By Lindiwe Ntuli-Tloubatla
In the financial year 2018/2019, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) held public investigative hearings with the institutions of higher learning. They were necessitated by the need to address issues of gender equality and gender-based violence (GBV) at institutions of higher learning.
Some of the vice-chancellors and heads of the technical vocational education and training colleges came voluntarily, while others were subpoenaed to appear at the public hearings in order to provide progress reports on previous recommendations. The theme was on gender transformation and included discussions on the extent to which they addressed gender equality and gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).
Through the commission’s media monitoring processes, we note a trend that GBVF at institutions of higher education is an issue of concern and has reached alarming proportions. We note from the submissions that there has been under-reporting due to lack of proper policies and procedures in many of the institutions as well as a lack of post-trauma support.
The murders of Precious Ramabulana, Uyinene Mrwetyana, the death by suicide of Nkhensani Maseko and many others remind us of the violent society we live in. Although campuses of higher learning are not responsible to preventing all the murders, much can be done to be proactive in addressing GBV.
It is unacceptable that parents and caregivers also deal with the nightmare of sending young people into an uncertain world. The constant media reports regarding GBV at institutions of higher learning make the issue top of mind.
The many pressures on young people, the poor socio-economic circumstances, and the use of alcohol and drug dependence that make young people vulnerable are deepening. The LGBTIQA+ persons and people differently-abled are also dealing with discrimination and violence. Sexual harassment in the form of “sex for marks” continues to engulf the institutions of higher learning.
Sexual predators and perverts referred to as “blessers” have turned the institutions into their hunting ground. It takes a nation to raise a child; the issues are urgent. GBV strips people of their humanity and is a threat to social justice.
Institutions of higher learning need an overhaul. They need to develop a GBV and sexual harassment policy and an anti-discrimination policy. They need to ensure timeous access to rehabilitation and detox centres as well as comprehensive sexual and reproductive services.
There must be resourced committees focused on the wellness of students and must focus solely on GBVF. The committees must form collaborations with the SAPS and departments of health and social development.
GBVF is a serious threat to the realisation of the human rights of dignity, integrity, security and peace. The principles of respect and respect for consent must be taught; everyone must understand that “no” means “no” and silence should be respected as a “no”.
GBVF cases must be processed speedily in order to aid in attaining justice, because we know that the primary trauma is often execrated by the delay of justice. The GBVF reports, even during the lockdown, is a reminder that the scourge was not correctly addressed.
Lindiwe Ntuli-Tloubatla is a commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality.