Patriarchy still at the heart of gender violence in South Africa

Jolene Chait

With the alarming amount of violent attacks against women in South Africa, we were startled by the results of an IPSOS survey which illustrates just how much patriarchy still shapes the minds, attitudes and behaviours of people regarding women abuse. 

In face-to-face interviews with 3 600 people across the country, the survey found that at least one in every 10 South Africans believe men have the right to physically attack their partners or wives.

Around 60% of the people also believed a woman should obey her husband or partner. Paternalism is a fundamental fixture of any patriarchal society and IPSOS says the findings reveal that a deep-seated paternalism exists in our society as well as conservative views which define a woman as a possession, rather than an individual, in her own right.

Patriarchy is so embedded in our society and daily lives that it shows up in casual ways. We almost become accepting of it – that includes both men and women. But together, by actively calling it out, we can recognise it and start to break down the control it has over us as society.

Co-founder and former Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice Dean Peacock, explains how it is vitally important that men step forward and make their voices heard. In particular, they need to hold other men accountable for any violence against women or when upholding patriarchy and inequality. Men should also use their sphere of influence on gender issues, whether that is in the workplace, their communities or religious centres.

His top tips for men to fight gender equality and turn the tide on patriarchy:

Why we also think the IPSOS findings are so interesting, and relevant, is because it illustrates that women are also succumbing to patriarchy, and might not even realise it. After all, more women agreed with the findings than men. 1st for Women believes that women should also ensure they are not discriminating against one another. 1st for Women’s top tips to support each other:

The IPSOS survey shows us that there were high levels of agreement that physical abuse is acceptable and still exists. It also provides further insight into why violence against women is so high. While the government has made some decisive noise on how it plans to address the issue of violence against women across the broader society, as men and women, we can also start with some of the smaller steps to break down patriarchy.