This year Men’s Parliament, a collaboration between the legislative sector and the South African men’s sector, the South African National Aids Council (SANAC) and several non-governmental organisation, has resolved to intensify the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) as well as the unequal socialisation of young boys and girls.

Concluding this year’s event, which was presided over by the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Ms Sylvia Lucas, the summit also committed to spread its focus areas to include issues related to men’s health and harmful cultural practices. Ministers, deputy ministers, provincial representatives of the men’s sector, traditional leaders and representatives of civil society all took part in the two-day event.

Speaking on the National Integrated Health Strategy, the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, urged men to resist social and cultural taboos that make men reluctant to discuss their health. “Most males relate sickness with weakness and therefore tend not to seek help. Males are not a help-seeking-behaviour type of species . . . there are many issues that make men reluctant to seek help and we need to break those barriers,” said Dr Dhlomo.

His counterpart in the Ministry of Police, Mr Cassel Mathale, spoke against some of the oppressive practices disguised as culture and tradition, such as “ukuthwala” or forced and child marriages. The Deputy Minister said government, civil society, the private sector and the community must work hard to eradicate the root causes of crime, especially gender-based violence and femicide.

“A variety of legislation and regulatory initiatives have been ineffective. More needs to be done. Crime and criminality cannot be eradicated without the involvement of all sectors. We need to work together in ensuring a stable and crime-free environment where our women and children will be safe,” Mr Mathale said.

The Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr John Jeffery, said one of the reasons for the high levels of GBV is that men do not respect the rights of women and girls. “We have to change the way we treat our women in society and the way we socialise our boy children. We, as men, are the problem, so we have to be part of the solution,” said Mr Jeffery.

The Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, said her department has partnered with the House of Traditional and Khoisan Leaders to tackle ukuthwala and other related practices, disguised as culture and tradition.

The Department of Basic Education was represented by the Deputy Minister Dr Reginah Mhaule, who warned against neglecting the boy child and focusing on girls and women. “We need to try balance and treat the boys and girls equally. When we come up with programmes for adolescents aimed at girls, we must do the same for the boys, so they don’t feel neglected and become miserable,” the Deputy Minister said.

These sentiments were echoed by SANAC CEO Dr Thembisile Xulu. “Over the years the focus has been mainly on women and girls, thus unintentionally leaving men and boys in the periphery of the response to the problem of GBV. The one-sided focus on women and girls has contributed to the lack of progress in striking a balance. You can’t empower one and disempower the other,” said Dr Xulu.

Sakhile Mokoena
22 November 2022