Are We Teaching Our Sons to Respect Women?

Quoting the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, paragraph 112 it states that, “Around the world, as many as one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some other way – most often by someone she knows, including by her husband or another male family member; one woman in four has been abused during pregnancy.

“Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms… In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture.”

Tomorrow November 25, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence will commence and Tanzania will join the rest of the world in commemorating these special days of activism.

The international theme this year is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”

The 16 day campaign this year is expected to focus on three priority areas underlining the intersections of economic and social rights with militarism and gender-based violence: Such as violence perpetrated by state actors when state actors use threats or acts of violence to maintain or attain power.

The second priority area is domestic violence and the role of small arms; while last but not the least is sexual violence during and after conflict. According to the United Nations, gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims.

It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices.

Any one of these abuses can leave deep psychological scars, damage the health of women and girls in general, including their reproductive and sexual health and in some instances, results in death.

Gender-based violence also serves – by intention or effect – to perpetuate male power and control. It is sustained by a culture of silence and denial of the seriousness of the health consequences of abuse. In addition to the harm they exact on the individual level, these consequences also exact a social toll and place a heavy and unnecessary burden on health services.

In order to break the cycle of gender based violence which will be a slow and frustrating process parents both mothers and fathers have to teach their sons how to respect the female gender from a young age.

And not only through words alone but through positive action as well. And for that matter parents, guardians and the community at large should show and instil zero tolerance of swear words in vernacular that refer to certain parts of the anatomy of a woman. It is unacceptable that men and sometimes even women get away with such vulgar language that is so gender biased.

Unless our attitude to such insults, which we hear on a daily basis from people from all walks of life changes; from total indifference to taking action we would still have a very long way to go, in fighting against gender based violence.

All women whether mothers, aunts, sisters and even grandmothers who raise boys have the unique opportunity of changing the world one male at a time. Yes charity does begin at home. Women who raise boys can start from scratch and teach them to be supportive instead of sexist, caring instead of domineering and faithful instead of unfaithful.

There are many things that are important for parents to teach their sons and one of the most important skills they as well as their sisters should learn is being able to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Too many girls and women have been stalked, beaten, raped and even killed because the men involved (whether they were boyfriends, husbands, acquaintances, co-workers or exes) refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer.

We all have a role to play in teaching boys to respect girls and women. Let us pull our heads out of the sand and do something about it now and not later.

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