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LET’S STOP NORMALISING GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

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Sir,

In Eswatini when a man brutally kills another man there is general acceptance that he is a murderer but when a man brutally kills a woman, social rhetoric emphasises that he is a normal person. The killing of a man and the killing of a woman, by a man, are seemingly considered two different kinds of crime. One is seen as a result of criminal intent while the other is borne out of the normal confines of the male psyche. Namely, ‘this is what men do’. A woman is more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than a stranger.
Why do we consider it ‘normal behaviour’ for men to violate women and abnormal for a man


to violate another man? The truth is that we all know there’s no suddenness in what is happening right now. There’s no outbreak of some virus induced hunger in some men to destroy women.

What is happening in our society is that our daughters are reaping what we planted in the minds of our sons. In the process of telling young boys to value strength over compassion, we teach them to view emotions as a weakness. We teach them that they shouldn’t have any emotions besides anger, because anger is a form of control.

We teach them to lack empathy. Because we raise boys to believe that they are inherently bad and they have to earn being loved, we teach them that everything in life is a commodity and that a man can have anything he wants; respect, wealth, love and women.


The lack of comprehending a woman’s pain makes men believe that a woman’s mental strength is some kind of mental block that stops her from using ‘common sense’. They also believe that a


woman only feels pain up to a certain level and beyond that, she feels nothing. That is why they feel the need to intensify the hurt to the point where simply killing someone is not enough; they need to violate their very essence, so that they will ‘listen’, because a man who is not listened to is believed to be weak and therefore resorts to violence.


In teaching young girls that their virtue lies in the gaze of society, that absolutely anyone can tell them to close their legs, to dress this way or that, making them to feel ashamed of their sexuality, we are teaching them that they do not own their bodies. In not teaching young boys anything about how to interact with girls, praising them for their sexual virility, we are teaching young
boys that they don’t need to have self-control and we leave the girl to believe that she is to blame for any sexual deviance in boys. In telling girls to ‘stay away from boys’, because boys are bad, we teach them that there is something inherently bad in boys. We teach boys that


they don’t need to be accountable because they are already screw ups and we expect the girl to know better because she is the one who was taught all the rules.


We need to stop normalising gender-based violence. The fact that it happens so consistently does not make it a norm. Women abuse is not normal. A man wanting to violate a woman in order to ‘teach her a lesson’ is not normal. We need to change society’s definition of ‘norm’ and channel the minds of young boys the same way we do to our young girls.

M Simelane

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