By Nontshi Shange 

Gender-based violence is an on-going issue in South Africa. Women and children are the majority of the victims. In many domestic disputes, perpetrators tend to have no repercussions. During the Covid-19 lockdown, South Africa saw an increase in domestic violence incidents, raising alarm bells.

The seventh Accountabili’tea discussion in Vhembe, Limpopo focused on gender-based violence, and who was to blame in domestic disputes. Molatelo Machaba, from TheUnlimited Youth Development, a non-profit organization, hosted the event on 13 November 2020 at Rhavele AFM Church. The speakers were from SAPS, Youth against Crime, and a local Pastor.

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The Vhembe community is infested with crime and gender-based violence is one of the most prevalent crimes in Vhembe. Young people in the community were interested in learning how they can be involved in decreasing the scourge within their community. They also wanted to build a relationship and work together with the police to become accountable leaders. 

A common misconception amongst young members of the community was that illegal immigrants were to be blamed for the violence in Vhembe. Panelist, Tebogo Liswoga said, “illegal immigrants are dangerous since there’s no information we can use to trace them, so they do as they want at any time and anywhere”. This misinformation was shut down quickly and labeled as Xenophobic by SAPS. When looking at gender-based violence, no nationality is exempted. 

Another ill-received opinion came from Tshilwavhusiku Davhana from VEP, who blamed women for returning to their perpetrators, making it difficult for those who offer to shelter them while they seek refuge from their abusers. Davhana said: “The police handover you to us so we can give accommodation while police are looking into the matter, but you ladies just disappear and go back to the same man who beat you.” 

This opinion was quickly contested.

Ultimately it is the perpetrator who we need to blame for domestic violence. When unpacking why men turn to violence, Mufadi Farisani said peer pressure was a contributing factor. Many men felt as though they had to beat women to show their worth as men. Farisani said, “We young people are being controlled by peer pressure, we listen to our friends too much.” 

In Vhembe, understanding that women are not the property of men is a pivotal change that needs to occur. When men in the community understand that women are not property that they own, and showing women respect, they will begin to treat women in the community better. 

Towards the end of the discussion, the Vhembe community came up with the idea of using social media channels, where they can share their experiences with gender-based violence and prevent future incidents from occurring.