AS THE new school term unfolds with the hassle of exams and preparation for promotion in September, education stakeholders need to remain cognisant of the fact that many of today’s learners are proficient in social networking technologies for academic practice and personal use. Students, who are known as digital natives (Zimerman, 2012), have created their own fields of interests and are part of online communities.
Although there are advantages to using this technology, there is a concern that must be urgently addressed. It is the prominent rise of female-based violence. Teachers must play a crucial role in preventing violence against girls, since education has an integral part to play in challenging the social norms that encourage violence against women.
The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about one in three (30 per cent) women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Worldwide, almost one-third (27 per cent) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.
Data from the Crime and Problem Analysis (Capa) branch of the Police Service revealed that there were approximately 11,441 reports of domestic violence during 2010 and 2015 with 131 domestic violence-related deaths of which 56 per cent are women. These statistics speak of a nation in crisis. Although several laws address gender-based violence, our female and male students are being duped into normalising the violence culture through online communities.
Many of our students are on various forms of social media for learning. It must be noted, however, that unsavoury activities which are detrimental and engender violence are available to them. The solution to this problem is not punishment, or taking away their devices, which is a culturally accepted norm, but rather educating them about the misogynistic trends found on Instagram, Tik Tok and online pornography sites.
One can use Tik Tok to share anything such as fashion, comedy, and even performance-based assignments for school, but some content has normalised violence with highly suggestive videos that are degrading to girls and women. Deeply sexist, misogynist content that revolves around beating girls has been circulating on TikTok for quite some time now. Some videos on TikTok are suggestive of crimes such as rape. This culture is being glorified and as educators we cannot keep our heads in the sand.
These are the horrifying statistics for social media. According to an article from VICE Magazine published February 3, the hashtag #chokeme has 45.3 million views. A search of hashtags on Instagram reveals that this same hashtag has 85.3K posts and #bdsmnsfw (bondage and discipline dominance and submission not safe for work) 18.3K posts. This is the world that our children are experiencing, as a product of pornography and prostitution, which gives rise to rape, sexual harassment and coercion, incest and abuse culture.
These posts and videos are normalising domestic abuse and violence, and are conditioning young girls, women, boys and men. Teenagers largely visit this content. Young girls make videos showing the bruises on their bodies and are proud of them as a marker of “good” sex. Young men are making videos making references to choking, tying up, spitting on and beating girls and women. Those who oppose it are labelled as “prudes and boring.” Consequently, girls are pressured into being enthusiastic and accepting of abusive sexual practices. Clearly, the aggressors are not the ones being beaten and dehumanised.
Gender violence that is mainly sexual hinges on patriarchal cultures whereby men seek to control and objectify women’s bodies for sexual gratification. Schools as agents of socialisation must have these difficult conversations with parents and students. Female and male teachers must vehemently advocate for a proper sex education curriculum which helps students identify “toxic” culture in sexuality.
Banning the app does not change mindsets. Degrading and violent content cannot be passed off in humour. This must become personal to us all. The lines between abuse and the process of internalising a rape culture are already crossed. Save our children!