Women's minister doubles down on 'link' between cancer and GBV

27 August 2020 - 20:29 By Andisiwe Makinana
Minister of women Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Thursday backed recent comments by social development deputy minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu that cancer was a contributor to GBV.
Minister of women Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Thursday backed recent comments by social development deputy minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu that cancer was a contributor to GBV.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe/The Times

Women, youth and persons with disabilities minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has affirmed a colleague's view that cancer contributes to gender-based violence (GBV).

Nkoana-Mashabane was answering MPs' questions in the multiparty women's caucus on Thursday when she reiterated social development deputy minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu's comments that cancer was a contributor to gender-based violence.

“You mention something about cancer and GBV - it is about, again, masculinity and patriarchy,” she said.

“When women suffer cancer ... doctors push them to remove their breasts. So if you don't have a breast, you are no longer the woman you were yesterday. So the husband can start behaving differently.

“That's what the deputy minister of social development was referring to.”

Nkoana-Mashabane was responding to Inkatha Freedom Party MP Liezl van der Merwe, who asked for her thoughts on her colleague's comments and whether the link between cancer and GBV was a government position.

“If that is a government position, surely the issue of cancer should be highlighted in the national strategic plan as a driver of GBV,” said Van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe later told TimesLIVE that she personally found it hard to believe that there is enough evidence to suggest that GBV and cancer are so interlinked, as both ministers suggest.

“I do believe that if that is the case, it is a matter that must be discussed and debated at parliament, with the relevant information being presented to us,” she said.

“Subsequently, then the national strategic plan must speak to interventions in this regard. If not, then I think it will continue to be a very contentious issue, which will continue to raise eyebrows.”

Bogopane-Zulu was last week quoted as saying cancer was one of the unnoticed contributors to GBV. She reportedly made the comments during a cancer awareness campaign in the Northern Cape.

“This is one of the reasons we run these PinkDrive initiatives. We believe that prevention saves lives. The earlier cancer is detected, the sooner help can be sought," she was reported as have said.

Women who have had mastectomies and cervical cancer are victimised and are considered “less than” or “incomplete” by their partners, she said, while men who have prostate cancer become abusive due to the frustration of being unable to perform sexually.

TimesLIVE

After nationwide GBV protests spread in SA in September 2019 following Uyinene Mrwetyana’s murder, design student Katie de Bruyn created a mug design in response to the “men are trash” hashtag and dialogue on Twitter. She has since been selling mugs to raise awareness on issues around gender-based violence in South Africa and donating the proceeds to the Frida Hartley shelter for homeless women in Johannesburg.

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