In-depth: Closing the gap: Gender-Based Violence in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA: 'I left her in the end because I nearly killed her'

Photo: Sonke Gender Justice
Vusi works with other men in his community to highlight the links between gender violence and HIV
JOHANNESBURG, 1 February 2007 (PlusNews) - Vusi [not his real name] had a history of abusing his female partners, before he learned he was HIV positive and began receiving counselling and education on gender issues. After an eight-year separation, he is now reconciled with his wife and works with other men in his community to highlight the links between gender violence and HIV infection.

"My previous partner was a young, outgoing beautiful woman. I was jealous, honestly and I wouldn't want her to speak with other men or to visit anywhere. When she did that, I'd just beat her. I thought I was doing [the] right thing because men's talk, myself and other friends, was that you need to beat a woman so that she can respect and understand you. We were not even aware that what we were doing was wrong.

I left her in the end because I nearly killed her. It was the festive season, and we had a braai (barbecue) with friends but she never came so I was alone. She only came back two days later, and I couldn't wait for any explanation. I took an axe and she ran to the other room, [I threw] the axe [and it] managed to hit the door of that room. This elder from my church, who was a neighbour, came and held me and said, "Don't do it, just pack her things and let her leave." I remember afterwards when she left, I saw the gap on the door [from the axe], I thought: What if it was her head? I could have split her brains out. I was scared, and it's then that I felt it's better for me to leave her.

It's not the way I was raised. My dad never hit my mum, that I know. Probably, it could be the guys I used to see - my uncles and some of the friends I grew up with - the way we used to talk to each other about women. Every guy would like respect from a woman, and the way to gain it - beat her. That was the understanding. The information was not going through to us in a correct way. If it (information) never came to me, I don't know if I'd be alive today or if I'd be in jail. Through the information I got [from] HIV and AIDS counselling and attending workshops regarding gender equality, I managed to contribute. I believe that men like me still have a lot to [offer] if only we can be given the opportunity to do so.

If a woman says no, as a man you think - especially if she's someone you've been in love with or somebody you've paid a lobola (dowry) for - you think she is sleeping with someone else and you'll force yourself on her. I didn't even think of it as rape. To me it was a right thing to do; because she’s mine, I have to sleep with her. Now I know that “no” is no and I don’t have to question it because if she doesn't feel like it, she doesn't feel like it.

I don’t blame alcohol at all; it’s the mindset. You have to take responsibility for the actions you've done. You can pass the bar, but the bottles in the fridge don’t shout at you, "Hey, come and drink me."

Men are scared actually. They [see] women currently driving beautiful cars and owning beautiful houses, and they can manage [without] men - men see that as a threat.

I think both men and women need to contribute to healthy relationships, not to undermine one another but to give each other respect and open the doors of communication. If there are children, the children should be treated equally. These days I spend more time with my family than my friends and it’s working for me. Most of my neighbours or people who’ve got family problems, they normally come to us to give them counselling and explain to them how to treat one another. [When] I get invited to give motivational talks and facilitate sessions, I tell men: 'look at yourself as somebody who’s there to support your wife whether you're employed or not. If your wife is working, say thank you [for] what she's bringing in. If she's paid more money and you’re paid less, don't be scared about it.

Before my previous partner passed away, I managed to go back to her and apologise. When I was told she'd passed away, it was heart-breaking because I used to hear so many stories that the guy she was with was abusing her. She died of an HIV-related condition."

Lead Feature

 "Free Indeed"
(03:07 min)

Links & References
  • Gender Links
  • Sexual Violence Research Initiative
  • People Opposing Women Abuse
  • Violence against Women: Eldis

Broken Bodies Broken Dreams: Violence Against Women Exposed

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