10 August 2011
South Africa’s Commission for Gender Equality has called for men and women to play equal roles when it comes to tackling issues such as gender-based violence and human trafficking.
“Gender issues are not women’s issues alone,” commission spokesperson Javu Baloyi said as the country marked Women’s Day on Tuesday.
“For far too long, women’s organisations have taken the sole responsibility for issues like violence against women, violence against lesbians and gays, human trafficking, maintenance and inheritance to property – as if men had nothing to do with them.
“This has to change,” Baloyi said. “Men must assume their share of responsibility and join the feminist struggle against these issues.”
Women’s Day offers an opportunity for South Africans to reflect on the position of women in today’s society, and the progress made in raising the profile and importance of the role of women.
Baloyi said women could only be considered “inferior” if men were considered “superior”.
“We need to understand that femininity does not exist in isolation from masculinity. The image and the power of one determines the image and power of the other … Women can be and are subordinate only if men are willing and enabled to subordinate them,” he said.
Baloyi challenged the social constructs resulting from patriarchy, and suggested a number of interventions that might begin to reverse gender inequality.
He said a national gender equality training programme should be established, targeting men from all walks of life including rural areas, hostels, informal settlements, townships, correctional centres and suburban areas.
“These trainings should be in all official languages,” Baloyi said. “The impact of these trainings … should further be monitored and evaluated on an annual basis.”
He called for sufficient attention to be paid to gender equality and gender-based violence in the school curriculum, adding that “there should be a revision of materials to ensure that these are gender-sensitive.”
“Men should be encouraged to be involved in reproductive health issues, domestic and child-care responsibilities in the home, and mentoring and assisting young girls to take up previously male-dominated professions,” said Baloyi.
He encouraged men to form men’s forums to tackle gender equality issues in their own localities.