Women lawyers urge society to stand up to bullying
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Pretoria - The South African Women Lawyers Association has called for action against bullying, especially in schools.
It said it was deeply concerned that, just like in the cases of gender-based violence, the many incidents of bullying in schools and society in general got inconsistent public and media attention or coverage.
“It is only when lives are lost where that media and the public will do awareness on the matters,” said Mpho Kgabi, general-secretary of the association.
“Bullying is a global phenomenon that widely affects children and has the potential to impact victims not only physically but psychologically. In South Africa, countless children fall victim to bullying, harassment and abuse. As an organisation, we condemn all forms of bullying, discrimination and abuse of any kind.”
She added that bullying was a criminal offence that took place in various forms such as harassment, name-calling, threats of any kind and physical assault.
Kgabi said by its nature, bullying was an infringement on a person’s right to dignity, freedom and security, privacy and equality.
“We call for all schools to address bullying by ensuring that anti-bullying strategies including policies, awareness campaigns and psycho-social support are developed and independently audited.”
Kgabi said teachers and parents were often unaware of the amount of bullying that happened in schools. According to her, it is important that they play an active role in educating themselves and learners about the damaging effects of bullying and to further protect the rights of learners that are victims of bullying.
“It’s imperative for parents and teachers to collaboratively work together in the fight against bullying by openly discussing issues of bullying.
“Schools should not disregard ‘minor’ complaints and they should create a safe environment in which learners feel free to report bullying without fear of judgement, humiliation and discrimination.”
She added that parents and guardians should be concerned not only when their children were bullied, but when they were bullies.
“We also condemn the cyberbullying that perpetrators of bullying face on social media spaces and encourage communities to not perpetuate the cycle of bullying. This can lead to adverse consequences. Rather give support to both the victim and the bully, who are minors in most cases.”
Kgabi said society should continuously monitor how children treat others and encourage them to report bullying of any form.
The association said it committed and availed itself to assist schools and communities with legal advice when they wanted to develop strategies that are intended to curb the problem of bullying.