South African writer Mosibudi Mangena urges fathers to mentor boys in order to curtail alarming culture of violence against women
Sexual offences against women and children in South Africa and the recent spike in the killing of women has outraged most people in the country and prompted protest marches in the streets.
Most of us find it difficult to understand why any man would hurt or kill a woman. Perhaps the thought that every victim could easily have been our own mother, aunt, sister, niece, partner or daughter makes us appreciate even more that drastic measures need to be taken to tackle this scourge within our society.
When we read newspaper articles about a young man rapping a granny in the twilight of her life or a four year old toddler, we are appalled and ask ourselves: ‘What kind of man can do such a thing?’
We tell ourselves that men who do such things must have mental defects. But the truth of the matter is that there are many underlying reasons within our society, why such an appalling culture of violence has become the order of the day.
South Africa is a society high on both legal and illegal drugs – alcohol, nyaope, dagga and cocaine. This has contributed to the prevalence of crime, rape and violence against women.
Those addicted to nyaope and other drugs often steal to feed their addiction and commit crimes they probably wouldn’t commit if they were not under the influence of drugs.
The situation has been worsened by growing poverty and rampant unemployment which has consigned thousands of young able-bodied people to hang around street corners doing nothing. Consequently, some of these young people have turned to drugs to numb their frustrations. And since they need money to feed their drug habit, they inevitably turn to crime.
For a lot of these men, being unemployed, poor and addicted to drugs reduces their chances of establishing normal relations with women. Marriage is also out of question because they simply do not have the means to maintain a family.
According to Stats SA only 31% of mothers are married and 64% of birth certificates for new babies have no information on their fathers. Furthermore, 50% of children in South Africa do not have daily contact with their fathers.
On their own, these statistics illustrate a painful truth – that the majority of South African children are deprived of a stable home environment from the very beginning.
By all accounts, this is an ugly picture. It means there are a lot of men in our society who play no role at all in the upbringing of their children, leaving this task entirely on the shoulders of women.
Virtually all research about family units point to the fact that children benefit enormously by growing up in a home where both parents are present. The benefits are not only material, but emotional, moral and psychological.
Kids raised in stable environments also tend to be better adjusted, are more likely to do well at school, form healthier relationships with people of the opposite sex and are better prepared to resist temptation to indulge in drugs.
Similarly girls brought up by both parents are more likely to have better relationships with men than those lacking a male figure during adolescence.
South African men should try harder to be “real fathers” and play that crucial role in the rearing of their offsprings.
We should, as South African men, take to heart the words of the 1987 hit song: I Love You Daddy by the then teenage group, Ricardo and Friends. They sang: “Daddy, you know how much I love you. I need you, forever, I’ll stay by your side…I have no fear when you’re near. You guide me through the darkest night…I love you daddy, oh daddy. You are my superstar.”
It’s about time South African men, as a whole, rescued the family structure and become heroes and superstars to our children by being present in their lives.
In particular, we need to mentor our boys and mould them into “real men” who respect their mothers, sisters and partners. It is crucial that boys grow up seeing their fathers, uncles, elder brothers etc, treating women with consideration and respect.They should learn by watching us doing the right thing.