Special GBV offices at campuses to put an end to gender based violence

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Aug 30, 2021

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The Department of Higher Education has formulated a policy framework to assist in eradicating gender-based violence in the sector.

On Friday, the department’s Higher Health via the Post-school Education and Training (PSET) GBV technical team, hosted a webinar highlighting a set of protocols to help turnaround the sectoral GBV policy framework. The framework was launched by the Department of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, in 2020.

The protocols come amid yet another brutal campus murder, that of University of Fort Hare student Nosicelo Mtembeni, 23. Mtembeni, a laws student was killed on August 19.

Mtebeni’s body was stuffed in a suitcase that was discovered about 100 metres from her house. Her head and hands were dismembered and tossed in a plastic bag that was dumped on the pavement. Her boyfriend confessed to the murder.

Unisa vice-chancellor Professor Lenka Bula, said the policies and procedures prioritise prevention rather than reactive action against GBV. Languages used in policies must be accessible to everyone including in African languages.

“The code of ethics developed are important to implement at our universities in order for us to overcome gender violence,” she said.

The purpose of the webinar was to answer questions on how to implement actions to the policies that are introduced. The webinar panel stressed the importance of preventative rather than reactive measures against GBV at institutions of higher learning.

CEO of Higher Health SA Prof Ramneek Ahluwalia, said early diagnosis of abusive relationships like the one Mtebeni was involved in, was crucial.

“How can we stop gender-based violence in our campuses? We need to put in place policies, strategies, structures. Close partnerships with the judiciary system, tribunals within our universities are necessary

“Have a step checklist of minimum controls in order for us to fight GBV. Protocol on a code of ethics is also very important,” he said

The policy framework will work as a guide for each and every campus to address the issue.

The framework gives guidance on how to report GBV, the investigation of GBV cases and consequence management. It also defines the type of behaviour that constitutes GBV, and sets out baseline principles.

“We need to set out in a very detailed manner what behaviour constitutes GBV, we need to be very clear because some people do not believe that their behaviour counts as GBV. This is very important in the prevention of GBV as it raises awareness, ” the panelists said.

The framework also tackles the question of what constitutes consent, and underlines that silence does not imply consent.

The framework also tackles the issue of infrastructure, the lighting at institutions, and problems resulting from student accommodation being far from campuses. In essence all the safety issues that make students feel uncomfortable.

A crucial strategy is the establishment of a special office to deal with complaints and reports of GBV at each campus. The complainant or victim may choose not to follow through with the case but the office can. Students can report GBV incidents both to the police and to this office.

The high level GBV offices will fully investigate all complaints, and their outcomes can be subject to appeal.

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