For a nation gripped in hurt, anger and frustration it was only a matter of time before citizens took to the streets and expressed their justified concerns around sexual and gender-based violence. The issue of violence in our society has been a going concern and a crisis of epic proportions, with the killing and raping of women and children, in particular, continuing unabated.
These heinous acts are committed in our homes, streets and neighbourhoods and sometimes by those entrusted with our wellbeing. Indeed, the situation on the ground calls for action and for the authorities to urgently implement measures to prevent SGBV and protect women and children from it. As the saying goes, violence against women and children is rooted in gender-based discrimination, social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate such violence.
The fact remains women are unable to reach their full potential because they are discriminated against, including through the patriarchal tendency of those who think women are inferior to men. For far too long, the men in our society have allowed this to happen, with little effort over the years to transform attitudes towards girls and women that perpetuate SGBV.
We are here today because we have failed the women, including at workplaces where sexual harassment mostly goes unreported, in our homes, schools and in public spaces. Sadly, survivors end up facing social rejection, which increases their vulnerability to further discrimination and exploitation. This simply confirms that violence against women is perpetuated by wrong societal attitudes. Therefore, as a nation, we need to crush such attitudes and tendencies and move in unison to tackle increasing violence against our women and children.
We welcome the government response to the petition submitted last week by the #ShutItAllDown protesters who we think have made their presence felt. It is true that everyone is affected by the scourge of violence in our society and we will further fail the women and girls in this country if we don’t intensify the war against SGBV. This requires a united front, though.
Boosting the gender-based violence protection units countrywide as well as a plan to establish special courts dealing with physical and sexual violence against women should be complemented by thorough campaigns in our society where awareness is raised about the role that each individual can play within a community to help eliminate the scourge of SGBV. The onus is on us as members of the community to root out criminal activities, as well as addressing the wrong societal attitudes against women and children, with the view of encouraging people to take responsibility. We can no longer watch on with folded arms. Ons is moeg!