Michigan Victim Advocacy Network (2020) defines culture as the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society and Oxford Dictionary defines culture as a way of life of a particular group of people, the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. It also refers to characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people encompassing language, religion and social habits. It consists of shared beliefs, values and assumptions of a group of people who learn from one another and teach behaviours, attitudes, and perspectives to others as the correct ways to think, act and feel (Zimmerman,2017).
Culture and Gender Based Violence
Gender Based Violence (GBV) is any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed gender differences between males and females. GBV occurs as a result of normative role expectations and unequal power relationships between genders in society. GBV can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or structural and can be perpetrated by intimate partners, acquaintances, strangers and institutions. Families and communities have shared beliefs and unspoken rules that prescribe behaviours that implicitly convey a message that GBV against girls and women is acceptable and normal. Culture has been used to justify gender inequality and violence by evoking traditional cultural beliefs about how women should be treated and culture is learned, shared, dynamic, systemic and also symbolic
How Culture influences Gender Based Violence
Gender Based Violence in South Africa exists at a level that requires a special attention since it impacts on almost every aspect of life and which disproportionately affects women and girls. It is systematic and deeply entrenched in institutions, cultures and traditions in the country. Cultural practices and beliefs that perpetuate GBV include amongst others polygamy, notion of a household head, male mobility, forced marriages and the belief that a woman should not have sex during menstruation as well as after giving birth, and which forces a man to engage in extra-marital sex. Research shows that GBV increases during times of social instability, conflict, rapid social or economic change which trigger new patterns of living and new patterns of abuse. Various other factors interact with a number of GBV drivers, such as Social norms (cultural or religious), low levels of women’s empowerment, lack of social support, socio-economic inequalities and substance abuse, which all lead to fully fledged GBV.
O’Donnel and Quarshie (2019) propose that witnessing violence in childhood creates norms that can lead to the acceptance or perpetration of violent behaviours, but on the other hand, it can provide an intervention for violent prevention efforts.According to Saferspaces (2019), Gender Based Violence comes in different forms and these forms are: violence against women and girls, which proves to be the most common form of GBV, it also takes a form of violence against LGBTIQ group where people are subjected to violence on the basis of their sexual orientation that is perceived as not conforming to their assigned gender roles. GBV is also experienced in the form of intimate partner violence, domestic violence as well as sexual violence. Gender Based Violence also comes as indirect structural violence, where violence is built into structures, appearing as unequal power relations that result to unequal opportunities and all these are built into the social, political as well as economic systems that govern people’s lives. It becomes important for governments, communities and various other stakeholders to identify and address structural violence for the protection of women and girls.
The Role of Patriarchy in Gender Based Violence
Mshweshwe (2020) argues that patriarchy is a social and political system that treats men as superior to women, where women cannot protect their bodies, are unable to meet their basic needs and denies them full participation in decision-making and societal governing structures. Patriarchal power structures dominate in many societies where male leadership is perceived as the norm and where men hold the majority of power. This belief in male superiority can manifest in men feeling entitled to sex with women, strict enforcement of gender roles on hierarchy coupled with punishment on transgressions.
Strategies to curb Gender Based Violence
The GBV preventions programmes should seek to facilitate change by addressing the underlying causes of GBV at a society level and these include implementing measures to promote gender equality, engage community leaders in developing programmes aimed at transforming social norms that justify and sustain the acceptance of GBV. There is also a need to enhance GBV response systems aimed at creating safer communities for women and girls as well as developing new norms that uphold women and girls’ safety, equality and dignity through economic empowerment. It starts with me, it starts with you, it starts with each one of us and together we can conquer the scourge of Gender Based Violence
Department of Cultural and Heritage Tourism
University of KwaZulu-Natal
College of Humanities
Durban, South Africa
Email: [email protected]