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Task team proposes National Register and stricter policies to combat GBV in South African universities

Azra Hoosen |
7 June 2024 | 15:30 CAT
2 min read

A Ministerial Task Team (MTT) in South Africa has recommended stringent measures to combat gender-based violence (GBV) in higher education institutions.

Their report, submitted to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, calls for the creation of a national register to track GBV offenders, ensuring they cannot evade accountability by transferring between institutions. The report, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlights persistent challenges in handling GBV cases, including inadequate reporting procedures and victim silencing. The report also urges institutions to clarify policies on confidentiality and public disclosure of information related to GBV cases.

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) Commissioner Sandra Makoasha underscores the importance of providing counselling to all parties involved in gender-based violence (GBV) cases. This approach aims to uncover the root causes of the perpetrator’s actions and ensure they understand the impact of their behaviour. However, Makoasha emphasizes that victims should not feel obligated to participate in these counselling processes.

Makoasha said that identifying perpetrators and supporting victims of gender-based violence involves multiple facets and requires a collaborative effort from universities. Institutions need to assess their financial capabilities and determine how they can best allocate limited resources to ensure the safety and well-being of all parties involved.

“We need to have the conversation that we are looking at universities as macro-environments that form part of a bigger socio-environment. That would require not only the university but also the student SRC, other stakeholders, and the community at large to ensure the safety of the students who live in that community,” she said.

Makoasha suggests that there needs to be a balance between existing legislation, such as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Labour Relations Act, the Constitution, and the Protection of Personal Information Act, while also ensuring that universities and employers are informed when an individual is guilty of GBV.

“The difficulty with this is there is an interaction of numerous rights coming into play. We need to ensure this database is shared in a way that doesn’t violate rights or misuse of information to further victimise the victims of the perpetrators,” she said.

She further suggests conducting a case study to evaluate how the current registry is being utilised. This would help in understanding its effectiveness and identifying any areas for improvement.

“The universities’ policies must ensure the victim does not have to be forced to participate in mediation conversations with the perpetrator but also give them a safe space that makes them feel they never have to face their perpetrator unless they want to. Universities need to work on not just having cases reported but also offering psycho-social support, having a meaningful engagement with GBV and solving it at the university level because it is a societal problem. Offering the necessary support post-abuse as well as academic support and interventions depending on the situation,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Public Protector of South Africa, Kholeka Gcaleka, has recently revealed serious shortcomings in the country’s justice system regarding the protection of gender-based violence (GBV) victims. Her investigation across 38 courts found inadequate support for victims, outdated infrastructure, and a lack of functional case management systems. The Department of Justice has been given 210 days to audit the state of the courts.

LISTEN to the full interview with Muallimah Annisa Essack and SAHRC Commissioner Sandra Makoasha, here.



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