South Africa’s 350-year history of slavery, imperialism, colonialism, and apartheid has entrenched social inequality, and specifically racial and gender inequalities. The prevalence of rape in the country, as a particular type of sexual and gender-based violence, is one of the highest in the world. A rape reportedly occurs every 35 seconds. This extraordinarily high level of sexual violence stems in part from this history of oppression, which has produced social and gender relations of a militarized society, and has nurtured violent masculinities. Trafficking of women and children is also on the increase in Southern Africa, and traditional law and customary practices often take precedence over formal law to oppress women’s rights, such as guardianship over children and the right to own property. Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) and gender non-conforming people continue to face severe discrimination, hate, and violence in South Africa, despite the protection of their rights as enshrined in South Africa’s constitution. There has been a pandemic of ‘corrective rape’ violations against lesbian women, and violence against transgender individuals. Men in South Africa also suffer the negative impacts of patriarchy and the associated trauma of gender injustice and imbalance. Although most violence against women is perpetrated by men, the majority of male violence is committed against other men. Mainstream masculinities across the world, including in South Africa, promote physical and emotional toughness in men, which can make it extremely difficult for men to live fulfilled, happy lives. They can also cause men to experience severe internal and external conflicts. The imperative is therefore to transform underlying gender injustice and unequal power dynamics so as to establish healthy, harmonious relations between the sexes.
The time is ripe for Gender Reconciliation. Virtually every society on earth is afflicted by gender injustice, and the entire human family lives under a kind of systemic “gender apartheid” that oppresses both women and men.
In every segment of society, irrespective of race, class, religion, or sexual orientation, women and men grapple daily with the profound impacts of cultural conditioning around gender and sexuality. The profound and debilitating impacts of (cultural) conditioning; homophobia, patriarchal oppression, the tyranny of physical beauty over inner essence, sexual abuse, violation of right relationship- the symptoms are legion. Gender Reconciliation is needed everywhere, yet exists almost nowhere today.
Gender Reconcilation programs in South Africa
We create a safe space for women and men separately and jointly. And we start a process that frequently leads to breakthroughs in mutual understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation.
A specific Gender Reconciliation forum, takes three days. Through careful facilitation, Gender Equity and Reconciliation programmes provide a rare setting to jointly confront the historical and cross-cultural origins of gender oppression and exploitation, and to reach mutual healing and understanding.
“The premise of the gender reconciliation work, is that it builds on the gender reconciliation process, initiated in South Africa, after apartheid. So the gender reconciliation work, applies the same principals of truth telling and reconciliation, to the gender divide within humanity”
Implementation of legislation against gender-based violence and ensuring women’s peace and security in South Africa
Gender Reconciliation programs also help to implement South Africa’s domestic legislation against gender-based violence, such as Section 9 of the country’s Constitution, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation; the Domestic Violence Act No. 116 of 1998; the Criminal Law (sexual offences and related matters) Amendment Act 2007 (Act No. 32 of 2007); the 365 Day National Action Plan for Ending Violence Against Women and Children, adopted in March 2007; and the Protection from Sexual Harassment Act 17 of 2011.
Participants and Locations
Gender Reconciliation programs are introduced at local communities, universities, prisons, social justice groups, therapeutic networks, and Members of Parliament (MPs). The programmes are facilitated by facilitators from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and faiths.
Victory for Equality’s work currently focuses on field- and workshop locations in Johannesburg, the Western Cape and Cape Town.