The plight of women and children in abusive situations continues to scar and traumatise our homes, communities and people as a whole. The “16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls” campaign is annually commemorated around the world from the 25th of November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence) to the 10th of December. “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”, is this year’s theme, with the colour orange continuing to be used as a central theme in all activities to bring attention to the initiative.
A great sadness of abuse is its cyclical nature, and its tendency to become a generational hand down – a child who grows up in an abusive household has a greater tendency to be abused themselves, or be the perpetrator of the abuse to others. The alarming stories in recent history stemming out of neighbouring South Africa regarding young men, having over time, physically and/or mentally abused their girlfriends, and subsequently killing these young women in fits of jealous rage, has greatly highlighted the need for a drastic change. Stories of abuse here in Lesotho are just as saddening. I have a family member, a young woman less than 25 years old, who was recently stabbed multiple times by a jealous lover, because he felt she had broken his heart. I remember someone asking me ‘What did she do?’ I can’t imagine an answer that would justify him almost taking her life. Perhaps he felt his reaction was justified because as a man, he couldn’t allow a woman to hurt and disrespect him and so he had to punish her, hurt her in some extreme fashion to relieve his own pain. He was wrong.
Physiologically and biologically, men and women are different. Period. (And yes, excuse the pun). As humans, we display sexual dimorphism. That is to say, the gender of our species have different characteristics that are not limited to our sexual organs and thus, for example, males have more muscle mass than their female counterparts, purely by genetic design. Yet we turn a blind eye to this mismatch. Instead of celebrating our complementary diversity, we abuse the beauty of its contrast. When it comes to physical strength, men are more often than not physically stronger than women. That implies that even if she hits you (which is unjustified in itself) as a man, the force with which you hit back will likely be greater and thus cause more damage. Strength is not only demonstrated through one’s ability to fight; it can be seen in one’s ability to choose which fight to take up. As a man, if you feel the urge to physically hurt your partner, rather walk away as it’s an action that cannot be taken back.
Blame has to be placed on the stringent and outdated gender roles people are expected to conform to. These intense expressions of repressed emotion are indicative that we have to adjust our understandings of our roles as women and men in society. Antiquated notions such as that women and girls are meant to serve subservient roles to men; men cannot cry or communicate their emotions known, need to be dispelled. As a society, we need to take up arms and support and educate one another about what abuse is, and we can work to minimise it. We need to cultivate a culture, mind-set, understanding that highlights that violence is not the way to resolve conflict, more so domestically.
My family member is healing well. After spending about two weeks in hospital (the first week of which she could not speak and did not have full function of her right hand) she was released and is now back with her children. UNWomen has released figures stating that 1 in 3 women globally has been or is currently in an abusive situation. This needs to change. We need to come together and unite to change this. Let’s start having the conversation, beyond these 16 Days of commemoration. Seek help in the strife of peace and protection for the women and girls in our lives.
Use your voice. You are a light in this world.
Visit facebook.com/SayNO.UNITE and twitter.com/SayNO_UNITE using #orangetheworld and #HearMeToo