Over 2600 Incidents Of GBV Reported At Universities & Colleges

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Gender-based violence is a widespread issue, with incidences occurring on tertiary institution campuses across the country. However, the government has established various interventions to help combat this issue, recently yielding positive results and taking a step in the right direction. 

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Deemed the "rape capital of the world", gender-based violence (GBV) runs rampant in South Africa, with incidences of sexual, physical and mental violence reported daily. Students have been demanding that more aggressive action be taken to deal with this, as fears for their safety intensify.

Young women, especially students, remain vulnerable as violent crimes on women and femicide continue  throughout the country. Statistics SA reported that almost all of GBV incidences are committed by someone close such as a friend or acquaintance, an intimate partner, or a relative or household member. Only 29% of GBV crimes are committed by a stranger. 

In response, the government has implemented several interventions to help fight this issue. Recently, positive strides have been made with the development of anti-GBV interventions at higher education institutions. 

Buti Manamela, the Deputy Minister of the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, delivered an address at the GBV Research Indaba at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Bellville.

He reports that over 700 000 students are currently linked to health, wellness and psychosocial support and care programmes at higher education institutions. This was made possible through HIGHER HEALTH's 24/7 toll-free crisis helpline.

Manamela revealed that in 2022, the majority of these 700 000 students had completed HIGHER HEALTH's self-administered risk-assessment. This assessment points out the situations that may place students at a greater risk of experiencing GBV, poor mental health and other common challenges that affect young people. 

Manamela further revealed that 10 000 HIGHER HEALTH peer educators, including 15 students per campus, volunteer to protect other students from GBV, HIV and other medical or social challenges. 

Almost 9 000 staff members have been recruited to help combat GBV on campus. First-year students in particular, are encouraged to complete the self-risk assessment through HIGHER HEALTH's extra-mural curriculum, dialogue and interventions. They are advised to use this assessment as a checklist to identify any possible factors, or personal behaviours, that may place them at a greater risk of falling victim to GBV. 

From an initial 100, we now have more than 6 200 individuals who reported incidents of gender-based harassment, intimate partner violence and GBV across our campuses which is a positive sign and bodes well for breaking the silence.

The department, HIGHER HEALTH and the South African government have come together to develop several policy, institutional and programmatic interventions in order to create a safe environment for both students and staff on higher education campuses.  

In 2020, the government developed a Policy Framework to address GBV in the tertiary education sector. The goals of this framework include:

  • Creating an enabling environment through the development of implementation guidelines, protocols, minimum standards, including capacity development for GBV programming in higher learning institutions;
  • Prevention and awareness by encouraging student and staff safety by implementing comprehensive awareness and prevention programmes intended to raise awareness of policies and services addressing GBV;
  • Support and assistance through supportive and reparative procedures for victims of GBV.

Furthermore, the Department has also introduced guidelines to help students manage sexual and gender-related misconduct. These guidelines explain how incidences should be reported and managed, concerns regarding anonymity and confidentiality, as well as how institutions should implement and comply with these guidelines.

The guidelines explain the supportive and protective measures that institutions should follow from the moment they receive a complaint, as well as the formal and informal procedures available to victims.

There are five protocols currently in the developmental stages, including minimum standards of campus safety and security, safety in private accommodation, safety in residences, staff-student relationships and statement of complaint. These protocols are expected to be released later this year. 

The department continues to implement programmes and support structures for students and staff at 420 campuses around the country, in both rural and urban areas.

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A woman holding her hand up with the message 'Stop GBV'

Students at higher education institutions have called on universities to prioritise their safety against Gender-based Violence and Femicide on campus. 

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