, 07 March, 2020 / 12:41 AM
As South Africa struggles to curb alarming rates of gender-based killings targeting women and girls, a Bishop in the country has, in an interview with ACI Africa, highlighted the need to identify the root cause of violence targeting women for an appropriate way out of the societal challenge.
“In my view we need to get to the root cause of femicide so that we know what we are addressing,” Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of South Africa’s Umtata diocese told ACI Africa on the sidelines of the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
“There are a lot of speculations about it (femicide) but I wish somebody could do a true analytic study on it,” Bishop Sipuka who is the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said during the Thursday, March 5 interview.
South Africa has, in recent times, experienced considerably higher levels of femicide with the 2017/2018 statistics by Africa Check showing that every three hours, a woman is murdered in the country.
As a result of the rampant killings, the South African government declared gender-based violence a national disaster.
The country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa called on Parliament to pass a law that will prevent suspects charged with rape and murder to be granted bail while harsher sentences will be passed on convicts of these offences, various media reported.
According to Bishop Sipuka, whatever the reasons for the violence against women might be, it is all wrong and it is not the way to solve problems.
“It is so gruesome the way men are violent to women! It is something that mesmerizes us!” said the South African Prelate who doubles as the First Vice President of SECAM.
“Men in Africa should just stop the violence and be what men should be,” the 59-year-old Prelate said.
“Culturally, men are meant to protect rather than to victimize,” he emphasized and added, “From the Christian point of view men should take the model of St. Joseph who protected the vulnerable members of his family and provided for them.”
As a way forward, Bishop Sipuka who is also at the helm of the ecumenical South African Council of Churches (SACC) told ACI Africa that SACC, which “also speaks quite often about femicide is planning to hold an interdenominational gathering of Christian men” to speak against violence targeting women.
He also noted that a collective effort from the various Christian denominations is needed to win this fight saying, “If the Catholic Church as the minority in South Africa stands alone, we will not succeed.”
He continued, “We will collaborate with other Churches and see what we can do together to mobilize men and to speak to them.”
Meanwhile, the SACBC President condemned the recent findings of the Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa where some state hospitals in the provinces of Gauteng and Kwa Zulu Natal were found to forcibly sterilize HIV positive women without their consent.
“It is wrong!” Bishop Sipuka lamented adding that the women “are not animals.”
“To interfere with that process of child bearing regardless whether one is doing it voluntarily or not is something I would not support!” the Church leader bemoaned and added, “Worse still when someone is forced!”
According to the report, medical practitioners told some of the HIV positive women that they should not be having children.
“With the medication that we have now, it is possible for HIV positive mothers to give birth to HIV negative children,” Bishop Sipuka said.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa