Debate on Gender-based violence destroys communities, contribution by Mr SZ Ntapane, MP in the National Assembly (29 October 2009)

Mr Speaker and honourable Members,

Inequality can be abolished at the stroke of pen, but the attitudes that fostered it for centuries do not simply evaporate. Therefore we have a very progressive Constitution that places equality – including on the grounds of gender – at the core of our democratic dispensation, but we also have a country in which gender-based violence is commonplace.

Every beaten wife and partner, every assault, every rape and every murder of a woman, is an attack on our democratic beliefs. Every one of these despicable crimes demonstrates a disdain for our values and mocks our democratic principles.

How do we change these entrenched attitudes of male superiority and dominance through coercion and violence? We start in our homes and our schools. We teach our children that you are equal, irrespective of your gender. We should also show our children that being male is not the equivalent of winning a lottery at birth, which automatically puts you on a fast-track to better and more opportunities than those who are not male. Which means that the burden is on us, the adult males, to show every day that we do not abuse others and expect better treatment by virtue of our gender.

But this simple long-term solution to persistent gender discrimination is being undermined every day. Just recently a young athlete was sacrificed on the altar of expediency and the desperate hunt for international gold medals. What is the enduring message that every person in this country got from this incident? That those who are male sit in power and abuse their authority at the expense of those who are not male. That those who are male can lie and deceive and expect to escape punishment. That those who are male can expect their friends in high places – who inevitably are often males themselves – to protect them from punishment.

Sometimes gender equality means allowing those who are not men the same opportunities as men. But sometimes gender equality must also mean that powerful men should pay the same penalties as others would, when they misbehave.

I thank you.

  Back to 2009 Archive