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Tag Archive: no violence against women & children

It is ‘all men’, to varying degrees: men’s violence against women is a systemic crisis

This article was written by the executive director of White Ribbon Australia, part of a global social movement working to eliminate gendered violence. Replace “Australia” with “South Africa” and everything he says is equally true of our society. Inequality is so deeply embedded structurally that men and women alike see nothing wrong with mother-in-law jokes or quips about women drivers. For every man who says, “But I’m not like that; I respect women,” this article is for you. Most of us do not behave violently towards women, but, “We have been taught – either subtly or overtly – that because of our gender we deserve a special kind of respect.” Let this be a wake-up call. 

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Brad Chilcott – 2020-0-07

As White Ribbon’s new executive director, I believe it’s worth mobilising the movement towards meaningful action

Handgesture - Stop violence against women
 WRA executive director Brad Chilcott: ‘We need to take ownership of the ways we create the environment that allows men to believe they are entitled to a greater share of power in society and relationships.’ Photograph: Golib Golib Tolibov/Alamy Stock Photo

“Why?” has been the most consistent response when I’ve told my progressive friends that I’ve taken on the role of executive director of White Ribbon Australia for its next chapter. They didn’t miss the organisation that had first become publicly synonymous with ending family violence and then famous for problematic ambassadors and financial ruin. As a volunteer White Ribbon supporter myself, I agreed with much of the criticism – and yet I continue to believe it’s worth mobilising the tens of thousands of Australians who constitute the White Ribbon movement towards meaningful action.

Gender inequality is structural violence. It creates the space for acts of gendered violence by normalising disrespect as it socialises the idea that one gender is more valuable or capable than another.

It is clear that men’s violence against women is an ongoing systemic crisis – from the murder of more than one woman a week, to Australian police responding to family violence once every two minutes, to the sexual harassment experienced by women in the workplace – and when we know that approximately 80% of women who experience violence don’t report their abuse we begin to comprehend the vast scale of this emergency.

Gendered violence begins with the idea that you are entitled to obedience, sex, authority or a different set of freedoms because you are a man. That you have the intrinsic right to treat someone else in a way that you would not be treated. It is expressed in coercive control – exerting power over your partner’s finances, social life, clothing, career or otherwise reducing their individual agency.

I grew up in a religious environment that taught that men were the head of the house, that women couldn’t perform certain rituals, weren’t able to teach men or take leadership positions. When I was a child, my default image of engineers, pilots, football players and prime ministers was male. I said “policeman” instead of “police officer” and assumed my doctors would be men and my nurses would be women.

None of these things automatically turn me into a man who uses violence in my intimate relationships. But they demonstrate that many men in Australia – religious and otherwise – have been raised in cultures that share a history of entrenched gender inequality. We have been taught – either subtly or overtly – that because of our gender we deserve a special kind of respect. We have been raised with a certain expectation of male power and to have control of our homes, partners, children, faith communities, sporting clubs and workplaces. To believe that men have a right to decide what happens to women’s bodies.

Many of us have had this perspective role modelled to us, and indeed have seen the violence – whether physical violence, emotional manipulation, sexual exploitation or spiritual abuse – that men have used to dominate, control and harm women. We have seen men desperate to hold on to their power as they grow insecure in a changing society. We might say that not all misogyny leads to violence but that all violence starts with misogyny.

So yes, “all men”, to varying degrees. Therefore, our first responsibility in responding to this national crisis is to reflect on our own beliefs and attitudes, our culturally acquired perception of gender norms and to consider and change the ways these translate into our behaviour. We need to take ownership of the ways we create the environment that allows men to believe they are entitled to a greater share of power in society and relationships – and often exercise that power to harm others.

The abuse of power is violence – whatever form that takes.

If you’re monitoring your partner’s phone, telling them what they’re allowed to wear, if they have to ask your permission to spend time with friends or family – that’s not equality, it’s an abuse of power.

If, because you’re a man, you think you have the right to be obeyed, to make all the decisions, to be the head of a house, to have an unequal share of power – or indeed to be paid more, have more social freedoms, that your opinion is more important – then you are promoter of gender inequality. If you use any form of coercive control over your partner to enforce that privilege, then you’re a perpetrator of gendered violence.

How do we respond? Perhaps understanding that aspiring to be a good male role model is about much more than controlling aggression. It’s a man who is willing to listen and learn. Who is aware of their power and privilege – and chooses to utilise them towards cultural and political change. It’s someone who is determined to share power in their relationships and hold on to their privilege loosely, knowing we all benefit when everyone is equally valued, included and given the opportunity to flourish.

In some quarters it seems controversial to say that men have a role to play in eliminating gendered violence and advancing gender equality. What is certainly problematic is placing men on a pedestal for not using violence or not acknowledging the decades of tireless campaigning by women that built the foundation of awareness and positive change that male advocates stand on today. However, as it is men that need to stop being violent and to break the cycle of generational misogyny, they must be part of the solution.

Certainly, the men who hold on to the majority of the political power in Australia have not responded to the terror and suffering experienced by women in Australia in a manner commensurate to the crisis, nor with the magnitude of money and commitment expended on their self-identified priorities. A willingness to listen to and learn from women – and then act not only decisively but also proportionately – would go a long way towards creating safety for women now and pave the way for equality into the future.

 Brad Chilcott is executive director of White Ribbon Australia

Links added by SD Law.

Contact Family Lawyers Cape Town for help

As family lawyers, our job is to protect the vulnerable members of a family. Both women and children are at risk from structural gendered violence. If you are experiencing gendered violence, whether physical abuse, emotional manipulation, or coercive control, Cape Town Divorce Attorneys can help. We now offer online consultations. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email  sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za today, and we’ll call you back to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

Important contact numbers:

GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone
Women Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150
Childline: 0800 055 555
SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111 / SMS Crime Line: 32211
GBVF-related service complaints (SAPS): 0800 333 177/complaintsnodalpoint@saps.gov.za

Further reading:

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Sharp increase in UK child sexual abuse during pandemic

While South Africa and the UK have experienced COVID-19 and lockdown differently, some of the consequences have been as global as the pandemic itself. We may not have the same number of children in care homes, but our children and adolescents face the same risks from online predators. With children spending more time online, and parents also trying to work remotely and therefore not able to provide continuous supervision, online stalkers are having a field day, as this article explains. Make sure you know what your children are doing online. Keep them safe.

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Jess Staufenberg – 2020-07-08

Children’s homes warn of struggle to keep residents safe as more time spent online puts young people at greater risk

online predators are on the increase
Children’s home manager Laverne Cole says some girls thought lockdown was imposed by the home, rather than the government. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Lockdown was supposed to make us all safer and save lives. But for some vulnerable young people the opposite has been true.

Sajid Javid, the former chancellor, warned last month that isolation was creating a “perfect storm” for child sexual abuse. With most pupils not back at school before September, children are spending more time online, putting them at greater risk of being targeted by strangers through social media, apps and gaming. And, although lockdown is easing, children now face the long summer holidays with few adults outside the family to spot if something is going seriously wrong.

At the moment, data on child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse during lockdown is not yet clear. We know from recent National Crime Agency (NCA) figures that at least 300,000 people in the UK pose a risk of committing physical or online child abuse, more than double the 140,000 reported last year. And NCA figures shared exclusively with the Guardian show that during each of the 13 weeks of lockdown, around 350 cases of online child sexual abuse were passed to police, a 10% increase on the same period last year.

Even then, it may take some time. Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at NSPCC, warns that it may not be until 2021 that we will know the full impact. “What we’re likely to see here is a long tail of disclosures [in autumn].”

Meanwhile, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a charity that reports and removes online child abuse, revealed in May that during lockdown, three major internet companies logged 8.8m hits to child sexual abuse imagery from the UK alone.

Susie Hargreaves, chief executive at the IWF, warns of an “exponential rise in self-generated content, where children on their phones and laptops have clearly been coerced and groomed into sharing graphic sexual images of themselves, without realising these are being recorded and shared”. She adds: “Clearly, the more vulnerable the child is, the more likely they are to be tricked and coerced.”

Perhaps nowhere are vulnerable children more likely to be found in greater numbers than in England and Wales’s 2,360 children homes.

One west London home for girls at risk of sexual exploitation has been pioneering a system to keep its residents safe – although it has found it harder to enforce amid lockdown, particularly as new guidance around “staying alert” has blurred the rules.

On arrival at the home, which is run by the charity St Christopher’s Fellowship, the girls’ phones are removed and they are then returned as a reward for safe behaviour. They also get a fob key to leave the house, which – crucially – can be deactivated by staff.

“It’s about being attentive to their patterns,” explains Laverne Cole, regional manager at St Christopher’s. “They might be unsettled or perhaps they’re still dressed when everyone else is in pyjamas. Their mood dips or they become excitable. We say, ‘We’re worried about your safety, let’s do something inside today’.”

According to Cole, the system, which in 2015 won funding under the Department for Education’s Social Care Innovation Programme, has resulted in far fewer girls going missing, and the DfE’s evaluation of the project notes “a decline in incidents involving actual or potential harm to self or others over the course of the intervention”.

But this model, which rewards good behaviour indoors with the freedom to go outside, has been fundamentally undermined by lockdown. Some girls thought lockdown was imposed by the home, rather than the government, Cole explains.

“We had one young person who found that really hard and went to great lengths to contact the police about her human rights.” The police, she says, helped to “reinforce the message that this isn’t coming from us and we’re not doing anything unlawful”.

The incident shows how children’s homes, which already strike a delicate balance around their residents’ liberty, faced losing young people’s trust when trying to enforce lockdown. It’s a balance set to become even more complicated, as experts warn of a “summer of rave” and parties amid the government’s lack of clarity about when socially starved young people can meet up.

But not all children’s homes were able to keep residents safe inside during the height of the pandemic. At a privately run care home in East Anglia, staff could not prevent a 13- and a 14-year-old girl from being abducted by men in their 20s who had contacted the girls through social media. “Often the girls don’t perceive it as harm,’ says John Anderson, the owner of the children’s home. “The abusers can be seductive and so in a child’s mind it becomes very confusing.”

During lockdown, a taxi appeared outside the home and the girls got in. Anderson immediately confronted the driver. “I asked him not to take them as, legally, it was child abduction, but he didn’t listen. We rang the police and photographed the taxi driver, then followed him.”

The police eventually rescued the girls and arrested the men. The situation sounds chillingly familiar: the 2014 independent inquiry into Rotherham child abuse from 1997 to 2013 noted taxi drivers were a “common thread” across cases.

Ex-chancellor Sajid Javid has launched an inquiry into child sexual abuse and online predators
 Ex-chancellor Sajid Javid, who has launched an inquiry into child sexual abuse and exploitation. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

A pressing issue is the lack of secure placements, says Anderson. With only 15 secure homes in the country but demand for them rising, open residential homes like his are increasingly being asked to take in young people who need higher staff ratios and more restrictive measures. It’s another pressure on the system that’s been exacerbated by coronavirus, but which will not go away as lockdown begins to ease. Anderson eventually found the highest-risk girl a secure solo placement with a three-to-one staff ratio.

Javid has now launched an inquiry into child sex abuse and exploitation with the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The first part on organised child sexual exploitation, including gangs and on-street grooming, is expected to be published in the autumn.

Speaking on the phone, he says he is particularly concerned that – as happened in East Anglia – dangerous taxi drivers are still arriving outside children’s homes. It’s “terrible”, he says, adding “there is a case to look at powers for child protection and the police, so that they are able to do more to protect young people when we know they are in harm’s way”.

Javid also believes technology could be used more effectively. “Why is it not the case that [taxi drivers’] movements … are constantly monitored on GPS? So if you drive near a children’s home, that information would be available to law enforcement and others and act as a deterrent.”

In the meantime, children’s home managers would like some recognition that they have been working flat out to keep vulnerable young people safe.

Carol Smith, residential manager of a therapeutic children’s home in north Wales, says “there’s still a stigma” around children’s homes and many staff have felt unrecognised. “There’s been a lot of clapping for nursing homes but I do feel like children’s homes have been sadly missed. We live here, we sleep here. We care about these children like they’re our own children.”

Some names have been changed

Cape Town attorney can help

If you’re worried about cyberbullying, online predators or other risks to your children’s safety online, we can review your situation and arrange a protection order if warranted. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za today for more information or to make an appointment. We now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back and schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

Further reading:

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Five urgent and effective measures to curb the abuse of alcohol

Last week we shared some sentiments from Les Da Chef about the causes of gender-based violence in South Africa. While acknowledging the role alcohol plays in domestic abuse, he expressed his view that violence against women in our culture has much deeper roots than alcohol abuse alone, a view we share. But that doesn’t mean that alcohol isn’t a factor that needs to be addressed, along with other determinants such as the socialisation of boys. We wholeheartedly support this initiative from the DG Murray Trust, recommending that the SA Government adopt the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in an effort to curb alcohol abuse, as one means of getting gender-based violence under control.

Reprinted from DGMT.co.za. 2020-06-10

In his speech to the nation on Wednesday 17 June 2020, President Ramaphosa stated that, “we will also need to look at further, more drastic measures to curb the abuse of alcohol”.  We now call on the government to draw on the best international evidence, follow the advice of the World Health Organisation and implement those measures which have been shown to be effective in other countries.

These measures are to:

  1. Ban advertising of alcohol (except on the site of sale, where it should not be visible to those under 18 years).
  2. Increase the price of alcohol, both through excise taxes and by introducing a minimum price per unit of pure alcohol in liquor products.
  3. Reduce the legal limit for drinking and driving to a blood alcohol content of 0.02% or below.
  4. Reduce the availability of alcohol, especially in residential areas (by limiting the density of liquor outlets, shorter trading hours, and ending the sale of alcohol in larger containers like 1-litre bottles of beer).
  5. Intensify the availability of counselling and medically assisted treatment for persons struggling with dependence.

The extent of alcohol abuse and its link with violent crime is without equal in Africa and should be a source of deep shame to all South Africans. “There is a dire need to protect women and children from alcohol-associated harm”, says Dr Glenda Gray, President of the South African Medical Research Council”.

This view is shared by all signatories below. “It is now time to put the rights of women and children first – those who are, or will become victims of harmful use of alcohol, and there is global evidence of what needs to be done now.” says Dr David Harrison, CEO of the DG Murray Trust. “While social drinkers may feel that price increases and other restrictions are unfair on them, it is time to face up to what ‘unfair’ really means for women and children. We reiterate the President’s view that if we don’t act, we are all complicit in these crimes.”

Although only a third of adult South Africans drink alcohol, 60% of those who drink, binge-drink (more than 5.4 standard drinks per day). Binge-drinking is strongly associated with interpersonal violence, motor vehicle accidents and risk-taking behaviour. The measures described above have been shown to significantly reduce the societal harm of alcohol. The World Health Organisation and comparative studies across the world have shown that banning of advertising, limiting consumption through higher prices and reducing the legal drink-driving limits and the availability of alcohol are all highly cost-effective measures.

These measures must be supported by other interventions shown to be effective, including raising the legal drinking age to nineteen years and enforcement of public drinking by-laws.  Furthermore, we need to ensure that product tracking and tracing is in place to close the supply routes to illegal vendors. These provisions are included in the Draft Liquor Amendment Bill. We call on the government to proceed with the implementation of this Bill and other stalled legislation aimed at reducing alcohol harm such as the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill.

Signatories

Prof Glenda Gray,  President
Prof Charles Parry
South African Medical Research Council

Prof Richard Matzopoulos,
South African Medical Research Council and UCT School of Public Health

Prof Lukas Muntingh
Dr Laurine Platzky
Ms Undere Deglon
Ms Lizanne Venter
Members of the Board of the Western Cape Liquor Authority

Dr David Harrison, CEO
Ms Carol-Ann Foulis                                                                                                                                                   DG Murray Trust

Ask for help

SD Law has always been outspoken against gender-based violence. We have helped women escape abusive relationships and we can help you secure a protection order or escape a narcissistic partner. As family lawyers, the interests of you and your children are our first priority.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in complete confidence. If you can’t get out, or prefer not to, we now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back, to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing

Further reading:

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Alcohol not the sole cause of gender-based violence

‘The level of violence against women is beyond just alcohol consumption,’ says Les Da Chef

When lockdown began and the alcohol ban was announced, we expressed reservations. While done with the best of intentions, we were not convinced it would curb the widespread incidence of domestic violence, despite the known links between alcohol and gender-based violence. It gives us no pleasure to be proved right.

Reprinted from TimesLive, by Kyle Zeeman. 2020-06-14

Lesego "Les Da Chef" Semenya has spoken out on femicide in the country.

Lesego “Les Da Chef” Semenya has spoken out on femicide in the country.
Image: Via Lesdachef’s Instagram

Celebrity chef Lesego “Les Da Chef” Semenya has weighed in on gender-based violence in SA, claiming that SA’s issues run deeper than just alcohol consumption.

Gender-based violence and femicide have dominated headlines this week after the deaths of Tshegofatso Pule and Naledi Phangindawo reignited calls for the government to take action.

Tshegofatso was found hanging from a tree in an open veld in Roodepoort on Monday after going missing last week. She was eight months pregnant.

Naledi was attacked while attending a cultural function over the weekend in KwaNonqaba, Mossel Bay.

The murders also sparked a debate on whether alcohol was to blame for the violence.

Lesego took to Twitter to claim that “the level of violence and hatred for women is beyond just alcohol consumption”.

He said that men around the world drink, but they do not murder at the rate SA men do.

“Men all over the world drink alcohol but they don’t go out and kill women on the levels we do in SA. The issue isn’t booze, this thing in SA runs much deeper and needs serious focus and strategy,” he said.

He called for a separate investigations unit to be set up to deal with gender-based violence.

“A separate section on the same level as the Hawks, independent from cops but legally backed by laws and government, solely focused on this issue. Where women will feel safe and know they will be heard. Where whistle-blowers will be listened to. We need proper structures,” he explained.

He also shaded the ministry of women, youth and persons with disabilities, asking what power it had.

We can help

SD Law is an outspoken advocate against gender-based violence and the toxic socialisation of boys in our society. We have helped numerous women escape controlling and abusive relationships. We can help you secure a protection order or escape a narcissistic partner. If you are locked down with an abuser or suffering violence or abuse of any description, even if you’re not ready to go on record, contact us today and we will help get you to safety. As family lawyers, the interests of you and your children are our first priority.

Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in complete confidence. If you can’t get out, or prefer not to, we now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back, to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing

Further reading:

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Coercive control – here’s what it looks like

We’ve written about coercive control previously. If you’re still unsure what behaviours can be classed as coercive control, this article from the UK Guardian tells one woman’s story. Sally Challen was convicted of murdering her abusive husband and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment in 2011. Last year her conviction was overturned. Her son, David Challen, tells the story of 40 years of coercive control. Please note this article is from the UK, so references to legislation do not apply here. 

After Sally Challen, we now have a chance to tackle coercive control

The domestic abuse bill offers a once-in-a-generation chance to change our approach says the son of the woman whose conviction for murdering her husband was quashed

By David Challen, 2020-06-07

David Challen with his mother Sally

The day my mother’s conviction for the murder of my father was quashed marked a turning point – for our family and for society. Yet why, a year on from the landmark case that recognised the abuse my mother suffered, are we still failing victims of coercive control and seeing her story as unique?

My mother, Sally, 66, is now discovering life as an independent woman for the first time since the age of 15, free from the coercion and control she experienced for over 40 years from my father. Watching her learning to make her own decisions while slowly unshackling from his spectre have been moments to cherish. Our journey has not been without difficulties – we’ve had to learn how to acknowledge a life lost in my father and how to rebuild our relationships.

My mother’s story represented one of the worst cases of coercive control reported. She was only 15 when she met my father, who was 21. He was charismatic, funny and charming, and young love bloomed. However, early on, my mother challenged him about seeing another woman. He responded by dragging her down the stairs and throwing her out of the door. For the rest of her life she was scared to confront him in case he did it again. A culture of fear and dependency followed over the next 40 years. He bullied and humiliated her, isolated her from friends and family, controlled who she could socialise with, controlled her finances and restricted her movements.

Coercive control, which was added to the statute book in 2015, is no longer a new offence. Extensive training has been provided to police forces in England and Wales, yet we are still failing to correctly record it. Following recent reports of disparities between forces, Clare Walker, a domestic abuse consultant, said: “The police record domestic abuse wrongly. I know they do from reading their logs … name-calling and the like are not logged as domestic abuse.”

Coercive control offences doubled in the year ending March 2019, from 9,053 to 17,616. Considering that coercive control is the bedrock of domestic abuse, these figures show gross under-reporting. They represent a fraction of the 1,316,800 domestic-abuse-related incidents recorded by the police the same year.

Calls to domestic abuse helplines have increased by up to 700% during the lockdown. Rachel Williams, who was shot and severely injured by her violent partner in 2011, says the government doesn’t understand coercive control. “Government needs to recognise coercive control because at the moment the impact to them of [physical] violence seems to be more severe, but when you speak to a victim they will tell you the mental torture far outweighs the physical. It certainly was for me,” she says.

This failure to raise national awareness and correctly record offences of non-physical forms of abuse such as coercive control and economic abuse not only silences victims, it abandons them. Furthermore, the sustained mental impact on victims can raise the risk of suicide or – as in cases like my mother’s – cause people to lose control and strike out at their abusers.

It is a reality that my mother’s case is not unique and that there are more women still in prison whose abuse has not been properly explored. The Centre for Women’s Justice is currently supporting 13 women serving murder sentences and two serving excessive manslaughter tariffs where their abuse has not been taken into consideration. The charity plans to publish key research later this year on what is and isn’t working within the justice system for women who kill in situations of abuse.

Opportunities to better understand and tackle domestic abuse consistently present themselves in the voices of survivors and specialist services. Time and again these voices seem unheard and the urgency to tackle this epidemic is absent. The long-awaited domestic abuse bill, now at the committee stage, offers a once-in-a-generation chance to change our approach. Not only do we have an opportunity to better tackle domestic abuse, but to provide strategies and awareness to tackle its very heart: coercive control. Through relationship education and by including amendments that cover post-separation abuse (something my mother was subjected to), the chance to do this is now.

Not being able to see my mother on the first anniversary of her freedom has been difficult, much as it has been for many families at this time. But, it has been a stark reminder of the near-decade she spent in prison. It has served as a reminder, too, of the many victims who remain isolated with their abusers, and the women in prison whose abuse has not properly been explored.

David Challen is a domestic abuse campaigner; davidchallen.com

If you are affected by these issues:

SD Law is a firm of family attorneys with deep experience of helping women escape abusive relationships and find peace and dignity in a new life. We can serve a protection order on a controlling partner and help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services and make sure you and your children are safe. At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we understand how deeply distressing coercive control can be, and we will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

Important resources:

 

 

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Covid-19 has gifted us a chance to end gender-based violence. We must take it

If the world can unite to beat coronavirus, it should apply the same energy to rooting out abuse

Reprinted from the Guardian 2020-05-30. By Graça Machel.

Millions of women and children are fighting for survival from abusers in the prisons of their homes.
 Millions of women and children are fighting for survival from abusers in the prisons of their homes. Photograph: Patrick Baz/Abaad/AFP via Getty Images

The pandemic is gifting us an unprecedented opportunity to take innovative action and comprehensively confront the scourge of violence against women.

We have a unique window in which, as a human family, we are able to boldly address the social ills Covid-19 is unearthing, and redesign and rebuild our social fabric.

In this process of self-examination, we must work to root out the global epidemic of gender-based violence as aggressively as we are tackling the pandemic itself.

The lockdowns expose what many of us have always known – our most intimate spaces, our homes, are not always safe places. Research by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) predicts that there will be at least 15 million more cases of domestic violence around the world in 2020 for every three months that lockdowns are extended.

A “pandemic within a pandemic” has been exposed and we are confronted with the horrific reality that millions of women and children – in every country – are fighting for their survival not from Covid-19 but from the brutalities of abusers in the prisons of their homes.

Studies indicate domestic violence has increased by upwards of 25% in numerous countries as a result of shelter-in-place measures.

Abuse survivors are facing limited access to protective services during periods of quarantine. It is no secret that pandemic restrictions have negative ramifications for adults and children already living with someone who is abusive or controlling, and access to support services are significantly constrained.

Most unfortunate is while the need for survivor support is increasing, justice is proving hard to access. Resources are being diverted away from judicial systems towards more immediate public health measures. In every country, hotlines, crisis centres, shelters, as well as critical legal aid and social services, are being scaled back due to infection control measures. Many courts have closed their doors.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” the saying goes. And Covid-19 just may be the midwife we need to help birth a flattening of the gender-based violence curve. We have an opportunity here for criminal justice systems to be completely overhauled to fight gender-based violence.

Countries need to fund innovations promoting remote judicial services, invest in specialised protection services, work with the private sector and create more channels for accessing justice, such as by collaborating with community-based paralegals and non-lawyer legal assistance initiatives. The time is ripe to address the lack of sensitivity in police and court proceedings as well as rehabilitative support for offenders and survivors. We need to support justice leaders by creating a virtual forum for ministers to share best practice and highlight urgency.

There are many impressive practical initiatives taking steps to lessen the dangers women face at the hands of their abusers. Countries such as Spain and France have created emergency warning systems in supermarkets and pharmacies to offer counselling and help with reporting. Canada is keeping shelters open and earmarking resources in its relief bill, categorising them as essential services. Out of a necessity for more shelters, 20,000 hotel rooms for survivors will be paid for in France. Police in Odisha, India, have implemented a phone-up programme, where officers check up on women who previously filed reports of domestic violence before the lockdown. These innovative approaches need to go beyond the confines of borders, be adapted for local contexts and replicated at scale globally.

The innovation and resilience of grassroots justice groups continues to give me hope in these dark times. They too are on the frontlines, leading rights awareness campaigns, adapting to deliver legal advice remotely and ensuring disadvantaged groups are not overlooked.

Social media is another powerful weapon at our disposal. Bold advocacy and awareness campaigns should become a common feature on our TV and phone screens.

We have been presented with the opportunity to reimagine and redesign our societies to be safe, vibrant and equitable. We are proving that we can come together as a united human family to holistically tackle Covid-19; let us apply an equally comprehensive, vigorous and unrelenting focus to eradicating gender-based violence as well.

  • Graça Machel is the deputy chair of global human rights organisation The Elders, founder of the Graça Machel Trust, and an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights

Don’t suffer in silence

SD Law is a firm of family lawyers deeply committed to the fight against gender-based / domestic violence. If you are affected by these issues, either directly or indirectly, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za today. We can assist with a protection order and help remove you to a place of safety. We now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back, to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

Important contact numbers:

GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone
Persons with disabilities, SMS ‘help’ to 31531
Women Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150
Childline: 0800 055 555
SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111 / SMS Crime Line: 32211
GBVF-related service complaints (SAPS): 0800 333 177/
complaintsnodalpoint@saps.gov.za
National AIDS Helpline: 0800 012 322
National Human Trafficking Helpline: 0800 222 777
Suicide Helpline: 0800 567 567
Coronavirus Hotline: 0800 029 999

Further reading:

‘Calamitous’ domestic violence set to soar by 20% during lockdown

Alcohol fuels gender-based violence

Locked down with an abuser?

 

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Security company helping the fight against domestic/gender-based violence

We’ve written a lot about the scourge of rape and gender-based violence (GBV) in our country. Sadly, we are seeing an increase in incidents during the national lockdown to combat COVID-19. One security company is fighting GBV. It has put in place a system to help its control centre evaluate the level of risk a client is facing and tailor the response accordingly. We’ve only heard of this one example; but it’s probable that there are others. We are keen to hear what your security company is doing. You can email us on sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za

In this particular protocol, there are three levels of distress, with relevant actions for each level:

1. YELLOW

There is a history of incidents. Build-up is noticeable. Incidents are likely to recur. 

Client’s immediate requirement: Client would like more information on her options.

What the client should do: Send an email to [named support officer at the security company].

The security company will refer the case to a relevant expert with access to medical, social, psychological and forensic experts, helplines, and shelters (in severe cases).

2. PINK

Client feels threatened and wants to seek refuge.

Client’s immediate requirement: Client would like preventative assistance.

What the client should do: Call the [named security company] control centre on xxx xxx xxxx for immediate assistance. Or send a WhatsApp to xxx xxx xxxx.

3. PURPLE

Client is currently being attacked and needs urgent assistance.

Client’s immediate requirement: Client needs urgent support.

What the client should do: Activate the alarm system and use a false password, if possible, or send a WhatsApp to xxx xxx xxxx. SAPS will also be contacted and the necessary steps taken.

This won’t help everyone, but it may help someone 

We know that not all women who are at risk of violence in the home are clients of a security company. But many are. And this is a start. 

We urge other security companies and body corporates to adopt this method in recognising and responding to domestic violence. We also urge all entities who come into contact with women at risk to support women to come forward and report incidents of physical and emotional abuse to the police – when they are ready. Reports can be made any time after the incident; they do not have to be filed instantly, if a woman is not ready. Many women don’t report rape and assault because they fear they won’t be believed, or the process of reporting the attack will be more traumatic than the attack itself. Unfortunately sometimes the incredulity happens at official level.

The more security companies, neighbours and community groups stand up to gender-based violence, with tangible actions like those listed above, the more women will feel supported and will be encouraged to report these crimes. And the more these incidents are reported, the more the police will realise the true nature and extent of this blight on our society and take more decisive actions. Our conviction rate for rape and sexual assault is pitifully low. This needs to change. 

Spread the word

We encourage anyone reading this to speak to your security company and ask them to implement a similar protocol. We recommend that you share this in your community and on social media. It’s up to all of us to put a stop to violence against women.

We can help

If you have been affected by gender-based violence, either personally or because you are supporting a survivor, and you would like more information on how to secure a protection order or seek refuge, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a discussion in complete confidence. We are family lawyers and the safety of you and your children or other loved ones is our first priority.

Useful contacts:

  • GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone
  • Women Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150
  • Childline: 0800 055 555
  • SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111 / SMS Crime Line: 32211
  • GBVF-related service complaints (SAPS): 0800 333 177/
  • Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust: 24-hour helpline: 021 447 9762

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We can help If you have been affected by gender-based violence, either personally or because you are supporting a survivor, and you would like more information on how to secure a protection order or seek refuge, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a discussion in complete confidence. We are family lawyers and the safety of you and your children or other loved ones is our first priority. Useful contacts: GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone . . . . . #domesticviolenceawareness #abusedwomen #lockdowndiaries #lockdown #nomeansno #survivor #mutualaid #childabuseawareness #inlockdown #betheirvoice #parenting #metoomovement #couragetochange #isolationnation #selftrust #gbv #domesticviolence #affirmationchallenge #lockdown2020 #stayinghome #enditmovement #lockdownlife #love #abuseawareness #rapecrisis #stopabuse #discrimination #selfreflection #lockdownindia #consent

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‘Calamitous’: domestic violence set to soar by 20% during global lockdown

Data from the UN population fund, outlining increases in abuse, FGM and child marriage, predicts a grim decade for many women

lockdown domestic violence

Domestic violence / gender-based violence / violence against women (VAW) – call it what you will. It is a global epidemic arguably worse than COVID-19, because there is no quick fix for it. Self-isolating and “social distancing” won’t cure domestic violence, and all over the world there is evidence that lockdowns are making it much, much worse. On the same day this article from the Guardian appeared in the morning, by the afternoon there was a further report from Spain of a woman killed by her partner, the 19th such case in Spain this year.


At least 15m more cases of domestic violence are predicted around the world this year as a result of pandemic restrictions, according to new data that paints a bleak picture of life for women over the next decade.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has also calculated that tens of millions of women will not be able to access modern contraceptives this year, and millions more girls will undergo female genital mutilation or be married off by 2030.

Natalia Kanem, the fund’s executive director, called the findings “totally calamitous”.

Authorities around the world have reported rising cases of abuse as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns.

The figures, published on Tuesday by the UNFPA and its partners Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University in the US and Victoria University in Australia, assume a 20% increase in violence during an average three-month lockdown in all 193 UN member states. The figures take into account the anticipated high levels of under-reported cases.

Researchers expect 15m additional cases of domestic violence for every three months that lockdown is extended. They also estimate that the disruption to violence prevention programmes because of the pandemic and the diversion of resources elsewhere could mean a third fewer cases of violence are averted by 2030.

Researchers also project that up to 44 million women in 114 low and middle-income countries will be unable to access contraceptives if lockdown and Covid-19 related restrictions continue for three months and cause major disruption to services. This would result in an estimated 1 million unintended pregnancies.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation has reported that more than 5,000 clinics have closed in 64 countries and Marie Stopes International predicts that Covid-19 restrictions on its services could mean 3 million additional unintended pregnancies, 2.7 million unsafe abortions and 11,000 pregnancy-related deaths.

The pandemic is also expected to derail efforts to end FGM. Researchers had expected the scaling up of FGM prevention programmes over the next 10 years would mean 5.3 million fewer girls being cut. This figure is projected to be reduced by a third.

Meanwhile the disruption to programmes to prevent child marriage will result in an additional 13 million children being married over the next decade.

World leaders have pledged to eliminate violence against women and girls, FGM and child marriage, as well as ensure universal access to family planning by 2030, under the sustainable development goals.

“It’s a calamity. Totally calamitous,” said Kanem. “It is so clear that Covid-19 is compounding the no longer subterranean disparities that affect millions of women and girls.”

She said the pandemic “threatened the gains carefully eked out” over recent years. “We are very worried indeed.”

She said UNFPA teams in the Arab states and east and southern Africa had reported that “people were rushing to marry their daughters” already, while deaths in childbirth in one east African country had tripled this year.

Wendo Aszed, the founder of Dandelion Africa, which runs economic empowerment programmes in Kenya’s Rift Valley, said it had been forced to reduce its mobile family planning services by 40% because of coronavirus restrictions.

Many women in the region have up to eight children and live on about $1.50 (£1.20) a day.

“On a bad day we will have 300 people [attend mobile clinics]. Some days we get up to 700 people showing up,” said Aszed. “That has been really impacted. We cannot treat women in these places.”

She said that from mid-March to mid-April, more than 40 cases of violence have been reported to her organisation, more than the total number it dealt with last year.

“A lot more women are a lot more aware that they can report and can leave marriages,” she said. “Women are fed up and they are seeing opportunities. With Covid things could get a lot worse so they need to deal with this problem and then can deal with Covid.”

Traci Baird, president of EngenderHealth, said UNFPA had “put numbers to things that we have been discussing for weeks”.

“The magnitude of the problem is absolutely enormous and that should motivate and mobilise us to take action now and be prepared to manage and support countries, and partners and families, in catching up after.

“We know what works, we have best practices that have impact,” she added. “We have to do things better and faster and smarter. We don’t have time to do learnings and ramp up phases, or workshops and meetings. We have to get back to work.”

Reprinted from the Guardian, 2020-04-28. Written by Liz Ford.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help

As family lawyers, we are very concerned about the levels of gender-based violence we are experiencing as a nation – both now during lockdown and at all times. We are also concerned that police and the authorities…including court officials…often don’t take emotional violence as seriously as physical violence, as we saw in a recent case that came before the courts in Cape Town. Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse, and furthermore, often presages it. It must not be ignored or dismissed.

If you are worried about a friend or family member, or if you have concerns about the nature of your own relationship, this article will help you identify the signs of abuse. If you become aware of a neighbour in distress, call the police and report it. If you are frightened to remain in the home during lockdown, or if you need a protection order to keep you safe, contact Simon at Cape Town Divorce Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email  sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

Here’s a reminder of those important contact numbers:

  • GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone
  • Persons with disabilities, SMS ‘help’ to 31531
  • Women Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150
  • Childline: 0800 055 555
  • SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111 / SMS Crime Line: 32211
  • GBVF-related service complaints (SAPS): 0800 333 177/
  • complaintsnodalpoint@saps.gov.za
  • National AIDS Helpline: 0800 012 322
  • National Human Trafficking Helpline: 0800 222 777
  • Suicide Helpline: 0800 567 567
  • Coronavirus Hotline: 0800 029 999
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Locked down with an abuser?

Law firm Cape Town

Lockdown can be a terrifying ordeal if a woman is confined with an abusive partner

Lockdown. No one likes it. For some it means a curtailing of outdoor activities like cycling and running. Parents with young children may face a daily struggle to keep them active and entertained. For people who live alone, it’s a very lonely time. But for most of us, it is a necessary inconvenience that we willingly accept to prevent COVID 19 spiralling out of control. However, there is one group in the population for whom lockdown spells terror. Victims of domestic abuse and violence are now locked in – literally – with their abusers. 

Our lockdown is only days old, but around the world, where movement restrictions and quarantines have been in place longer, there are reports of spikes in domestic violence. It happened in China; it is happening in Brazil, Spain, Greece, Germany and Italy. We would be fooling ourselves to think it won’t happen here – the rape capital of the world. The public health response to the COVID 19 pandemic may bring terrible unintended consequences for vulnerable women the world over. 

What can we do to mitigate an outbreak of gender-based violence here and help women in need?

Why violence might increase

Gender-based violence, sexual assault and rape are rarely about sex. They are about power. Rape is the ultimate assertion of power by a man over a woman. Right now, however legitimate and public-spirited the reason for it, we are all disempowered. We cannot move about freely; we cannot pursue our normal interests and activities. It is frustrating to be denied one’s bike ride or cinema outing. But if staying home also means one can’t engage in economic activity or meet with one’s peers, the frustration can boil over into rage. Economic disempowerment leads to lower self-worth. Self-identity comes through work for many people. Many men also see themselves as providers. Told to stay at home, car guards, security guards, informal traders, waiters, office cleaners, and many others have been stripped of their income, their role as breadwinner, their identity and their self-esteem. 

The alcohol ban – a double-edged sword?

Furthermore, no alcohol is available. The president’s intention was well-meaning. Alcohol fuels gender-based violence; we know this. Asking South Africans to stay sober was an attempt to mitigate the harm that might be inflicted on women by a three-week drinking binge. However, there is a risk the ban could backfire…in two ways. 

Firstly, not only are men feeling frustrated and disempowered, they can’t even have a drink to take the edge off the pain. Secondly, whenever something is forbidden, human beings will find a way round the rules. Prohibition in the US proved that. A more sensible approach might have been to restrict trading hours for alcohol. But with no liquor available legally at all, it’s hard to believe an illegal trade won’t thrive. 

In the second scenario, the intention behind the alcohol ban will be neutralised. In the first scenario, it becomes even more likely that an embittered man will take out his anger on his female partner.

How to seek help

The challenge in South Africa, and undoubtedly in places like Brazil that are also home to high-density, cheek-by-jowl living conditions, is…how does a woman seek help when she is trapped inside? Countries like Germany and Greece are seeing increases in call volumes to helplines, but in Italy, where city flats are small and privacy is minimal, calls are down. Instead, text messages and emails are up. Domestic violence support groups are concerned that there is an even greater number of violent incidents that are simply not being reported because women can’t get out or get to a phone.

Look after each other

This is where we as neighbours and friends have to be prepared to help. We have to assume a woman caught in the throes of a dangerous situation won’t be able to reach a place of safety or even make a call. If you hear cries of distress coming from a nearby dwelling, don’t attempt to intervene. But don’t look the other way. Call the police and let them deal with it. They will contact social services and a social worker will be assigned to the case, removing the woman and any children to a place of safety. If the male partner is particularly belligerent, he may be arrested, in which case he will spend the duration of the lockdown period in a cell.

Can a woman go out to seek help?

Yes. If a woman is able to leave the house, i.e. she is not physically restrained by her partner, she can walk to the nearest police station – or preferably ask a neighbour for a lift. If she is hurt, she may wish to go to the clinic or hospital for medical attention. Both of these journeys are considered essential. If a police patrol spots such a woman on the road, and she explains her purpose, we hope the officers will assist her and drive her to the station or hospital.

What about protection orders?

The government gazette that details the conditions of the lockdown allows for the continuance of “services related to the essential functioning of courts, judicial officers, the Master of the High Court, Sheriffs and legal practitioners required for those services”. In other words, urgent civil matters can be dealt with, including service of protection of domestic violence orders and urgent court processes related to family law matters. We are being asked to stay inside to protect our health. We are not expected to put it in jeopardy by other means.

It’s up to all of us

If you know someone who is vulnerable, send them a text message daily to check on them. Use neutral language. Make it easy for them to reply in a way that looks benign if their partner checks their phone. Share this information on local WhatsApp groups. Set up a “safe word” that anyone can use if in need of help.  If women at risk know what to do before it happens, they are more likely to get the help they need, if things go from bad to worse. 

Contact Family Lawyers Cape Town for help

As family lawyers, our job is to protect the vulnerable members of a family. Both women and children can be at risk from abusive partners. If you are frightened to remain in the home during lockdown, or if you know that a friend or family member is in danger or is already experiencing violence in the home, contact Simon at Cape Town Divorce Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email  sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

Important contact numbers:

GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone
Persons with disabilities, SMS ‘help’ to 31531
Women Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150
Childline: 0800 055 555
SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111 / SMS Crime Line: 32211
GBVF-related service complaints (SAPS): 0800 333 177/
complaintsnodalpoint@saps.gov.za
National AIDS Helpline: 0800 012 322
National Human Trafficking Helpline: 0800 222 777
Suicide Helpline: 0800 567 567
Coronavirus Hotline: 0800 029 999

Further reading:

This article also appears on divorceattorneycapetown.co.za

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Sex, porn and toxic masculinity: the struggle to bring up better boys

Two new books and a film suggest young men need compassion and support to tackle their adolescent alienation

We’ve written previously about toxic masculinity, #metoo, and gender-based violence and discrimination. This article from the Guardian, by Vanessa Thorpe, 2020-03-14, reviews several new attempts to redefine modern masculinity. The views expressed are not necessarily those of SD Law.

Sex, Porn, and Toxic Masculinity. Cape Town Lawyers

*************************************************************************************************

Dominance. Aggression. Rugged good looks. Sexual prowess. Stoicism. Athleticism. These are attributes of “the ideal guy” according to the young American men who spoke to author Peggy Orenstein for her new book, Boys & Sex.

In contrast surveys reveal that teenage girls are now more comfortable about rejecting stereotypical roles, thanks in part to simple slogans such as “Girl Power” and “Yes She Can”, coupled with the liberating message of the popular Frozen animation franchise. Music, sport and young adult literature have all been happily singing from this feminist hymn sheet for some time.

How about the boys then? Now the daunting task of exposing and exploding some of the equally damaging conventional pressures on male children and teenagers has received a boost with the publication of two striking new studies and the arrival in cinemas of Disney-Pixar’s recent release, Onward.

All attempt to show that boys need urgent help to express their feelings and deal with what society expects of them. And all three have met with a negative reception in some quarters.

The two books, Orenstein’s Boys & Sex, available here in paperback on Friday, and Cara Natterson’s Decoding Boys, out last month, argue that unless parents move swiftly to tackle their sons’ adolescent confusion and alienation, their daughters will soon leave them far behind when it comes to coping with emotions. Sex education for boys, they warn, has been left to the pornographers and football coaches, while the effects of changing male hormones are commonly misunderstood.

The aims of these twin examinations of modern boyhood sound pretty laudable, but they have already prompted accusations of bias and a suspicion that they’re designed to berate men, rather than help them.

Writing angrily in the conservative online magazine The Federalist, Glenn T Stanton alleges that Orenstein and Natterson’s books have only been welcomed by the liberal press, as represented by The Atlantic magazine, because they appear to support the idea that “toxic masculinity” is running rampant. By concentrating on examples of poor, insensitive male behaviour, Stanton believes the findings of the authors are just fuelling calls for current ideas of manhood to be ripped up and chucked away. Defining any social group, including young men, by its extremes is wrong, he argues.

Another male critic, who wrote in from Chicago in response to an article by Orenstein in The Atlantic, suggested that symptoms of “toxic masculinity” tend to be shrugged off by men as they grow up. He also felt that Orenstein’s choice to study young white “jocks”, or college sportsmen, had skewed her results: “Had she spoken with members of the debate team, for instance, or the drama club, or the school band, she might have opened a window to a very different landscape.”

Orenstein’s book, which has the full title Boys & Sex, Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity, is a follow-up to her 2016 hit, Girls & Sex, and its frank attitude to discussing sex means it is likely to appeal well beyond academic circles. Before writing, she took two years out to talk to boys across America, mostly college-bound and between the ages of 16 and 21. What she found was that when these intelligent young men were asked to describe “the ideal guy”, they frequently “appeared to be harking back to 1955”.

It made Orenstein wonder if parents have been looking the other way for too long: “Feminism may have provided girls with a powerful alternative to conventional femininity, and a language with which to express the myriad problems-that-have-no-name, but there have been no credible equivalents for boys. Quite the contrary: the definition of masculinity seems to be in some respects contracting.”

Peggy Orenstein + Boys & Sex

In Natterson’s book, which has the subtitle, New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons, a series of useful bits of advice have been crafted from the author’s long practical experience as a paediatrician. The New York Times has judged it a good guide for all parents of boys and praised its “zippy, big-hearted” tone as it explains that puberty starts much earlier in boys than we used to think. It also argues that teenage boys should not be allowed to retreat into monosyllabic and fleeting family interactions. According to Natterson they need more emotional and physical reassurance than we ever realised.

Certainly this is one of the main messages to take away from Pixar’s latest family hit, Onward. It tells of two elf brothers in their teens, voiced by British star Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, who live in a magical version of suburbia and who are struggling with the death of their father.

Director Dan Scanlon’s film topped the American box office chart on its opening weekend, raking in £30.5m, and it has won praise for its honest handling of male emotional blockages. “The fractious bond between the brothers and their aching anger at the loss of a parent are evoked with exquisite sorrow and clarity,” wrote the Observer’s Wendy Ide.

But several Middle Eastern countries have since balked at Onward’s liberal sensibilities, and more specifically at its casual acceptance of homosexuality. It cannot now be shown in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar or Saudi Arabia, according to showbusiness journals. The offending character is Police Officer Specter, voiced by actor Lena Waithe, who has spoken of her delight at playing Pixar’s first openly gay role.

These critical reactions might indicate that modern efforts to re-define gender conventions are doomed, if not to failure then to infinite levels of complexity. And limiting the discussion to biological sex is not much simpler.

A teacher at a boys’ school in Baltimore joined the American debate last month to point out that when teenage boys are assumed to be emotionally insensitive, it can sound to them as if they are being deemed immature, or even stupid.

In fact, he argued, most boys are quite capable of complex thought at all ages, just like girls: “Boys understand themselves – good, bad and ugly – a little more than we give them credit for, and that knowledge concerns them. It should not only concern us – the adults around them – it should impel an immediate change in our actions and attitudes.”

Orenstein pushed back at criticisms of her approach with a clear defence. Many boys may well mature out of bad behaviours, but some do not, she suggests, and, whatever happens to them in the future, what of those they harm? Among her chief findings were that boys fret about how sensitive to seem on a first date. They also complain that asking permission to initiate physical intimacy is perceived as being soppy, or as they might say, “lame”. Meanwhile pornography, homophobia, misogyny and racism all pose real problems on American college campuses, Orenstein contends.

The book has been broadly welcomed, by men as well as women, however. Last month the website The Good Men Project, which sets out to examine “what it means to be a good man in today’s society”, ran a piece which heralded Orenstein’s “eye-opening and compassionate overview of some of the problems boys face in American society”. Schoolteachers as well as parents must start talking to boys about sex, according to its author, New York state teacher Jeff Frank, because of the wide availability of porn: “At the very least, we have to help boys see that sex is not a competitive act.”

Also important, thought Frank, is helping boys to build the emotional strength to be alone sometimes. “This is not about telling boys who they must be, but creating the conditions that allow them to act on their conscience and grow into the men they hope to become.”

Have you been affected by gender-based discrimination or violence?

If you have suffered sexual harassment, abuse, gender-based violence, or rape, and would like to have a confidential discussion about your options, contact Simon at Cape Town Lawyers +27 (0) 86 099 5146 and we’ll call you back. Your issue will be dealt with sensitively and in complete confidence.

Further reading:

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