Efface cultural ‘norms’ fuelling gender violence

Wife battering

The emphasis shifts from stigmatising survivors to holding perpetrators accountable.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

In the intricate tapestry of societal norms and traditions is a dark underbelly that often perpetuates sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Globally, communities grapple with the realisation that cultural norms, when left unexamined, can lead to an environment conducive to abuse.

The intertwining of cultural norms with SGBV is a complex phenomenon that manifests in various forms—from harmful stereotypes to deeply ingrained power dynamics.

These often perpetuate the notion of gender inequality, where rigid expectations and roles become breeding grounds for abuse.

The pressure to conform to predefined gender roles stifle individual expression and create an environment of power imbalances.

Efforts to challenge and reshape these norms emerge from within communities. Grassroots movements are gaining momentum as individuals and organisations strive to dismantle harmful practices.

Education plays a pivotal role with community leaders and influencers working to redefine narratives and emphasize the importance of consent, respect and gender equality.

But the journey to transformation is not without its challenges. The process of challenging cultural norms requires finesse and sensitivity.

It is essential to recognise and respect the diverse cultural nuances that shape these norms, ensuring that the push for change is not perceived as an imposition but invitation to dialogue and understanding.

Sensitivity extends to education programmes that are tailored to fit the cultural context. Approaching communities with preconceived notions or rigid ideologies can be counterproductive. Initiatives should collaborate with local leaders to develop educational materials that resonate with the community’s values and traditions.

Support for survivors within a culturally sensitive framework is equally paramount. Many survivors fear social ostracisation or backlash if they come forward, especially in close-knit communities where reputation holds significant value.

Culturally sensitive support services recognise these challenges and work to create safe spaces where survivors can seek help without fear of judgement.

Community leaders ought to actively engage in changing cultural norms by openly condemning SGBV and offering support to survivors.

By leveraging their influence, they would challenge the status quo and encourage others to follow suit. The emphasis shifts from stigmatising survivors to holding perpetrators accountable, disrupting the cycle of silence that shrouds SGBV within cultural contexts.

Challenging cultural norms also involves redefining masculinity and femininity in ways that promote equality and shared responsibility. Men are becoming crucial allies in the SGBV fight, challenging toxic masculinity and advocating for healthier expressions of manhood. But cultural transformation takes time, patience and collective effort.

By acknowledging and respecting the diversity of cultural contexts, communities can reshape norms, eradicate harmful practices and build a future where everybody is free from the shadows of SGBV.

- Ms Mutai is a media and communication specialist. [email protected].