Government is forging ahead with its plans to eradicate Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the country’s post-school education institutions.
Under the Policy Framework to Address GBV in the Post-school Education and Training System (PSET), which came out for public comment this week, government aims to conceptualise GBV and define its manifestation in terms of existing laws and policies.
The framework details the international and national regulatory framework for institutional and departmental responses to GBV. It provides guidance around the structures, mechanisms and processes that institutions must put in place to address GBV.
This will be done by mandating institutions to develop a comprehensive, overarching policy to address GBV, which includes harassment and discrimination more broadly, staff grievance and disciplinary proceedings, as well as student and staff codes of conduct aligned and integrated within the total policy environment of the institution.
They will have to put support and assistance mechanisms in place that can immediately offer support to victims of GBV in institutions, as well as establishing effective reporting, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
Furthermore, they will also institute a charter on ethics that will be signed by all staff and student leadership in institutions. The charter should clearly specify ethical conduct that pertains to the eradication of sexual harassment and GBV.
The latest statistics of the World Health Organisation reflect that 35% of women worldwide experienced either physical or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) or non-partner sexual violence.
In South Africa, the problem is even more severe. According to the South African Police Service (SAPS) Crime Statistics report of 2018, a total of 50 108 cases of sexual offenses were reported in 2017/8 – a 0.9% increase from the previous year. Femicide increased by 11% over the last two years.
Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), in the Crime against Women in South Africa (2018) report, estimates that 138 per 100 000 women were raped in 2016/17, the highest rate in the world.
GBV has also been linked to other societal problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, abuse of people with disabilities, safety of students and staff on campuses and in student residences, and mental health problems such as depression on the part of victims and their families.
These social problems have plagued the post schooling institutions, with more cases of rape and murder of women students being reported.
Most of these crimes against women were perpetrated by men who were well known to the victims, such as partners, former partners or fellow students.
Despite this, crimes affecting women remain underreported, resulting in students protesting against unsafe environments and demanding gender transformation in institutions.
These protests have negatively affected the academic calendar of institutions and in some instances, interfered with their academic progress.
With this in mind, the Policy Framework’s goals are to put supportive, efficient and reparative assistance procedures to complainants/victims in place.
This includes plans to establish just and specialised procedures for the reporting, investigation and resolution of complaints; and provide comprehensive, specialised support and other assistance to victims and where possible, perpetrators of GBV.
Government, for its part, will conceptualise and run a national GBV campaign at post-schooling institutions, and standardise institutional mechanisms tasked with dealing with sexual violence.
Government is also investigating the possibility of publishing a register of offenders that will be used in the recruitment of council members, staff and support personnel, as well as investigate a ‘whistle-blowing’ mechanism to report GBV in institutions.
The implementation date will be stated in the Government Gazette.