International Men’s day used to highlight gender abuse in Alex

Participants playing and enjoying soccer at the event.

Leading men’s and anti-abuse organisations, Grassroots soccer and SAPS’s Men for Change, and Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training came together to celebrate International Men’s Day on Saturday at Altrek Sports complex in Alexandra township.

Alexandra, Gauteng, South Africa

Leading men’s and anti-abuse organisations, Grassroots soccer and SAPS’s Men for Change, and Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (ADAPT) came together to celebrate International Men’s Day on Saturday at Altrek Sports complex in Alexandra township. They lamented the scourge of gender-based violence ahead of the 16 days of activism against the abuse of women and children on the 25th of November to 10 December 2017. This eventful day was packed with various activities including a soccer tournament, testing and health screening stations and dialogues.

“We know men are leading the statistics as perpetrators of gender-based violence. It’s good to have them under one roof to talk about this and soccer being a beautiful game and a favourite sport among men, we could not have opted any other fun activity to drive the message home,” said Thapelo Rahlogo, Assistant Coordinator for ADAPT’s Men’s Forum.

Men spoke about their fears and frustrations in relationships and how often this leads to them being abusers and labeled monsters. They say a common example would be when suddenly you become incapacitated both physically and financially and your partner starts to change. This severely affects a relationship and anything regrettable can happen.

“That’s why organisations such as our ours exists. We exist to provide counselling and support to address various forms of abuse. We encourage men to speak up, join forums and attend dialogues where they will meet other men in similar situations. They say tigers don’t cry but men are human beings with emotions. They must not die inside,” said Tebogo Mabotsa from Grassroots soccer. He added men tested for HIV, STIs, diabetes and prostate cancer. “We brought these services here for their convenience as sometimes they find clinics quite unfriendly for them.”

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Although the definition of rape is still tricky, police took the effort to explain it to men. One of the men who attended this event, Tshepo Moiloa said he felt empowered. “I didn’t know that you can rape your girlfriend or your wife. This was quite an eye opener. Now I know when she says No she means No. I learnt that these days things have changed. No longer like in the olden days when men used to treat women as objects.”

Coming to how the war against rape and other related sexual violence can be won, police couldn’t tell whether they are winning or losing it. According to Constable Sydney Mhlongo of the Alexandra police, domestic crimes especially in townships such as Alex where often the two people involved are in a relationship, are covered up and some victims may later withdraw charges. “I would say the statistics are quite moderate. Is hard to tell whether they are going up or down,” he said. “The media hype around this is heightened by events such as this. Whereas throughout the year and daily there is quite a lot happening around gender-based violence. I’d like media to report consistently. Even when there are positive outcomes where police are making breakthroughs, people want to hear that.”

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