OPINION:Men are crying for help. Can they be included in GBV Awareness Campaigns?

Article by: Botho Sifumba

Gender Based Violence (GBV) has been confirmed to be an ongoing pandemic in South Africa, with most of victims being women, young girls and children. SAPS reported about 120,000 GBV victims during the first phase of National Lockdown and the unfortunate truth is that most of GBV perpetrators are men. GBV can entail different kinds of exploitation. This includes sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse to name a few.

According to Interpol, someone is raped every 25 seconds in South Arica, making the country the Capital of rape. While men can be victims of sexual abuse, it is not always easy to qualify them as preys of this kind of abuse. This unfortunate reality often leaves many questioning where can male sexual abuse victims be placed in the GBV awareness. “If not all men then why all women!”. One of the questions that the anecdotes of GBV has given room for.

Many have also started to point out the concept of male privilege. While others argue that men can be victims of sexual abuse as much as women can, others allude that a woman is more likely to get raped as compared to a man, citing the so called male privilege concept. While these questions highlight the commonality of women being victimized and of men being the perpetrators, they leave male victims out of the question.

What needs to be understood is that the concept of male privilege is based on how likely something and discrimination in comparison to a female. While this concept still exist, it is evident that the existence of male privilege does not erase chances of men getting raped or abused. Male privilege should not be used as an excuse to invalidate a man’s experience and story. While this is the case, male privilege should also not be dismissed.

The existence of male privilege is not a call for dismal, but should be stretched to schools towards changing the “boys and men cannot be raped” narrative. The society should shift from warning girls only against potential rapists. Boys and men must be included in these cautions too….as history has proven that a perpetrator could be anyone running after any gender. The GBV abbreviation have become more sensitive, as some may wonder if there is space for male victims when the cause is commonly known to accommodate women.

Same questions and inquiries have been placed among a popular movement that serves as a supportive structure for victims to step forward with the ” #metoo ” to shine light on how often women are victimized and harassed. This also raised an argument as many victims, including well known people, stepped forward with their past experiences, mentioning that they felt left behind by the movement. It exerts that abuse and sexual abuse does not have a targeted gender. Support shouldn’t only be offered to a specific gender.

If tackling GBV means ending violence nationwide and worldwide, how can we mitigate such a broad issue when we are being radical about it, deliberately excluding a certain demographic of the nation? This shouldn’t solely rest on movements. Individuals and schools should play a role in addressing this topic in an inclusive manner.

The fight against GBV is not women against men, men versus women or who should get the most support, but both genders against perpetrators. Refusing to acknowledge this is denying and invalidating men that have been victimized by women and men, and defining their experiences as non-existent, which is a violation of their right.

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