It sounds like a very elementary tenet of logic to call for villain blaming but the world is not very logical. ANC Presidential candidate, Dr. Mathews Phosa, speaking on South Africa’s rape culture argued that it emanated from men. He was, however, not simply concerned with identifying the who is to blame but in helping him with rehabilitation. The problem with failing to identify who is wrong lies at the heart of the rape culture. Once the wrongful actor is absolved, he does not have the need to try to be better, and society does not help him get on the mend. However, there is need to understand that rape culture cannot be exterminated without rehabilitating men.
Phosa said, “A young man that grows up with his father assaulting his mother is likely to do the same for the father is a role-model. The broken man is not just broken for himself, it has a ripple effect.”
He then added, “Today in South Africa we are battling with the epidemic of rape culture, there is one cause of sexual abuse… Men, Men, Men.”
An anonymous survey in 2016 in South Africa’s Diepsloot, whose results were published by The Economist, showed that 38% of men admitted to having forced a woman into having sex with them. Where general violence was now the subject, 54% admitted to using it against women. The report also showed that many rape cases went unreported estimating that only one in nine cases was reported while of those reported, one in 500 led to a conviction. Clearly, in South Africa, as in several other states world over, rape is a malignant tumour threatening the existence of society as we know it. Phosa’s wisdom is therefore time appropriate and essential for policy framing. Let us talk about the men!
Phosa argued that absent fathers have played a part in the current social instability, yet they are now so common that they have been accepted in society. Nothing about an absent father evokes shock anymore. It is now normal. Phosa however, is of the view that, “It hurts young girls, denying them that proverbial first love that models the kind of behaviour and expectations they should have of a man.”
As to the boys, he thinks, “It hurts the boy child as they grow up to conduct their relationships and manhood in a haphazard way.”
It is these broken young men with no understanding of what it really means to be a man who try to assert their masculinity by attacking women. The thrill of momentary power and the lady’s helplessness affirms their concept of the powerful, unemotional men they think are real men. After all, the men they should emulate (their fathers) walked out with no show of emotional attachment whatsoever. The problem of rape lies in men and it can only be solved there. It can only be solved by having strong male characters in communities who help young men understand that sexuality and masculinity do not have intersections. They need strong characters to nurture them and help them realise self-control is more masculine than savage molestation. Phosa rightly concludes that everyone needs a good father.
When we shift blame to the raped victims, we do not even begin to attempt to help the men who are failing to realise they are destined for more than sexual control. Saying men are to blame is not for vilification but for forging a way ahead with a view to protect the women who are victims of broken masculinity. It is the starting point and Phosa has started a wonderful conversation. It is the men. It is the boys. Let us help them get help so we protect our girls and women.