Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Police, Ms MM Sotyu (MP) at the Men for Change Summit
17 May 2012
All Deputy and Divisional Commissioners present,
All SAPS Senior Officers and Officials present,
Members of the SAPS Men for Change,
Members of the SAPS Women’s Network,
Civil Society organisations present,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, I would like to say thank you to the organisers of this Summit for inviting me to be part of this important gathering. I want to start by acknowledging that the efforts made by women and men in blue in this room, is really at the frontline of a remarkable work for gender equality and against gender-based violence.
So, quickly I would like to say that I have the utmost respect especially for those men in blue who have decided in a decisive manner, to be unique and begin to fearlessly tackling the subject that has been long a taboo.
For a long time, men had been taught to de-value and neglect their emotional soft side, and instead encouraged to use their masculinity to respond and behave on matters of power and justice.
But, today I indeed find it heartening and definitely refreshingly progressive to learn that the South African Police Service (SAPS) Men for Change, is a network that seeks to understand gender equality in order to contribute to the discussions on how men can get involved in building gender equality.
For, it is definitely not easy to understand phenomena and concepts such as gender equality and gender-based violence that have strong undertones of academia and lots of theories.
I am sure some of us are familiar with the famous debate that says, gender equality is a colonial or western idea, and a threat to our traditions and cultural norms. But, ladies and gentlemen, gender equality is an ideal for humanity/ubuntu, and that gender-based violence cuts across race and class lines, it knows no boundaries.
So, to understand gender equality is to first address the normative misconceptions about gender-based violence. Not so long ago, most women organisations, feminists and indeed some Government agencies, paid an exclusive attention to the emotional needs and consciousness of women in their quests to prevent and end violence and abuse against women and girl-children, but almost no attention to the needs of men and boys.
But, to build gender equality and to prevent and end gender-based violence cannot be a women’s issue, but a human issue, which must then also involve men and boys.
The reasons for involving men, is not only because it is largely them who perpetrate gender-based violence. Men must be involved because most of them are real men who do not rape or abuse, and thus have a positive role to play in helping to stop violence against women and children, and help build gender equality. These men have mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, who would want them to be safe.
After-all, it is a fact that men are also seven times more likely to be killed by another man, therefore it is true to want to understand the larger picture of violent crime in south Africa, which involve both women and men.
This Summit then must surely be a kick-start platform to see men and women as more interconnected and related within a gender system. We must understand men experiences of disempowerment.
That, women do also exert violence against men even though this kind of violence is not the same extent and does not usually have the same emotional or physical consequence as compared to that inflicted by men on women.
But the mere fact that we understand this reality is also to begin to reduce the polarisation of gender while increasing the engagement of men.
It will thus be important not to separate discussions on men’s violence from other social issues such poverty, unemployment, health, substance abuse, etc. Ending men’s violence must be part of other social development goals.
For instance, the roll-out of the Provincial Intervention Programme that I am currently doing for the Ministry of Police in all nine provinces does reveal as such. As part of this provincial programme, I also get to hold in-depth engagements with police officers.
This engagement with police officers is mostly on issues of their health and wellness both at their respective working and dwelling/residential places. And, incidentally, these are the issues that this summit has listed as part of core objectives.
For example, we have discovered that most police officers who get vulnerable to being killed whilst using public transport to report to duty, or who are committing suicides or killing their loved ones, tend to be mostly lowly-ranked; low-salaried; co-habiting/not having a house of his own.
These socio-economic vulnerabilities of our police officers must then also find resonate to our discussions in this Summit, as factors effecting or affecting men responses to matters of gender equality and gender-based violence.
These vulnerabilities must also find resonate in the decision-makers of this organisation, the Department of Police. For, as SAPS leadership, we seek and strive for a proactive SAPS Top Management that is able to manage their police officers fearlessly, fairly and with focus, by treating all police officers impartially, with respect and courtesy and without bias, discrimination and prejudice.
For, we desperately need proactive managers that are able to detect what works and what does not work anymore for the proper running of this huge and critical Department of Police.
Programme Director, I believe that the Men for Change Summit will be instilling encouragement in our men in blue, to have power to be agents of change, to have a responsibility to talk for gender quality and against gender-based violence and abuse.
This must be an opportunity for men and women to share their concerns and perspectives with each other in a structured and non-confrontational manner.
Without being overly ambitious to being unrealistic, I think the change should start within our home, the South African Police Service. Men for Change must start to strengthen in-house, by providing specialised and responsible personnel with real knowledge on gender equality.
It will thus be important for Men for Change to begin establishing working partners within the JCPS Cluster Departments and with civil society organisations.
There are for instance, NGOs who are already providing rehabilitation to abusive and violent men. Such interventions are being proven to have a broader impact on the understanding of men’s violence in the society.
This Summit can declare itself very successful if it manages to produce at least police officers who will speak up when their best friends tell a demeaning joke about abusing women in anyway; and, who will in-turn, rebuke them by telling them women are not public property.
So teaching men to intervene against the problematic behaviour of other men is critical to social change and it is essential because men care so much about what other men think.
In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to reiterate what I said earlier on that, initiatives that have a focus on men’s role in gender equality and gender-based violence, also serve the well-being of women and the girls.
An American philosopher once said: “you can’t be part of the solution until you understand how you are part of the problem”. Therefore, my departing question to you men in blue: if a man can learn to love and respect on female being, why can’t those feelings be extended to every woman?
I thank you all.
Ms Nomsa Hani
Tel: 012 3934469 or 021 4677023
Fax: 012 3934614 or 021 4614174
Cell: 082 772 2053
Issued by: South African Police Service
17 May 2012
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