
President Ramaphosa said he is confident that the conference will raise the profile of prevention efforts in South Africa and in Africa, and that its outcomes will galvanise men and boys to play a greater role in breaking the cycle of violence .