Patriarchy revisited: Alarming anti-feminist rhetoric expressed at Ministry of Women meeting.

Editor note: The link to the petition has been edited, and should work now 

—MEDIA RELEASE—-

Patriarchy revisited: Alarming anti-feminist rhetoric expressed at Ministry of Women meeting. No plan to address gender-based violence.

Yesterday the Ministry of Women in the Presidency held a meeting in Lakefield to announce their plans for the international 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign. While civil society was invited to a “consultation,” we arrived to find a plan for 16 Days that was already finalized and approved by Cabinet. This plan will focus on engaging men to stand up and support a campaign on violence by saying, “Count Me In.”

We acknowledge and support the need to engage men in the fight against gender-based violence and applaud the Ministry’s desire to broaden the movement as widely as possible. Unfortunately the Ministry’s language in launching this campaign reinforced a range of patriarchal ideas that we as the women’s movement and as feminist organizations have fought against for years.

Minister Shabangu opened the session explaining her desire to focus on mobilizing men during these 16 Days because, “Men are supposed to be protectors of society. Men are supposed to be protectors of families. We need to bring back these protectors of society. We need to mobilize our protectors.” She went on to say that women cannot be victims any more and need to “get their confidence back.”

As Nandi Msezani from ESSET expressed directly to the Minister, “We need to be aware of the language used as it comes from a very patriarchal standpoint. Men need to protect us? With language such as this, women are being infantilized and moving the women’s movement backwards.” She also went on to note “What about women in same sex relationships? LGBTI individuals? Are we not women too?”

The Minister then invited Mpumalanga Chief Moses Mahlangu to share his comments. He announced to the crowd that women must be submissive to their husbands. Princess Dineo, from the Northwest Province, then stood up to tell us that feminism is un-African and encouraged the Minister to cut all funds for centers for abused women and children, as they should be dealing with these issues at home. Both speakers received nods from the Minister on the dais and applause from the audience. Others followed decrying women’s abuse of men and women’s aggression as the biggest challenges.

How have we come to this moment? This would be hilarious if it weren’t so deeply depressing. The Minister closed the opening session noting the diversity of opinions expressed and that we must value diversity as it is protected in the South African Constitution. Are women’s rights not also protected in that same Constitution? Are women’s rights not human rights?

In the midst of an epidemic of gender-based violence unparalleled almost anywhere else in the world, in a moment when we are desperate for leadership, for vision and strategy, we instead are delivered destructive discourse and no clear roadmap for progress. Participating civil society organsiations that have been fighting for gender equality, safety and security for over 20 years were highly disappointed that what should have been a safe space to develop positive, progressive narratives and actions for women’s rights was left open and unprotected by the Department of Women for highly negative, oppressive and patriarchal input from traditionally conservative institutions and individuals.

This concerns us as activists. Patriarchy has been brought back to the mainstream and seems to be supported if not promoted by the State agenda, ironically through a campaign that is designed to highlight the scourge of patriarchal violence. Patriarchy is not an abstraction or a theoretical concern as stated by the Minister. It directly feeds our epidemic of sexual and intimate partner violence. A South African women murdered by an intimate partner every 8 hours is not an abstraction. Tens of thousands of brutal rapes per year are not theoretical abstractions.

Activists at the meeting also reminded Minister Shabangu of the Department’s previous commitments on designing a national strategic plan on gender-based violence. Jabu Tugwana of People Opposing Women Abuse, read a brief statement from 13 organizations from across the country demanding the resumption of the National Strategic Plan process. But we received no response, no answers on the status of the National Council on Gender-Based Violence, which has been “under review” for 6 months. We received no public commitment on the National Strategic Plan, which will be essential in stemming our country’s epidemic of violence.

We do not want our attendance at this meeting to be mistaken as an endorsement of the Department’s campaign. We are concerned that the language used and the sentiments expressed in the meeting are an indication that a more conservative and frankly oppressive understanding and approach to women and social rights has emerged and taken grip of a state institution that is intended to promote protect women’s rights, as defined by women in South Africa and globally. We call on all women, on all feminists, on all South Africans, to challenge this neo-patriarchal framing, and to demand a plan from government.

To this end, we will host a National Day of Action on 25 November to launch our own 16 Days campaign to demand a national plan to end gender-based violence from government. Join us by signing this petition and by coming out to participate in actions nation wide demanding an NSP on 25 November.

Statement signed by:

Centre for Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)

Eastern Cape Rape Crisis

Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET)

Justice and Women

NACOSA

Sonke Gender Justice

People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA)

Project Empower

Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP)

Tswaranang Legal Advice Centre

For media inquiries, please contact:

Jabu Tugwana, POWA

jabu@powa.co.za

083-400-4509

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17 thoughts on “Patriarchy revisited: Alarming anti-feminist rhetoric expressed at Ministry of Women meeting.

  1. Emma says:

    But saying that men are the protectors of the society DOES imply that this a predominantly male role, and implies that women need protection. We do not need protection, because we are not weak. That many of us are victims of rape does not mean we are weak. What it does mean is that we need to be wary of putting men in any kind of role in which power over us is assumed, even if that power is labelled “protection” (and no, power is not biological, but social, cultural and ideological). This is not a “women need protection” issue, but a “men need to stop raping and start treating women as people” issue. Women need to be empowered, and telling them that men are their natural protectors is both infantilising and dangerous, and contributes to the already deeply-instilled patriarchy in our society. Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men”, but if men are told they should be our ‘protectors’, then a socio-political power differential is created that is anything but equal. I don’t need a man protecting me; I need men to understand that I am a person, not an object, that I am intelligent and powerful, and that rape is wrong. That we have to teach men ‘rape is wrong’ and ‘women are equal to you’ in the first place is so messed up, but imagining that this is not important is messed up too.

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  2. Lidia Theron says:

    Sue, how would you explain this:

    The Minister then invited Mpumalanga Chief Moses Mahlangu to share his comments. He announced to the crowd that women must be submissive to their husbands. Princess Dineo, from the Northwest Province, then stood up to tell us that feminism is un-African and encouraged the Minister to cut all funds for centers for abused women and children, as they should be dealing with these issues at home. Both speakers received nods from the Minister on the dais and applause from the audience. Others followed decrying women’s abuse of men and women’s aggression as the biggest challenges.

    Like

  3. Sue Randall says:

    Thanks to those people who engaged with my earlier comments, which I have now asked the moderator to remove (and she has kindly done so). My comments seemed to cause more consternation than it was worth. – Sue

    Liked by 1 person

  4. G says:

    The rape culture of South Africa is a very disturbing problem that haunts my dreams (my daughter will enter the world this coming March).

    I do feel that men should play a bigger role in solving this problem, from the way we raise our sons to they way we look out and protect vulnerable women. I know the notion of needing protection grates against the Feminism Ideology, however physically men are 40-50% stronger in upper body strength and 30-40% stronger in lower body strength. This is a biologic fact.

    If this is accepted then it is only reasonable to expect good men to stand up and protect our daughters, wives and mothers from bad men. Also women need to respect the biological make up of men and understand that they should be weary of teasing them with the availability of sex but then take it away aka “Cock teasing”, in certain situations this is flirting with danger and women should understand this.

    Please understand I would never blame a victim of rape and rape is always a deplorable situation. However I understand the passions men have brewing within them, it is the same passions that drive us to protect, to love, to achieve and to conquer. Unfortunately in the wrong environment it also drives neglected and poorly raised men of society to violence. Don’t push these men in the wrong direction and choose who you spend time with alone. Poverty, aids and substance abuse has left many men in SA without positive male role models and they are left to act the opposite of women which is not how men should act at all.

    I agree that women are not weak, and should when possible not jump to grab the victim card, especially when the only harm that has been done is to the women’s feelings (I am NOT referring to the deep hurt of being violated). However men are physically powerful and in most situations will overwhelmingly dominate a women. This is why men need to act as the protectors and women need to keep themselves safe as well and learn to protect themselves.

    As to the statements about wive submission. I don’t subscribe to a timid spineless wife at all, however a marriage lead/controlled by the women is not in my eyes a functioning system either. Men do not function in marriages where the wife forces dominion of the relationship and then in the same vain blames him for being weak. Men respond best to respect; when a husband/father is respected he will respond with love, care and will protect his family with his life. Take that respect away and you have essentially taken away a man’s soul and a man without a soul is dangerous. Just as it is a man’s job to protect the family physically and (partly) financially it is the women’s job to protect her husbands pride and respect.

    Please note I approve of equal opportunity for all and the appreciation that the sexes are both equal and different.

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    • Sue Randall says:

      Thank you for an articulate and interesting post, G. I posted something similar a couple of weeks ago – and then asked for it to be deleted because of the insults I received. Like you, I was saying that women can generally be overpowered by men physically; that is the biological reality and it is not “infantilizing” to state this fact. Nonetheless I don’t believe that women should accept being dominated by men in any sense – not professionally, not politically, not in households, not economically. I agree with you: equal but different.

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