29 May 2019

South Africa: Gender-Based Violence Task Team At Universities Welcomed, but More Needs to Be Done - Gender Commission

The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has welcomed the appointment of a ministerial task team to guide policy on sexual harassment and gender-based violence (GBV) at universities across the country.

However, the CGE has called for the task team's "scope and terms of reference" include all institutions of higher learning - not just universities.

"Sexual harassment and gender-based violence are not limited to universities but equally rife at institutions of higher learning," the CGE said.

It was reported on Tuesday that higher education and training minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, appointed the team to advise on matters relating to sexual harassment and GBV in public universities in South Africa.

This, after a group of academics wrote an open letter to the minister in March 2019, highlighting the issues. Some of the issues raised include lecturers, especially male lecturers, who asked students for sexual favours for marks.

The academics also claimed that young female academics were harassed by those in senior leadership positions in the universities in exchange for job security.

City Press reported in 2018 that a Wits University study found that 26.9% of students, 17% of academic staff and 13.2% of administrative staff had experienced at least one incident of gender-based violence, ranging from unwanted displays of sexual material to being forced to have sex. The study indicated that:Women were more likely to experience gender-based violence (74.2% of students, 90.5% of administrative staff and 84.3% of academic staff).Men were more likely to be perpetrators, responsible for 86.2% of the incidents experienced by students, 88.8% of the administrative staffs' experiences and 78.3% of incidents experienced by academics.

In a statement, the CGE said that it "is particularly pleased that now there would be policy framework that will guide and co-ordinate in a sustained manner the implementation and enforcement of sexual harassment and GBV policies in the university sector".

It continued that "the commission, as obligated by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, will exercise its respective legal mandate to oversee and monitor closely the work of the task team" and "the CGE will continue to engage with the institutions of higher learning that it has made findings against through its gender transformation hearings".

Source: News24

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