President Cyril Ramaphosa has encouraged men to engage in open dialogue about their responsibility towards women and toxic masculinity.
“All of society should be mobilised to organise these men’s dialogues. Everyday, various entities devote resources to public engagements, conferences and seminars on various pressing social, economic and political issues of the day. These are fora where this engagement should happen,” President Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter penned as South Africa observes the 16 Days of Activism for no Violence against Women and Children campaign.
The President strongly encouraged government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector to support such dialogues in every workplace, place of worship, school, college and university and in every community.
“[GBV affects] every aspect of our society, including health and well-being, safety and security, and economic growth and productivity.
“In these dialogues, we need to examine our understanding of sexual consent. We must challenge the myth that rape is only considered rape if it involves a stranger, or if the victim responded by screaming for help, fighting back or reporting the matter immediately to the police,” President Ramaphosa said.
By bringing together men of all races, classes and generations to speak frankly about their understanding of masculinity, the President said more light can be shed on assumptions and practices that many people consider “normal”, which are actually harmful to women and children.
“We must change beliefs that men are strong and women are weak, that men have to be in charge, or that men can do as they please with women. Men need to understand that they can and should express their pain and frustrations without inflicting harm on others.
“As President, I stand ready to participate in men’s dialogues. I call on Ministers, Premiers, religious, political and community leaders, sports people, artists, celebrities and business people to do the same.
“The men of South Africa owe it to the women and children of this country to take up the struggle against gender-based violence. These men’s dialogues can be platforms for men to challenge each other to become better men, to be more responsible, more understanding and more caring,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa said the primary focus should be on preventing men and boys from becoming abusers in the first place.
“Men are the perpetrators of gender-based violence and it is therefore men that need to change,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa said it is men, as husbands and partners, fathers, colleagues, peers and classmates, who need to consider their own attitudes towards women and girls.