The scourge of sexual and gender based violence ravaging countries on the African continent is attracting the attention of communities, government and human rights organisations. Groups and institutions are responding by designing innovative campaigns to tackle the menace. Like Nigeria, South Africa has a high rate of sexual and gender based violence. In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that in 2018, about 3,000 women in South Africa were murdered – one every three hours and more than five times higher than the global average. In recent months, the problem of gender based violence assumed an alarming proportion in Nigeria with the gruesome rapes and subsequent murder of women and even little girls. One of such prominent cases was the dastardly murder in Benin City of a 22-year university undergraduate, Vera Omozuwa in May.
To solve the serious problem of violence against women in South Africa Sonke Gender Justice, a human rights organisation is taking action. On Father’s Day, the grouplaunched a campaign tagged Men of Faith Against Gender-Based Violence. The campaign according to a statement from the group will run in collaboration with faith organisations that include the South African Council of Churches.
On the serious effects of gender based violence on society, Sonke in its launch statement decried the situation in which more than 60 percent of South Africa’s children do not have a father to relate to. It further condemned the South African reality, wherein one in three women will be sexually attacked – possibly by a father or potential father. “Likewise, two in five are beaten by their partners; and half will be sexually harassed at work. Worse still as we have been witnessing recently, one in 15 murdered by their partner.” The group therefore urged men of faith to examine their roles as fathers, brothers, uncles, husbands and partners, especially in the light of the recently celebrated Father’s Day.
“To this end we have worked with partners on a pledge by men of faith, to do all in their power to end Gender Based Violence and femicide”, the statement quotes Rev. Bafana Khumalo, Sonke’s Senior Strategic Advisor. “Today, we are meant to celebrate fathers, sadly this will be done with a lot of mixed emotions due to the war that men waged on women’s bodies. Also speaking on the pain being inflicted on society by GBV, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana from the South African Council of Churches endorsed Sonke’s stance thus: “GBV is proving to be a silent pandemic accompanying the COVID-19. In this regard, the SACC National Church Leaders Weekly COVID Watch Meeting endorsed the campaign against GBV.”
Subsequently, the group called on all men to resist patriarchy, and change the narrative of what it means to be a man, by treating all women with dignity and respect.
“We call on all men in our country to take a firm stand against GBV and femicide, and to commit to work as allies with all organisations that are working in this sector. As people of faith we need to lead from the front in all efforts that seek to heal our land of this scourge, support women and girls in all their endeavours as they seek to actualise their dreams of living in a violence free country,” the statement read.