SGBV. Sexual gender based violence. Something that’s very much on the global agenda at the moment following a recent summit in London which brought together hundreds of government officials, activists, journalists, and experts from all over the world to discuss a way forward to end SGBV.
I’m very glad that SGBV is gaining global attention. Because where I’m working in North Kivu, DRC, SGBV isn’t a distant horror. It’s a reality that thousands of women and girls face on a regular basis, both as a weapon of war as well as within their homes, from their husbands, relatives, neighbours. UN officials estimate there are 25,000 cases of SGBV against women and children each year in North Kivu alone.
And this is why part of our country strategy for DRC focuses on tackling SGBV. Because it can’t be ignored any longer.
So these past couple of weeks our partner organisations have been trained on SGBV and masculinity by one of our technical advisors. I wasn’t able to get along to any of the trainings, but last week, our advisor was able to take some time from his busy schedule to present some findings from research he had recently conducted on SGBV in Eastern DRC. Research was based primarily on perceptions of masculinity, the man’s role in DRC and the various ways this is linked to SGBV.
It was interesting to hear about his findings, if not rather upsetting. But one thing has stood out to me in particular: the overwhelming belief that women deserve to be raped.
And I know this is not a perception that is unique to DRC.
So much has been said about how women can prevent rape. We were all taught: don’t walk home alone late at night; don’t wear provocative clothing; don’t leave drinks unattended; heck, don’t get drunk at all; lock your door at night etc etc etc. And I agree, as women we should know these things. We should be taught about how to protect ourselves and about the dangers around us.
But what about men? What are men being taught about rape? How about rather than further limiting women’s freedom but saying what we should/shouldn’t do, men are taught something like:
Don’t rape women. Don’t assault women. Don’t abuse women. If a woman us alone in a dark place, don’t rape her. If she’s walking to work early in the morning, don’t rape her. If she’s wearing a short skirt, don’t rape her. Don’t rape her if she’s asleep in your bed. Don’t rape her if she changes her mind while in the middle of a particular activity. If she’s repeatedly refused a certain activity, don’t rape her. Don’t rape her if you’re not getting enough at home. If you’ve a need to prove your masculinity, don’t rape her. If she’s drunk, don’t rape her. If you’re drunk, don’t rape her. If your friend thinks it’s ok to rape someone, tell him it’s not. If your friend tells you he has raped someone, report him to the police.
Why isn’t this being taught to men? This is how we should be preventing rape.
Let me finish by sharing this poster which my friend recently shared on facebook and struck a real chord with me in light of what’s been going through my mind this week: