Building on a Legacy of Social Justice Activism

Enlisting Men as Gender Justice Activists in South Africa

Despite South Africa’s new progressive constitution guaranteeing the promotion and protection of women’s rights through the Commission on Gender Equality, violence against women is endemic. One in three South African women are victims of sexual assault, a statistic made more frightening by the high incidence of HIV infection. Domestic violence takes a similarly heavy toll, with women assaulted across all class and racial categories at alarming levels.

Reports in the international media have drawn attention to the pervasiveness of violence against women in South Africa. Less well known, however, are the innovative efforts emerging across the country that work to prevent this violence. Drawing on the rich tradition of community organising that succeeded in toppling the apartheid regime, these initiatives attempt to frame violence against women as a male problem and enlist men as activists in preventing it – the latter of which is explored in this essay.