“An interplay of different things” causes gender abuse 

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HEGEMONIC MASCULINITY: Psychiatric counsellor Mandla Mhlanga says society needs to break the circle of violence from home and seek to change gender stereotypes if we are to break the cycle of gender-based violence. PICTURE BY Twitter

A culture of hegemonic masculinity is celebrated through the ownership of guns and use of alcohol.


eMalahleni psychiatric counsellor Mandla Mhlanga believes an interplay of various things in our society is the cause of gender abuse, such as being raised in a violent neighbourhood.

But changing this trend would require society “to break the circle of violence from home” and seek to change “gender stereotypes”.

Mhlanga who himself in 2017 lost his entire family after his wife killed their 3 minor kids and herself after they had fought said both men and women do experience gender violence but most victims who are severely affected and came to consult him on these issues were women.

An interplay of different things like the community a child is raised in and how each person is treated as per their gender in that community as well as the economic conditions where women are forced to rely on men for financial survival – “also cultural and religious factors interacting at different levels of society,” Mhlanga said. 

He said he began learning more about issues of women abuse while at student at University of Limpopo’s Turflop campus in the late 1990s and realised that “women, especially black women are triply oppressed”.

ALSO RELATED: Mandla Mhlanga family goes to rest

“First they are oppressed at a class level, in terms of their position in the economy, secondly as women and thirdly as black people. Thus, I embodied the principles of democracy, non-racialism and non-sexism”.

"An interplay of different things" causes gender abuse
eMalahleni psychiatric counsellor Mandla Mhlanga who believes as we intensify the campaigns against gender-based violence our society will become better

His wife was Pearl Malang and their three kids, were 10-year-old Quanisha‚ 5-year-old Quirino and 7-month-old Quain.

Mhlanga in an interview with 013NEWS said his own marriage was not characterised by abuse. 

“From my early childhood development I lived in a loving home with loving parents whose parental style was secured [in me],” he said. 

“I extended those values and feelings to my nuclear family,” Mhlanga said, adding the action taken by his wife in 9 July 2017 was because of her own chronic depression, with its own separate background.

“Yes there were psychosocial stressors that also made the situation unmanageable and if there is something that I wish I had changed from that unfortunate situation, that thing would have been not to take permanent decisions for temporary problems”.

"An interplay of different things" causes gender abuse
Mandla Mhlanga’s late wife Pearl Malang who killed their kids on 9 July 2017 before committing suicide. The two were in the process of divorce and scary SMSes were sent to Mhlanga on that unfortunate day by Pearl about what was about to befall him

ALSO SEE: Here’s why Pearl sent the SMS

Mhlanga said he would have not “harboured negative feelings against her despite her deviant behaviour”. 

“I ignored her hurt and did not reaffirm her as I used to. I tightened financial controls and I believe that these actions vicariously impacted on her suicidal and homicidal ideations as it was creating hopelessness and helplessness”.

He said as a psychologist he himself knows that people “have internal qualities that resist both internal and external” stimulus that bring stress, therefore “not all depressed people resort to such action”.

Factors influencing gender violence at an individual level “include growing up in a home characterised by violence, which such violence becomes normalised later in life as a means of communication”.

Others factors like having an absent father or a father who is not a positive role model also contribute vastly. 

At community level, factors include a settlement where violence against women is seen as the norm – the use of alcohol and ownership of guns, which are celebrated as markers of hegemonic masculinity, Mhlanga said. 

He said it was important to note though that not all young men who grow up in violent homes or neighbourhood or without fathers or who witness their fathers hitting their mothers later become violent.

Boys would have to be raised differently while they are still young so that “we break gender stereotypes”.

He said since he lost his family he “still has emotional distress at times”. 

"An interplay of different things" causes gender abuse
Mandla Mhlanga says his own pains are “waning with time”

“There are certain things that trigger the good memories I had with my bundles of joy. Multiple loss is complex because when you see a couple that resembles your relationship, a 10 year beautiful girl and 4 year naughty boy and a baby boy, memories are triggered,” said Mhlanga, who is fairly a successful local businessman, when he spoke to 013NEWS.  

“I am still grieving even after 3 years. Yes there is no cut off time for grieving as supported by psychology. For example, the life sentences handed down to Zinhle Maditla [the Klarinet mom who killed her 4 minor kids in December 2018] some weeks ago relive my own experience.

He said that as a professional counsellor he used to enjoy counselling people who had lost their loved ones after he lost his mother while he was still a teenage boy, “not knowing what was coming to me”.  

“Perhaps the skills I learned at that time are paying off this time. Nonetheless, I am personally, interpersonally, socially and occupationally functioning. There are days when I feel down. However, I refuse to have stress levels being high”.

(edited by ZK) 

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