UCT scales up sexual offences response with a new policy
The University of Cape Town has finalised its new disciplinary procedures for sexual misconduct to address the issue of sexual offences at the institution.
The new Sexual Misconduct Policy was approved by the university’s council in December, last year. The new policy is aimed at focussing on a survivor-centred process, replacing current UCT Sexual Offences policy and the Sexual Harassment policy.
UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Transformation, Professor Loretta Feris said: “This policy is fundamentally important for the university and it would not have been possible without the support and endorsement of our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, who has made tackling issues of sexual and gender-based violence a priority for the UCT executive.”
The new policy is designed in a way that the procedures used in the disciplinary process do not further traumatise the survivor. Survivor support, in an otherwise alienating environment, is further supported by the right to legal representation for the survivor.
However, the most innovative aspect of the new procedural rules is the synergising of disciplinary processes for both staff and students before a Special Tribunal that deals with sexual and gender-based violence, the first of its kind in the country.
The tribunal was formed following various national and international guidelines and obligations in our collective response to gender-based violence.
“UCT concluded the draft Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedure ahead of the publication of the Department of Higher Education and Training policy framework to address gender-based violence in the Post-School Education and Training System in July 2020,” said Feris.
The university said the policy and procedures are aligned to the Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, adopted by the International Labour Organisation in June 2019.
“As a university, we are intentional and committed to creating an environment in which the dignity of all staff members and students is respected. All complaints of sexual offences and/or sexual harassment are taken seriously and in confidence. An appropriate response to unacceptable behaviour and related actions will remain a leadership priority,” concluded Feris.