Michael Bishop 24 Feb 2020 sunday blog 

I remember someone telling me years ago of a question put to a public figure that went: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” We talked about how clever this loaded question is because whether the person answering the question says yes or no, they are admitting to having assaulted their wife.

Which, of course, is to display the same terrible insensitivity that was displayed by two members of parliament in Cape Town this week. The epidemic of gender-based violence in our society is not something to be used to score political points (or to illustrate rhetorical techniques). When the MP’s made their accusations, their focus was on inflicting political damage, not on challenging any harm caused to the women named. One GBV activist interviewed this week said something like “they were using and trivialising our pain”.

Driving through Kloof one morning this week I saw a woman walking along the pavement, making her way to work, when a male friend of hers ran up behind her and put his hand on her shoulder in greeting. He was being friendly, and she relaxed once she saw who it was, but her first reaction was of shock and fear. It was a reminder of how serious this situation is – that women in our country live in daily fear of being physically harmed.

Just this week, we heard of the death of little Tazne van Wyk (8). A member of her local community had this to say: "We are suffering. We are devastated by what happens in our community... we are sick and tired, our children are sick and tired... enough is enough!"

Every week we hear reports of women in South Africa being assaulted or killed by men. We have become numb to this reality, but we can’t allow ourselves to simply shrug and move on. What can we (men in particular) do, then?

  • we resist our apathy by not brushing the subject away, but by listening respectfully, by speaking up, and by challenging each others’ blindspots.
  • we can start a conversation by participating in public campaigns (for example, the Thursdays in Black campaign – see www.thursdaysinblack.co.za).
  • we take courageous action within our own sphere of influence.

Enough is enough!


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