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Saturday, 7 December 2013

It's up to men to stop violence against women

It was the mass public response to the death of Nelson Mandela yesterday that got me thinking about violence against women because of the extremely high incidence of rape in South Africa. Aligned with this thought was a video I saw of a young man doing a spoken word performance in which he talks about his response to the issue.

The video is particularly striking because it is a young man who has gone out of the way to talk about an issue that has especial relevance for his demographic. I think it's time for all men to say "I have never hurt a woman" or if they cannot honestly say that then they need to say "I will never hurt a woman again". I applaud the young man who made the performance video. It's for men to make the change, and it's such a large issue that it seems to me at least dishonest, if not hypocritical, for commentators in the media to go on talking about this political event or that economic issue, while ignoring the elephant in the room.

For me, I have never hurt a woman. I cannot say I have never made a woman feel nervous because people get scared for unaccountable reasons. In the empty town streets around where I live you never see women walking alone at night. You might occasionally see a woman walking alone at the time of the dusk, but it is rare. Even in the daytime women walk fast around these streets, and many women joggers go accompanied by a dog.

Just over two decades ago my daughter was born in a Sydney hospital that now no longer exists. My daughter has been subject to violence from a man; I know because she told me. Remembering the event makes her angry and resentful. Violence erodes the quantum of trust in society and leaves people vulnerable to other evils like poverty and mental illness. It corrodes the links that in a healthy society bind people together in fellowship and good feeling. The social organism can become brittle, fragile, easily breakable and ugly. Men have to start talking - like the wonderful young man in the video - about how to make all people feel safe and secure in the streets and in the homes we live in.

It's not just a social issue, violence against women. It's a matter that all men must face and then say "Women need and want my respect".

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