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While violence and murder are not new or exclusive to Eswatini, the increasing frequency and brutality of these incidents have left me with the impression that something sinister is brewing in our midst. The incidents that do become public knowledge form the endless loop of dysfunction that we bear witness to. Maybe it is time for government to do research on the cases of gender-based violence (GBV) in order to get to the bottom of the phenomenon. Such research undoubtedly requires a level of social analysis that probes beyond the surface, examining the deep-rooted reasons that respect for human life is disintegrating before us. With each violent offence we read or hear about, it is easy to place the blame at individual level.


Often, we dismiss the offender as being morally vacant at best, and evil at worst. Yet when one steps away from case-by-case evaluations, one cannot help but realise that rapes, molestations and murders are becoming the social norm. Thus, it must be asked if individual acts of savagery are the symptom and not the cause. In other words, are sick individuals simply a reflection of an ailing society? It can be argued that the unrepentance of offenders proves only that they have no conscience, and says nothing about our society as a whole. Yet, what do our own responses to such stories say about this society? After all, many have become so accustomed to reading about women and children being raped and murdered that they are no longer disturbed by it.


Those who do experience hurt and outrage may feel this way for an hour or so, before moving onto other preoccupations. The fact that we have grown used to unfathomable levels of brutality suggests that we are a misguided country. This is not said in defence of offenders but, rather, it is a suggestion that when we point to these criminals and ask what is wrong with them, we should stop to consider what may be wrong with the very fabric of our nation. Plenty of psychological theories have long acknowledged that it is not unusual for individuals to act out their social frustrations on each other. According to this logic, a man who feels overcome by his financial struggles or poor living conditions cannot direct his aggression towards his boss, his landlord, or even the unstable economy. All the true sources of his oppression are either more powerful than him or beyond his reach. Thus, it is simply easier for him to abuse his spouse in order to release his pent-up rage without fearing the consequences.

Taking this theory to the broader level, one can see how a man who feels emasculated by society may use rape as a weapon to feel empowered. The victim is forcefully placed in submission to the aggressor, irrespective of how this is achieved. Ultimately, no legitimate social reform can take place unless we are willing to look beyond the surface and ask ourselves the hard questions. Can a society in which people are starving, unemployed and disenfranchised really expect the majority of its citizens to lead a functional existence? Aren’t desperate crimes committed by those who lead lives of desperation? Are broken people not the reflection of a broken system? Indeed, if we want to get to the heart of the matter, we should examine the heart of the nation.

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