By Bernedette Muthien
paper will critically interrogate constructions of security generically,
and human security specifically, in relation to women and notions of
women’s security. The constructs national security and human security
will be critiqued, whose interests these serve, and how these constructs
are specifically gendered (and class-based) and neglect issues relevant
to women specifically, and other marginalized members of the international
Galtung's 1996 triangular model of violence, with its antitheses peace,
will be examined, in order to explicate violence generically, which
will lead to an examination of gender-based violence more specifically,
premised on a deconstruction of patriarchal ideology, and drawing on
the feminist anthropology of Marija Gimbutas and Riane Eisler et al.
final section seeks to rethink activisms, employing the work of Mahatma
Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Ang San Suu Kyi.
security concerns itself with armies, guns and war, and excludes people's
basic needs. This paper argues that the imperatives for peace are human
security and justice.
IS SECURITY GENDERED?
workshops in Cape Town, South Africa, grassroots women identified their
needs for spouses or partners to be faithful and monogamous. Given the
high rate of generic societal violence, they also requested more mortuary
vans and ambulances. These women specifically called for an end to violence,
an end to the gangsterism that plagues their communities, and critically,
given the pandemic of gender-based violence in South Africa, an end
to violence against women and children.
recent study on violence against women in metropolitan South Africa
found that almost 60 percent of women felt `very unsafe’ while
walking in their own neighbourhoods at night, with only five percent
of women feeling `very safe’ in their neighbourhoods at night
[Bollen et al, 1999:78,75]. The alarming statistics on violence against
women illustrates that a lack of women’s security affects the
entire Southern African region. Goldblatt and Meintjes [1998:8] discuss
the present effects on women of apartheid violence against communities,
the condition of women in the aftermath:
The entrenchment of violence creates new daily insecurities for women
- constant and overwhelming fear, exposure to abuse and obscenities,
and threats of rape, kidnapping or death for themselves, their children
or other relatives.
and Peace Studies have been dominated by men, and men's interests, particularly
their emphasis on guns and war. As with most fields of study, women's
interests and needs have been largely neglected and ignored.
2. CONTESTING SECURITY
Buzan  recognises security as an underdeveloped and contested
concept. Buzan draws critical conceptual distinctions between defence
and security, individual and national security, national and international
security, violent means and peaceful ends. He applies his concept across
a range of military, political, economic and social sectors. According
to Buzan [1983:20] the national security problem is a systemic security
problem in which individuals, states and the system all play a part.
Thus Buzan [1983:187] proposes the holistic notion of systemic security
so that the:
national security problem defines itself as much in economic, political
and social terms as in military ones.
2.1. NATIONAL SECURITY
has tended to be defined in terms of the nation state. Thus the notion
of national security, emanating predominantly from the field of Strategic
Studies, is dominated by the neo-realist mode of thought , with its
focus on power and institutions of power, especially the military. Neo-realist
thought and notions of the state derive from Thomas Hobbes . His
infamous postulate that life in a state of nature is `nasty, brutish
and short’, epitomises the neo-realist hypothesis of an international
state system of anarchy. Classical American neo-realist theorists, especially
Carr , Morgenthau  and Waltz [1954, 1979] built on the Hobbesian
notion of an anarchic state system. Reacting to this position, Maxi
Schoeman [1998:7,22-3], who has extensively researched women’s
security in Southern Africa, criticises Waltz in particular for ‘de-historicising’
the international state system and assuming its:
inevitability, rather than admitting that it is a human construct and
a product of a specific era and context.
British academic, Hedley Bull , tried to theorise a form of anarchy
characterised by at least some interdependence and co-operation in his
writings on an `international society' of states. Bulls' key contention
centres on his notion of ‘society’ versus that of the traditional,
more anarchic system, thus arguably placing his thinking between neo-liberal
and neo-realist thought. Issues about what constitutes cooperation,
and whose interests it serves, can be derived from rudimentary studies
of the world system's theory of Wallerstein . More recent critical
theory is fundamentally concerned with historicising the status quo,
and seeking structural transformation.
traditional notion of national security, in terms of armies, guns and
war, emphasises the state as both the primary actor and level of analysis.
Narrow state-centrism excludes other important actors and levels of
analyses, including individuals and groups (ethnicities and religious
groupings, political and ideological groups, and non-state actors like
corporate mercenaries), as well as other institutions (e.g. transnational
corporations [TNCs] and multi-national corporations [MNCs], international
financial institutions [IFIs] such as the World Bank, as well as the
global arms trade - from manufacturers to marketers to purchasers).
The modern move away from inter-state war to intra-state conflict, in
particular, stresses the importance of group and institutional analyses,
eg the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) involves regional,
linguistic, economic group, state and international dimensions. It involves
various political and military groups, as well as especially diamond
and oil TNCs, as well as other African states, notably Namibia, Zimbabwe,
Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, as well as non-African states such as the United
States, Belgium and France. It includes non-state actors such as mercenaries,
arms and other suppliers, locally and internationally.
skewed focus on the state usually excludes the worst affected, women
and children, especially in rural areas where women and children are
the ones who have to seek fresh water and wood for fuel, which exposes
them to landmines. Hence the irony of men who plant landmines to deter
other men, but which largely kill and maim women and children trying
to survive during and after conflicts.
traditional definition of security also emphasises protection from harm
for citizens of a country within national boundaries. National boundaries
in Africa are colonial legacies, often arbitrary, and variously disputed,
eg the Kasikili/Sedudu Island conflict between Namibia and Botswana.
Sovereignty of borders is often bestowed, with little or no consultation,
and with little regard by the international community to the impacts
on the inhabitants within the borders. Eritrea, for example, is deemed
a sovereign state after its secession from Ethiopia, while Somaliland,
where women contributed significantly to brokering peace, is not officially
idea of protection from harm for citizens is narrowly defined, and effectively
means protection from foreign attack, but does not preclude offensive
measures deemed in the interests of citizens and state. For example,
South Africa and Botswana's military intervention in Lesotho during
1998, as well as Namibia's incursions into Angola against UNITA. So
too, this traditional definition of harm does not include other aspects
of safety, security or wellbeing, including the environment, basic needs
(for example food and housing), identity and dignity. A more holistic
definition of protection from harm would mean more than the traditional
protection from war and invasion by foreign armies. It would mean, to
name a few examples, protection from hunger, protection from poverty,
protection from sexual assault for women, children and men.
traditional national security definition of protection from harm refers
to a state-level notion of harm, and does not protect citizens from
homelessness, illiteracy and unemployment. Nor does it protect citizens'
fundamental human rights, as enshrined in the South African Constitution,
to be free of discrimination on the grounds of race, class, gender,
spirituality or sexuality. Negative peace, or the absence of war, conforms
to traditional definitions of security in general, and traditional protection
from harm in particular. Positive peace, on the other hand, means both
negative peace, as well as the realisation of even the most basic of
social justice needs.
notions of security are based on conventional (though flawed) distinctions
between public and private spheres. Community activist, Wenny Kusuma
asserts that the state has traditionally been concerned with the male-dominated
public realm. Thus issues outside of the public realm, including domestic
violence, job discrimination, the status of women, have not been viewed
as concerns of national security.
to peace educator and activist, Betty Reardon, (Interview, January 1999)
, the three major problems with the international security system are:
(Firstly) it is dominantly masculine rather than human in conception;
(secondly) it is designed to achieve the security of the state rather
than that of persons or human groups; and (thirdly), what is most readily
evident, it addresses only one of four fundamental sources of human
wellbeing. The condition of world-wide insecurity exists because the
present state-centred security paradigm places a priority on protection
against harm from others over all other sources of human wellbeing.
The militarised international security system is maintained at the expense
of the abuse of the natural environment. It sets limits on meeting the
economic and social needs of the world's poor. It disregards and violates
fundamental, universal human rights, and provides inadequate protection
against the harms of ill health, poor infrastructures, and accident
and disaster provision, as inordinate resources, research, human talent
and human effort are squandered on the armed defence of 'national security'.
The system is inadequate, indeed, dangerous because it is imbalanced.
It is derived by exclusively masculine, outwardly directed standards
applied by the predominantly male `national security' establishments
who have not been socialised to focus on human needs.
2.2. HUMAN SECURITY
second approach that contests the national security model is proposed
by Johan Galtung, who matured from radical analyses of (under)development
since the 1960s to groundbreaking peace studies during the 1990s. Based
on the work of other researchers [especially the work of Robert Johansen
of the Peace Studies Programme at Notre Dame (1975 – 1996)] over
two decades, Galtung  took the debate into new realms of understanding
the requirements for peace when he proposed what has come to be called
the human security model. This model, Reardon asserts, focuses on environmental
security, basic needs, issues of dignity and identity, and finally,
protection from harm.
human security paradigm is designed to provide a more holistic comprehensive
definition of security and protection from all forms of harm. These
include indirect or structural, cultural, and direct or personal, and
their respective antitheses, as postulated in Galtung's  model.
Structural violence (with its antithesis structural peace) refers to,
for example, discrimination based on class, race or gender, violence
embedded in the very structure of society. Personal or direct violence
implies a direct verbal or physical attack of one person on another.
Cultural violence `serves to legitimise direct and structural violence'
violence against women is direct and personal (e.g. a man assaults a
woman) it also embodies structural sexism and gynecide, as well as cultural
legitimisation which seeks its continuous replication. A subtle example
of structural violence in this instance would be victim blaming which
is institutionalised in law and legal practice. More pronounced forms
include common practices which are sometimes codified in law, such as
female genital mutilation, forced child brides, and femicide/infanticide.
In relation to cultural violence, this is evident for example when survivors
internalise their personal and systemic brutalisation. This relates
to the sexist attitudes that keep women's opportunities limited.
antithesis of violence, of course, is peace , and the three forms of
violence outlined above would also have corresponding forms of peace.
If one eliminates physical assault (including physical forms of gender-based
violence) one will experience personal/direct peace. If one eliminates
structural violence (including sexism, racism and homophobia) and transform
institutions appropriately, one will experience structural peace. And
if one eradicates cultural violence (including ways of thinking and
being) one will experience cultural peace.
it appears that none of these forms of violence, and their respective
antitheses, are entirely isolated from the other. For example, one cannot
eliminate gender-based violence without transforming institutions, as
well as ways of thinking and being. And if one changes cultures of violence
into cultures of balance and harmony in line with a partnership model,
one will necessarily eliminate gender-based violence since there will
no longer be polar opposites, distrust and devaluation of Others.
human security paradigm attempts to address critical questions about
who is secure, and who not, and whose interests are served. Reactively,
human security would include the absence of physical violence, or negative
peace. But proactively, human security involves establishing mechanisms
(policies and structures) that will ensure that individuals and communities
enjoy personal, structural and cultural security, in other words positive
question that could be asked is: how is security constructed, and how
does it exclude women and other marginalized groups (e.g. indigenous
(Interview, January 1999) speaks of four sources of human security:
the environment, basic needs (for example food and housing), identity
and dignity, and finally, protection from harm. She asserts that human
security of groups and individuals is essentially the expectation of
Everything that is done in the name of security is ostensibly to fulfil
that expectation. Human security derives primarily from the expectation
that four fundamental conditions of security will be met: one, that
the environment in which we live can sustain human life; two, that our
basic physical survival needs for food, clothing and shelter will be
met; three, that our fundamental human dignity and personal and cultural
identities will be respected; and four, that we will be protected from
avoidable harm. If a society can meet these conditions for most of its
population it is generally a secure society; and, as it intentionally
seeks to meet them for all the population, it moves toward being a just
society. By these standards there are no truly secure societies in the
world and probably none that are fully committed to achieving authentic
a departure from traditional practice, the new South African National
Defence Force (SANDF), with assistance from civil society, drafted its
security legislation in a radically new way. They redefined security
in terms of development, and acknowledged the absence of an external
aggressor, and the very real threat of poverty to internal stability.
As chairperson of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC)
, Kader Asmal [1996:33], put it:
non-military sources of instability in the economic, social, humanitarian
and ecological fields have become threats to peace and security.
model is by far the most comprehensive in terms of inclusivity, and
he painstakingly demonstrates his respect for and desire to include
women in his analysis. However, it is precisely the `phallogocentrism'
of generic knowledge and thought which precludes complete transcendence
of his own masculine and other subjectivities. The term phallogocentrism
stems from the Greek words phallos (phallus) and logos (word) or logy
(discourse), and thus implies that traditional (male-stream) knowledge
and logic, constructed by men for men, is fundamentally imbued with
male bias, and will necessarily ignore the inclusion of women, or women's
perspectives. It follows that universal objectivity, constructed by
male theoreticians throughout history, is neither universal nor objective,
but gendered, and specifically male, and hence serves particular (male)
interests. Think, for example, of the founding fathers of modern democracy
and social science: Greek philosophers (male) from Plato to Aristotle,
and European scholars (male) from Locke to Rousseau. An example closer
to home is that of African griots (male), with Senegalese griots’
strategic extrusion of Senegal’s part in African slavery from
their oral history. Confucious, Gautama, Jesus and Muhammed were all
3. ENGENDERING SECURITY
women in Southern Africa define security as:
more than individual, and including families and communities; more than
physical, and including economics and health; depending on gender justice;
including the quotidian or everyday (from food to sexual assault).
South Africa a woman is raped every 26 seconds, and a woman is murdered
by her male partner every 4 days [Medical Research Council]. This can
be compared with developed countries like Sweden, Belgium, Germany and
the USA, where at least 30% of women are battered by their male partners.
3.1. THE UNCIVIL WAR AGAINST WOMEN : GENDER AS SOCIETY'S BATTLE
countries are not officially at war with one another, can it justifiably
be called peace when women and children are beaten and raped every few
seconds in every country in the world?
answer this question, it is necessary to examine the origins of violence.
As a starting point, the following working definition of ‘violence’
is offered: the harmful action or actions of one person or group against
another person or group. Looking at this definition one can see that
it speaks of one person or group, versus or against another person or
group. Us and Them. Us versus Them. Polar opposites. Binary oppositions.
construction of binary oppositions may stem from a particular identity
formation, the ways in which people are taught to view themselves and
the world. The conventional modern formation of identity is premised
on an understanding of “I am because I am not”. So one can
find statements such as, "I am female because I am not male";
"I am black because I am not white"; "I am African because
I am not European or North American". This construction of Self
fundamentally needs an Other against which to measure itself and its
value. In an intrinsically competitive environment, if the Self is to
succeed and be valued, it needs to transcend or overpower the Other,
and if the Self is to be valued and triumph, the Other of necessity
needs to be devalued. This process can be termed ‘Othering’.
identity construction premised on polarity or ‘Othering’
fosters conflict over access to and control of resources. In this way
power also becomes a resource, as in 'power to' and 'power over'. This
belief system, based on "I am because I have and you don't",
can be juxtaposed with one in which there is a more equitable distribution
of resources, i.e. a more 'diffuse' form of power. Power as a relation
between people became a contest over resources because it is premised
on a flawed belief system centred on Othering and the devaluation of
Othering and oppressions
origins of Othering and oppressions centres on the explication of two
fundamental belief systems. Riane Eisler , based on the work of
anthropologist Marija Gimbutas, posits two models, the partnership model
and the dominator model. When Eisler refers to the dominator model,
she means ‘either patriarchy or matriarchy - the ranking of one
half of humanity over the other’. She describes the partnership
model, on the other hand, as one in which social relations are primarily
based on the principle of linking rather than ranking.
In this model - beginning with the most fundamental difference in our
species, between male and female - diversity is not equated with either
inferiority or superiority. [1995:xvii]
continues to argue that the dominator model is based on domination and
force and the power to take life (death, killing), rather than the power
to give life (birth) as in the partnership model, where actualisation
and maximisation of individuals' potentials are primordial.
and modern thinking and beliefs are premised on the dominator model.
Societies based on this paradigm are intrinsically unequal, hierarchical
and oppressive. A historical precedent is found in the shift in ancient
Aztec society from partnership to dominator models. More recently, modern
European imperialism, which constructed the present state system in
Africa, provides further examples.
the discourse of colonisation similarly operates on a system of binary
oppositions, such as female-male, black-white, infidel-believer or barbarity-civilisation.
This particular way of constructing personal and group identity fosters
conflict rather than cooperation, and by its very nature leads to violence.
Think, for example, of the Hutu and Tutsi in the Great Lakes .
while one bears in mind that colonisation of Africa engendered much
violence, one must also not forget that some African forebears traded
in other Africans, as the histories of slavery evince. Some Africans,
who operated on the construct of “I am because I am not”,
also oppressed and waged wars against their kinsfolk whom they felt
threatened by and whose property they wished to confiscate, practices
which were exploited and exacerbated by colonisation, and which continue
to this day.
Partnership and ‘matriarchy’
dominator model can be juxtaposed with the partnership model, ancient
and indigenous ways of thinking that preceded colonisation, found in
societies such as that of the Khoisan of Southern Africa, the Toltecs
of Latin America, and almost the entire East where Buddhism was and
is still widely practiced .
Baring and Jules Cashford [1991:157], in their narration of the migrations
and invasions into Europe by Aryans and Semites during the Bronze and
Iron Ages, are effectively describing the shift from a partnership to
a dominator model:
Both invading peoples introduced the idea of an opposition between the
powers of light and darkness, imposing this polarity on the older view
in which the whole contained both light and darkness in an ever-changing
partnership model is premised on harmony and balance, on mutual respect
for, and interdependence of, each other and the environment, on cooperation
rather than conflict. It is personified in the yin/ yang symbol, which
epitomises a harmonious integration of all elements into one being,
all dancing fluidly together to create a dynamic organism. It perhaps
embodies a different tenet like, "I am because I care; I am because
I belong". This sense of caring community in ancient societies
is something Carol Lee Flinders has also touched on in her forthcoming
book, Reclaiming a Life of Value. In the partnership model peace and
respect are fundamental organising principles, where power is cooperatively
this model matriarchy is not necessarily the opposite of patriarchy.
Ancient matriarchal societies were not hierarchical, oppressive and
violent (towards men). Instead, they have been shown to be cooperative
and peaceful, societies in which men and women were equal and equitably
shared resources , even as females were key leaders, spiritually and
otherwise, of their societies . Hence the term ‘matriarchy’
to describe ancient cooperative societies as the antithesis of patriarchy
is erroneous, and various scholars have posited alternative terms, agreeing
in essence that prepatriarchal societies were both matrilineal and matrilocal
(with patriarchal societies being patrilineal and patrilocal) .
The origins of gender oppression
societies were not always patriarchal or necessarily gendered. African
history records the matriarchal rule of, for example, Amanitare and
other ancient Nubian queens, as well as the rule of Ashanti in North
Ghana. Katarina Tomasevsky refers to the civilian rule of Neber in Egypt
during the Old Kingdom (c. 3100-2345 BC). She argues that indigenous
Egyptian society was strongly matriarchal:
historians argue that women may, in fact, have 'discovered' agriculture
in prehistoric times. There are even instances of matrilineal and matriarchal
societies in Malaysia, Java, the Philippines, and India. [1993:1,2].
the context of gender, the dominator model presupposes a rigid distinction
between the two genders. There are countless examples of modern colonisers
imposing and maintaining this separation to the expense of the partnership
model of thought.
Burma, for example, British colonisers noted how ‘barbaric’
the native Burmese were because their genders were not rigidly separated
and hierarchised. So too the Khoisan of Southern Africa. In both cases
the colonisers, aided by the requirements of capitalism, worked immensely
hard at inculcating gender distinctions in these societies and communities,
with horrific results. Heike Becker has shown in her studies of gender-based
violence and the San that both colonisation and capitalism (as well
as apartheid in Southern Africa) caused and exacerbated gender-based
violence in the Khoisan communities in Southern Africa, through the
introduction and fostering of rigid and controlled gender distinctions.
in Africa, the impact of colonialism, grounded in monotheistic and patriarchal
religious systems , extended beyond the imposition of rigid gender polarities
to also subvert traditional constructions of family and partnerships.
The Judeo-Christian and colonial model of heterosexual, male-dominated
families can be contrasted with indigenous African family practices
such as woman-to-woman ‘marriage’.
studies about marriages between women have always been limited, Anthonia
Uzuegbunam  documents this phenomenon amongst the Igbo in Nigeria,
and traces documents relating cases from the 1930s. She asserts that
marriages between women are common in East, Southern and West Africa,
as well as Sudan [2001:3]. She argues that these marriages are initiated
by women who are not able to bear children, who join in a (traditional)
union with a younger woman who bears the family children after insemination
by a carefully selected man. According to Uzuegbunam -
… woman–woman marriage in Igboland is portrayed as a flexible
option available to women to pursue any number of interests, political,
social, economic and personal. The guiding principles therefore are
flexibility, heterogeneity and ambiguity. [2001:11]
asserts that these relationships are more egalitarian than conventional
heterosexual ones, and that the childbearing partner enters entirely
freely into the union, and continues to explain that -
… woman–woman marriage in Igboland is not like lesbianism
where love and sexual relations are exchanged by same male sex [sic].
Rather, woman–woman marriage has stories of love, children, companionship,
commitment, sexual freedom, vulnerability and empowerment. The woman
initiator invites a male with the arrangement for procreation and for
centuries-old practice of woman-woman marriage, with its intrinsic mutuality
and egalitarianism, has been steadily eroded by the colonisation of
indigenous African societies.
are not as clear-cut as they seem. They are neither circumscribed nor
separated from each other by lines. Lines are drawn in the mind. There
are no lines in nature… [Everything emerges] from a matrix of
conditions and in turn becomes part of another matrix of conditions
from which something else emerges.
Stephen Batchelor [1997:76]
fear of penetration and/or violation by the ‘impure' (bisexual)
Other, does seem to cast some light on the reason(s) for his rejection
of her. A useful analogy can be drawn between black and white, or colonised
and coloniser. The need to increase and maintain the distance between
these opposites stems from the fear of the (strangeness/difference of
the) Other. China Galland [1998:117] recalls an ancient Indian story:
Ramakrishna explained [Kali's] darkness as the result of distance. When
we are far away from an object, it appears dark to us. "Go near
and you will find her devoid of all color," he said. "The
water of a lake appears black from a distance. Go near and take the
water in your hand, and you will see it has no color at all. Similarly,
the sky looks blue from a distance. But look at the atmosphere near
you; it has no color.
Galland's story serves to illustrate that something only looks alien
when it is not examined closely enough. Galland [1998:80] cites a wise
Tibetan: "'Our confusion lies in believing something to be separate
from ourselves'," he begins, explaining the Buddhist view that
sees mind and matter as one continuum, continually arising and falling
back into itself, like waves into water." Dynamic and fluid, inseparable
is the origin of this fear of the Other? The answer could be found in
dominant ideology itself. Ideology is advanced by (a group of) individuals
(whether they are autonomous or form classes and/or genders) and those
individuals would wish to perpetuate their own (positions of) power
and privileged access to resources. If they create a new market (or
dumping ground) for commodities through colonisation, they would need
to subjugate the colonised Other, and the ideology of fear (and hierarchical
oppositions) lends itself well to this form of exploitation. So too
with the oppression of woman.
[1998:50] recounts the words of Wisdom Moon, the Mother of all Buddhas
- known as Drolma or Mother in Tibet, Kwan Yin in Chinese, Tara (Liberator
or Saviour) in Sanskrit, Wisdom or Sophia in the Old Testament, and
the Goddess of Compassion everywhere:
Nowhere can I find what is male, nowhere can I find what is female.
These are simply forms, no more separate from one another than a wave
is from water. But since most buddhas have chosen to come [to earth]
as a man, perhaps it would be more helpful if I became enlightened in
a woman's body.
3.2. GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
understanding of violence and peace now allows a more in-depth examination
of the concept of ‘gender-based violence’. According to
the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (General
Recommendation No 12), gender-based violence is defined as:
violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or
that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict
physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, and threats of such acts,
coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women notes three
key spheres in which gender-based violence may occur or which may perpetrate
and/or condone such violence: the family, the community and the state
. December Green adds one further site of gender-based violence, i.e.
the economy. The concept of gender-based violence should accordingly
be broadened to also include the notion of economic abuse, which has
been defined in the South African Domestic Violence Act  to include
‘the unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial resources
or the unreasonable disposal of household effects in which the victim
/ survivor has an interest’ .
violence therefore occurs through the act of being gendered. Through
the kinds of identity construction where the Self cannot exist without
the Other, and where the Self cannot be valued without devaluing the
Other, women are valued as less than men. (It may be useful to note
that men too get raped, especially during times of conflict. This is
because these more vulnerable men are made into the Other, and so feminised
or turned into surrogate women. This happens in prisons throughout the
world, in gangs and in other areas of conflict.)
CEDAW definition above focuses on women as the subjects of gender-based
violence; however, it should be recognized that such violence also affects
men, not only as potential victims, but also when they act as perpetrators.
is ironic that the dominator model, and the ways in which it articulates
itself in the construction of contemporary societies, brutalises everyone,
even the dominant or oppressor. If one is taught violence, control and
domination as a way of life, one becomes brutalised by it, on all sides
of the equation. In this way even oppressors are victimised by the system
and their own violent behaviours (whether physical, institutional and/or
cultural), since they cannot perceive of a more harmonious and compassionate
existence. This is most readily evident in cases of family violence,
especially in intensely patriarchal contexts where the role of father
and provider turns on itself when the patriarch murders the entire family
he is meant to protect . So too when fathers rape daughters as an expression
of their right of ownership over female offspring. It is also commonly
known that a large proportion of perpetrators of incest are themselves
survivors of such violence. The same can be said about war, where no
party involved in the conflict is left unscathed by the violence, murder
and carnage .
murder and rape exact a toll on the psyche of both perpetrator and survivor/victim,
and everyone is (re-)brutalised in the process, even spectators through
vicarious trauma, as those working to combat gender-based violence will
attest. As Jane Bennett puts it:
Both women and men are vulnerable to the way dominant norms of gender
relation, within their contexts, are working. Within South Africa, men
are as likely to become blunt assailants of women (and often, of men),
as women are to become victims of sexual abuse, domestic battery, economic
abuse, and incest. Clearly, those who actively assault retain responsibility
for their violence - that is a matter of principle and law. But the
challenge for South Africans committed to the transformation of oppressive
social norms is to untangle both 'victim' and 'perpetrator' from their
terrible interlock of violence, no matter how shocking the 'perpetration'
or how resonant the 'victimhood/survivorship'. [2000:4]
violence, as is commonly known, is not about sex or about conflict.
It is about control and about power, in keeping with the dominator model.
Vicky Randall asserts that "if woman is associated with nature
as opposed to culture, and culture is compelled to maintain itself,
it follows that culture will devalue the nature it seeks to transcend,
and hence man will subordinate woman" [1982:23].
violence is fundamentally premised on the ideology of male control over
women’s productive and reproductive powers, of male control over
women’s skills and resources, and especially of control over our
power to produce future generations of producers. It is also about male
control over women’s sexuality, which is the key aspect of reproductive
productive powers include agricultural labour, wage labour in domestic
service and other industries, as well as the informal sector (e.g. selling
goods for small profits). Women’s reproductive powers centre on
our abilities to give birth and raise children, children who constitute
the next generation of producers. And hence this particular function
is of critical importance to patriarchy, and control of not only the
present productive capacity, but that of future generations too, is
consumers, women buy and use commodities in the home. Hence women are
also caught up in the endlessly repetitive task of using (if not producing)
and reproducing (by baking, cooking, etc.) the commodity, and are at
least equally alienated from the product. Women also support the production
process, apart from their ‘invaluable’ roles as consumers,
through their domestic work, thus freeing men for labour in the production
process and the public sphere. So too women reproduce the labour force
by bearing the next generation of workers (and consumers or surplus
critical psychological dimension of the control of women’s sexuality
is male insecurity about the origins of their children. Women become
impregnated, and without complex and expensive medical tests, a man
will never know certainly whether he is the actual father of his female
partner’s children. This is prominent in male anxiety over and
control of female sexuality. But far more fundamental in this dominator
model is the need to limit women’s mobility and choice to ensure
their consistent producing and reproducing (of future generations of
producers, reproducers and surplus accumulators).
too, with the kind of identity formation discussed earlier of Self-Other,
with women devalued as lesser beings than men, women’s sexuality
is also devalued and of less consequence than that of men.
to some writers, there are four clear indicators of gender-based violence.
In societies where these circumstances prevail, gender-based violence
is more likely to occur and/or to occur in more severe forms. The indicators
Existing patterns of using physical violence to resolve conflicts;
Male authority and control over decision-making (and excluding women
from this process);
Restrictions on women’s ability to leave the family setting.
four indicators fit in with the dominator model, from inequality (economic
and other forms); employing violence (physical, structural and cultural)
as conflict resolution methods; male control over women and others;
as well as restrictions on women's (and others') mobility and freedom.
In this sense, since violence generically, and gender-based violence
specifically, function on the three axes of Galtung's triangle of violence
/ peace (personal / direct / physical, structural / institutional, and
cultural), it is imperative that attention be paid to factors that exacerbate
and contribute to violence, from issues of development and poverty,
to HIV/AIDS. And hence even the International Monetary Fund's Structural
Adjustment Programmes or SAPs (with decreased state spending on social
security) contribute to gender-based violence, as Heidi Hudson [1998:70]
has shown in Zimbabwe, where the first two years of the introduction
of SAPs led to health spending being cut by a third and the maternal
mortality rate (a form of gender-based violence) doubled.
4. RETHINKING ACTIVISMS
ways of thinking are too often premised on polarity, the kind of thinking
and activism that engenders conflict rather than cooperation, and which
prohibits or inhibits efforts to seek true transformative solutions
for social change.
can be viewed as inherently adversarial, where two sets of 'enemies'
square off in battle, with neither side able to claim victory without
defeat of the other, in other words a perpetuation of the dominator
model, which by its very nature perpetuates violence in a continuous
cycle, as evinced by the current conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi's concept of satyagraha (truth-force ), in
which a non-violent mass campaign of non-compliance is waged, was originally
conceptualised as an alternative to the idea of 'passive resistance',
which implies passivity and victimhood over agency and action. Instead,
satyagraha is designed as not merely an alternative to violence or force,
but as superior to it . In the words of Geoffrey Ashe:
The Satyagrahi - in theory - not only consents to suffer at the wrongdoer's
hands, but conquers through suffering… Yet his [sic] victory is
not the opponent's defeat. It is the opponent's conversion…Victory
does not mean that one side triumphs at the other's expense, but that
both sides are reconciled in a new harmony, with the Wrong cancelled…
Gandhi, British-conditioned, believed in the reign of law as a moral
concept. But - he insisted - some laws can and should be broken, in
the name of a higher law with which they conflict. [1968:101]
expression of Gandhi's satyagraha is certainly in keeping with a partnership
model. Nelson Mandela, first President of a democratic South Africa
since 1994, transitioned from an adversarial position during the 1960s,
with the formation of the African National Congress' (ANC) military
wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), to a philosophical and political perspective
perfectly typical of the partnership model more latterly during his
27 years of imprisonment by the apartheid regime. Since the 1980s Mandela
consistently sought reconciliation through dialogue and negotiation
with his erstwhile oppressors, eventually leading to a government of
national unity, based on proportional representation, including the
former apartheid leader as one of two Deputy Presidents, and senior
cabinet positions for leaders of opposition parties, in the first democratic
government of 1994.
selfless desire to seek alternatives to apartheid without wreaking vengeance
on perpetrators of brutality led him to a search for common ground,
reconciliation and nation building across ethnicities. Thus both Gandhi
and Mandela embody the principles of partnership, and both have proven
to be formidable activists in the struggles for equity, justice and
peace. Both viewed human rights through the prism of the partnership
model, which allows for more creative ways of including human rights
key activist who embodies the principles of the partnership model in
her struggle for justice and peace is Aung San Suu Kyi, who quoted her
father during a speech to a mass rally during 1988: "Democracy
is the only ideology which is consistent with freedom. It is also an
ideology that promotes and strengthens peace. It is therefore the only
ideology we should aim for" [1991:200].
San Suu Kyi's methods of resistance included several hunger strikes
while unlawfully imprisoned for several years by the military dictatorship
in Burma. Her struggle for human rights is firmly located in the principles
of democracy, non-violence and collective discipline, as Philip Kreager
summarises in Aung San Suu Kyi's book:
These principles reflect the inspiration which Aung San Suu Kyi derived
from her study and reflection on Gandhi's philosophy and practice of
non-violent civil disobedience… Under such severe pressures [imprisoned,
killed or driven into hiding], and against tremendous odds, Aung San
Suu Kyi's reasoned insistence on the sole legitimacy of non-violent
means and the priority of human rights has proven the only enduring
answer: by her example, and her prevention of bloodshed, she was able
to establish a real alternative for the people, who otherwise face only
San Suu Kyi also modelled her activism on the ideas espoused by Martin
Luther King. Firmly rooted in the intrinsic egalitarianism of Buddhism,
she noted the absence of hierarchical structures in precolonial Burmese
society. She is a Nobel Peace Laureate (1991) along with other notable
activists such as South Africa's Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu and Nelson
examples of non-violent strategies illustrate that activism does not
need to be violent in order to be effective. To achieve reconciliation
between conflicting parties, one needs a redistribution of power, i.e.
one party has to voluntarily relinquish some of its power and resources.
The dominant party often needs to be forced to agree to redistributive
justice. However, that force does not need to be violent, as argued
construction of identities based on polar opposites, and creation of
Self versus Other, engenders oppression, inequality and violence. To
get away from this, to get to the root of the violence in all societies,
one needs to begin thinking of more harmonious ways of thought and living
and being. And move away from domination towards partnership .
patriarchy, and the dominator model, has been around for thousands of
years, evidence of societies modelled on the partnership model clearly
shows that patriarchal rule is not inevitable, and that other more cooperative
possibilities do exist. Historical reflections of non-patriarchal societies
and periods of rule help support a belief in, and conception of, forms
of existence and societies that transcend patriarchal rule.
should remind oneself that change is possible. Think, for example, of
Chinese foot binding, which is now extinct. The practice of facial scarring
of indigenous women in Sudan and some parts of South Africa, traditionally
used as a form of adornment like modern day cosmetics or makeup, is
now almost extinct. As are other practices from some ethnic groups in
South Africa, like the severing of a finger or part of a finger.
key to success is to move away from the adversarial nature of the
prevailing dominator system, with its inherent violence and oppression,
and to move towards partnership by embracing the timeless values
of satyagraha. In the words of Ang Suu Kyi:
a people or a nation can reach their objectives by disciplined and
peaceful means, it would be a most honourable and admirable achievement…
Those who have the greater strength should show restraint and tolerance
towards those who have less strength… Democracy is an ideology
that allows everyone to stand up according to his beliefs. They should
not be threatened or endangered… Do not because of your greater
strength be vengeful towards those who are of weaker strength. [1991:201,204]
has chosen what the world regards as foolish to shame the wise,
and what the world regards as weak, God has chosen to shame the
strong, and what the world regards as low, contemptible, mere nothing,
God has chosen…
First Lesson, I Corinthians I:27-28
integrity originates in empathy, for then we take the well-being
of others to heart and are moved to be generous and caring. Our
thoughts, words, and deeds are based on a sense of what we have
in common rather than what divides us… Ethical integrity
requires both the intelligence to understand the present situation
as the fruition of former choices, and the courage to engage with
it as the arena for the creation of what is to come. It empowers
us to embrace the ambiguity of a present that is simultaneously
tied to an irrevocable past and free for an undetermined future.
Ethical integrity is not moral certainty. A priori certainty about
right and wrong is at odds with a changing and unreliable world,
where the future lies open, waiting to be born from choices and
acts. Such certainty may be consoling and strengthening, but it
can blunt awareness of the uniqueness of each ethical moment.
When we are faced with the unprecedented and unrepeatable complexities
of this moment, the question is not 'What is the right thing to
do?‘, but 'What
is the compassionate thing to do?'
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