As the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children draws to a close, many of us find ourselves shocked and stunned by media reports around the death of Anni Dewani, and the accusations that her husband Shrien arranged her murder during their honeymoon.
What is clear is that a young woman met a brutal death at what should have been the happiest time of her life. For her, and for those who loved her, it is the most terrible tragedy, and we hold them all in our hearts and our prayers. We commend the work of the police and the legal system, and encourage them to continue striving to ensure that the full truth is brought to light, and justice done.
Yet this highly publicised crime is just the tip of the iceberg of the huge number of acts of gender violence within our society, that too often go unreported, unremarked. While grieving at the senseless loss of life of this precious child of God, we should not neglect the many other women and girls who suffer abuse, even death, and all too often at the hands of men who claim to love them.
Though we do not know the full facts, the speculation around the role of Anni Dewani’s husband can only appal us. The bond between a man and a woman, most fully expressed in the sacrament of marriage, should always be one of the deepest trust, mutual respect, and unconditional partnership, through all the trials of life. Christians believe that, of all human relationships, it is marriage that at its best most fully reflects the limitless love and covenant commitment that God has for his people and his world. This is the ideal which we must always uphold and strive to achieve.
Therefore, I call on our nation’s men to stand in solidarity in opposing gender violence, indeed, violence of every sort. Violence is never justified, and all human life is sacred. I am appalled that, in ways that remain unclear, South African men should have been caught up in the killing of Anni Dewani. I condemn their action, just as I invite all other right-thinking people to join me in condemning every other act that brings physical or emotional harm to others, and especially to the weaker and more vulnerable members of society.
While I am proud to be wholly associated with the 16 Days of Activism, I am also deeply saddened that, every year, we must again make this call. Enough is enough. Gender violence must end, for once and for all.