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‘Open your eyes to the suffering around you’

“The heart of any society, its capacity to care and protect, its goodness and moral health, are determined by how it treats its most vulnerable and, I must say, I realise with a deep sorrow that we fall so short of making the safety of our women and children a priority.”

This was the words of Lebogang Motlhaping, MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison in the Northern Cape, on Thursday (06/12) at the march and signing of a pledge during the 16 Days of Activism of No Violence against Women and Children.

The 16-days campaign started on 25 November and ended on Monday (10/12).

“It is on days like these that I realise that we are so wrong to only reflect and act against violence against women and children on days like these,” Motlhaping said.

“I am not referring to safety being only a policing or government issue. I want to start at our homes.

“There, behind closed doors, where the prying eyes of neighbours do not see and preaching of love and respect of pastors do not reach, where the sirens of police vans are not heard, it is here that we breed the atmosphere conducive to the bodily violation and the perpetration of psychological warfare on the self-same people we were supposed to protect and nurture,” he said.

“Each and every one of us is the culmination of a complex coming together of genes, upbringing, culture, context, education, beliefs and values.

“Some of us witnessed violence on a daily basis and to such an extent that acts of violence have normalised. Seeing someone hurt or hurting someone has become so commonplace we do not even have the good sense of empathy at the face of suffering.

“Some of us are so conflicted and twisted we only feel at home in a world where confrontation and conflict affirms itself in our anger and the rage we dish out, not to people greater and stronger than us, but to those that cannot defy us or defend themselves.

“Behind the curtain that divides the kitchen from the bedroom we make our women slaves to our aggression and we beat them into submission with our weapons.

“When we feel like they have not learned their lesson we beat our daughters and even our sons into submission,” he said.

“My point is we make the weak pay for all the places we cannot assert ourselves in. It is a sick reality that we make our families suffer for our failings as men and fathers. This needs to stop.”

Motlhaping urged the communities take the time to open their eyes to the suffering of those around them and see how they contribute to it and how they can make it stop.

“Starting with the people around you, have conversations about masculinity and femininity, religion, culture and how our belief systems and values contri­bute to the unfortunate and terrifying escalation of violence in our houses and communities.

“Through our efforts we need to ensure that political and community leadership support the eradication of gender based violence. We need to resource safe spaces like Thuthuzela Care Centres, sexual offenses courts, victim friendly units and shelters that respond to the needs of all people, including people with disabilities and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.”

Motlhaping said we must make sure that our programming and interventions are gender-responsive and promote women-centred economic development.

“At the heart of it, we must embark on targeted, social behaviour change programmes to address patriarchal values and norms and structural drivers of gender-based violence,” he said.

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