Let’s tame the beast

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Gender-based violence continues to stubbornly rear its ugly head in our country, daily.

Various media reports show this scourge is now increasingly threatening to compete with HIV and Aids as a national pandemic.

The most tragic incident has been the cold-blooded murder of a 17-year-old girl in Mapoteng in the Berea District last week. We publish the story in this edition.

The teenager was dating a 22-year-old man in the neighbourhood. Unbeknown to her, the man was married. When she got wind of the fact that her lover was a married man, she decided to end the affair. Clearly a wise move given the man had already proved to be insincere and she rightly figured the still-born relationship was doomed.

The man, like some men stalking our land, refused to be jilted. He is reported to have told his colleagues he was going to do something that will shock people. True to his promise, he went to the innocent girl’s home and carried out the dastardly act, in broad daylight.

Clearly, part of the explanation is rooted in the male psyche in our society. Some of our patriarchs cannot get over the belief that they should have the final say in relations between men and women. Some men have taken a rigid position that perpetuates unequal relations between men and women. Some women cannot decide what is good for them without the rubber stamp of the men in their lives.

In the Mapoteng killing, the girl simply wanted a man she would not have to share with another. In this era of escalating multiple concurrent sexual partnerships, there are clear Anti-HIV messages from the health sector, which the youths are heeding.

Sadly, for the Mapoteng girl, she had to pay with her life for refusing to become part of a love triangle that could have placed her at risk of contracting HIV and also disturbed her education. She was preparing to sit her junior certificate examinations, before the bright future she had envisaged was cut by the monster of patriarchal arrogance.

This act of murder and many forms of abuse against women and girls reverse all the good work done through various initiatives meant to make Lesotho a better place.

While we wait for the law to take its course on the matter, we cannot help but point out that if indeed the courts prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the 22-year-old suspect’s act was premeditated, then there is need to re-examine our society and identify areas we need to collectively work on.

Recent police reports show a disturbing trend among men, a developing tendency that does not see a woman as an equal partner, does not respect women and views women as sex objects.

This justifies why men should be targeted in projects that seek to fight gender based violence and campaigns to sensitive men and boys that women are equal human beings.

The murder of the Mapoteng girl can be treated by other people as that, which can highlight some form of madness by a misguided man who wanted to show off his macho image to his friends. However, it is that skewed self-apportionment of authority that can see many more lives being lost.

Recent reports that former Industry and Trade Minister Temeki Tšolo assaulted a male tax authority employee and insulted another female revenue authority employee should also not be ignored or dismissed as one of those “things”.

The question is what gives some men that excessive power, no matter their station to trample upon other citizens’ rights with such impunity.

Clearly there is sickness on the land.

We have to look at ourselves and ask what kind of authority plays out at the back of someone’s mind. Our society is divided in clear yet invisible strata which leads those with some power to simply hold the “underdog” in contempt.

In an equal relationship, as our constitution says, one will no doubt weigh himself against the other first before taking any action that demeans the other.

The above instances are only symptoms of a deep-seated malady, perpetuated by our society over many years.

Over the years, women have lived with social injustices that saw many conditioned to accept some forms of abuse.

It is this chain we should break lest our children inherit the rot, at the same time, examples of what happens to those who discriminate or break the law based on gender or power, should be set.

If a government minister can vent his frustration on a junior civil servant in public, what could possibly happen behind closed doors.

What kind of message does he send out as a lawmaker, to the people around him, including children.

Such acts perpetuate a trend that can even make some boys uncontrollable and want to demonstrate their macho dominance by thrashing the family’s pet dog or cat.

The point is that, the cycle of violence is about power and power relations in any context.

 

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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