Overcoming hardness of heart and toxic appetites

International Woman’s Day, celebrated on March 8, was filled with both celebration and lament.

This newspaper gave space to the powerful stories of our women as they experienced triumph and loss. What International Women’s Day again revealed is that, sadly, our social realities are also our social ills.

Domestic violence remains a too familiar experience across our society.

Pornography is a hidden but not sleeping giant that continues to rip the heart and soul out of relationships.

Sexual abuse and rape push victims into silent torment and shame, and only some perpetrators to prison.

I lament that year after year, women bring their griefs to us as men, and we seemingly default to silence in a helpless response. Several years ago, I proposed that men come together and sit in silence outside the victim’s house as a sign of solidarity and repentance.

I say this because, as men, we have neglected the responsibility of being our brother’s keepers. The three laments highlighted in Wednesday March 8’s edition of the Fiji Times were domestic violence, pornography, and sexual abuse

. These three areas are interlinked, and the research bears this out. Domestic violence breaks down gender respect in the family home so that children grow up expecting to exercise violent rights or to have violent rights exercised against them.

The easy and early access to pornography further damages gender respect while providing opportunities for early sexual awakening without the required maturity. High rates of sexual abuse are the result of a failure to intervene in the first two areas of our social ills – domestic violence and pornography.

What’s required is ongoing attention to national policies. Also required is the widening of the debate and discussion. The missing part is still the critical part; the contribution and engagement of men in what is essentially a men’s problem. Our women have been serving this meal of their grief to men for years, and we have continued to push it aside.

This speaks to our collective deafness, our hardness of heart, and the place of our true and toxic appetites.

For seventeen years, I have worked with our brothers as these offenders. In that time, our laws around domestic violence have changed; what was once reconcilable is now a chargeable offence, leading to a possible sentence. At the same time, the sentences for sexual offences have become longer, and the success rate of conviction has increased.

The steady stream of men coming to prison continues, yet we are silent, still not changing our ways, neglecting the teaching of our scriptures, and failing to seek redemption and restoration for what is a male problem.

Several men’s groups and churches have made good progress, but we have not yet developed a national male voice. Funding has been provided to raise awareness, but the national trend has not changed.

This stubborn problem will be served up to us again the next International Woman’s Day if we don’t choose to humble ourselves, assemble ourselves, and act to become our brother’s keeper and conscience.

Where do we begin? First, we must accept that we have a problem and acknowledge to the women of this nation that we have been deaf to their cries and suffering. Showing that repentance is important for them and us.

Next, I propose a national conversation about our Pacific patriarchy, what it means, what patriarchy is meant to be, and how and why patriarchy has become so toxic.

Finally, I would call the men of Fiji to gather in silence in front of each new victim’s home, sitting in the dust as a collective sign of our commitment that this will stop, that we have had enough. As brothers together in one nation, we are responsible, and we are our brother’s keeper.

  • PETER SCHULTZ is a practitioner in rehabilitation & leadership, and a reader in the areas of rehabilitation, culture, theology, and philosophy. Peter is a Christian, a Fiji Citizen, a thought leader, founder of a non-profit organisation, and holds both local and regional roles. The views expressed are solely the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.

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