I’ve noticed that many of the lessons that we learn from adults about the opposite sex aren’t very helpful, they often teach us how to be violent towards the opposite sex.
And even though some women are violent towards men, most of this violence is practiced by men towards women.
…but we are different…
…yes, in many ways we are, but “different” doesn’t mean “unequal”, or that girls are inferior to boys, or that it is OK to ill-treat girls or women!
It also doesn’t mean that it is OK for girls to accept ill-treatment from boys or men.
Here are some examples of when a girl might think she must accept discrimination or violence from men: Some girls believe that if a boyfriend doesn’t beat her, it means he doesn’t love her.
Or when a young married woman tells an older woman that her husband is beating her, she is often advised to persevere in the relationship because marriage is tough. Have you some more examples you can think of?
Sometimes religion or culture are used to legitimise treating women unfairly and even violently. For example...
Women are not allowed to be priests in the Catholic church.
The education of girls is often discouraged or seen as less important than educating boys.
Many presume that the primary role of women is to take care of children and husbands.
Take a moment to think of examples from your culture and religion where women are given less freedom than men. Are there any examples of men having less freedom?
I read in the paper that some parents sell their daughters into marriage with older men, under the name of “ukuthwalwa”.
“Ukuthwalwa” literally means “to be carried ”. Traditionally the Ukuthwalwa practice meant that parents could arrange marriage for their children, but it was not intended to violate the rights of the children. Sometimes this tradition is abused when parents sell daughters (as young as 14) to older men (between 55 and 70, who may be widowed and HIV+) sometimes for only a few sheep for “lobola” (bride price).
Often the girl is forced into a hut with the man who is supposed to be her husband, and who then rapes her in the name of “making her his wife”. One of the girls to whom this happened said, “I didn’t want to marry a madala (old man), I just wanted to go to school.” (The source of this article is “The Sunday Times” – May 31, 2009)
But how do you know that most of the harm is done by men towards women?
In South Africa: About 25% of women suffer physical abuse at the hands of a current or ex-partner. About 45% of women suffer emotional or financial abuse. About 80% of women living in rural areas suffer from domestic violence. We have the highest rate of femicide in the world (“Femicide” is men’s killing of an intimate female partner). Between 100 000 and 500 000 women are raped every year.
Shu! This makes me scared to grow up as a woman in this country.
If this is the world we live in, what hope do we have for ourselves and for peace?
Well, a good place to start might be to look at how we can make our homes and schools safer places.
It’s tough for me to say this…but in my home I have often heard my Mom and Dad having big fights because my Dad comes home drunk and has spent all the money he earned that month.
Eish….and in my home, my stepfather has tried to have sex with me….I’m so angry with my Mother because she does nothing about it…I don’t know why she doesn’t chase him away…
I have a friend who is gay, and I feel bad every time I am with other boys and that call him a fag or moffie.
I don’t know how we’re going to change these big things….maybe the best we can do is get advice and help from one of our teachers…
Yes….I think we need to speak to someone about these things…maybe our teacher can help us get information from a social worker about how to deal with these issues.
Well, let’s talk about all these things with our classmates….
…and we can start challenging all the things we have been told over the years about what it means to be male or female.
Yes, like for example, we boys have been taught that men should be strong and should not cry – but the question is, how does this belief affect our lives as boys?
How do you think it feels for boys and men when they are not allowed to show their emotions?
In fact, if men cannot show their anger and pain, when they are young, they usually bottle it up inside them, and then they often take it out on people who are weaker than them such as women and children, when they are older. That is why it is so important that people talk and listen to each other about their feelings.
And some of us girls have heard our mothers saying that we should not disagree with a man – we should do what they want.
And I have seen guys getting very angry with their girlfriends – even to the point of beating them – because he saw the girl talking to another guy.
And I must say I have also seen how we girls humiliate our boyfriends by dumping them for older men who have money and cars.
So, you see, there are lots of things we boys and girls can start thinking about…and doing differently…
Do you know anyone that has been physically abused by a person of the opposite sex? Or emotionally? Or verbally?
We need some good role models, couples who treat each other well. I like the way Obama and his wife look together; they both have careers and two lovely children and you often see Obama playing with his children. I would love a husband like that.
Yes it’s true, there is a couple who live near me and they respect each other and support each other, and their children are all doing quite well even in these economic hard times.
Ah – it’s amazing! Thinking about the positive actions I can take in my relationships with girls begins to make me feel hopeful about growing up…
It’s funny you say that, because I can now also see that it is possible for boys and girls to act with dignity, be respectful of one another and show each other real love.
Let's work together and build a great future!
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