Gender based violence is a phenomenon that is prevalent in today’s society and is deeply rooted in gender inequality which continues to be a serious violation of human rights. This concept can be best defined as violence perpetuated on a person because of their gender and it can be physical, emotional, sexual etcetera. South Africa is considered one of the rape capitals in the world with victims being mostly women, girls and the LGBTQI+ community. A number of rape and assaults have been reported in universities but there is also a significant amount of cases not reported on campuses. Due to only some cases being reported to the police it is difficult to understand how serious the issue of gender based violence truly is at universities.
It was discovered by some students that gender based violence was not talked about or widely known about at universities. Instead it is kept quiet on campuses. Due to this lack of knowledge among universities, Africa Unite had a gender based violence dialogue on the 9th of March 2019, among several different universities: University of Cape Town, University of Western Cape, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and University of Stellenbosch. Other organization’s such as Activate! and Total Shutdown were also present.
Africa Unite has been involved with multiple dialogues about gender based violence but this one was specific to gender violence among higher education institutions. The purpose of this dialogue was to discuss the issue of how and why universities do not address gender based violence enough for the people to be aware of it on their own campuses. Ultimately, the discussion was to lead the students to coming up with solutions about how to combat the problem and future implementation plans.
The issues raised by the participants during the dialogue about why gender based violence occurs were:
- Religion and culture are a root cause of gender based violence. Gender roles are in present in religion and culture; as religion and culture are taught and followed so are those perceived and expected gender roles.
- It is hard to break or question tradition. Families may think that we are disrespecting them by questioning traditions when that is not the case.
- People and society need to be cautious when investigating violence because there is always more than one side to the story. How a person deals with the perpetrator and the survivor is very delicate. People may be too quick to blame the survivor for what happened to too quick to believe them and not investigate.
- Gender roles play a huge part in gender based violence; this stems from how people are raised at home and how our elders view gender roles.
- Gender based violence is prevalent among the LGBTQI+ community as well, many people think it is just women who are GBV survivors when anyone can be hurt by gender based violence. It also happens within the community.
After a long and open conversation between everyone several solutions were proposed to help stop gender based violence at universities:
- Have quarterly meetings among the universities to stay in contact and keep up on progress that each school is having while trying to combat gender based violence.
- Expand on who is involved in these dialogues: bring these dialogues out to the townships, involve school police and surrounding police stations, church members, younger children, elderly, etc. By gaining perspectives of people who are more prone to committing or condoning gender based violence it would help people understand how to go about implementing change. This will help sensitize the public and public workers who often deal with GBV survivors.
- Create a list of demands that university students want to help prevent gender based violence at their schools and give it to their school’s management. Each school should have their own GBV dialogue, while also possibly working with SRC, and come up with list of demands prevalent to their school situation. With each school having their own dialogue, this expands the awareness of GBV and also gets management from all of the schools involved.
- People need to be educated on the fact that survivors can be everyone, not just women. By saying only women can be targeted by gender based violence is excluding the rest of the population (men, gays, lesbians, non-gender conforming individuals, etc.). To spread this awareness more material should be developed to put around schools to educate people.
These dialogues are crucial in trying to combat gender based violence. By expanding this conversation to students at universities more young minds can help come up with new, innovative ways to change and stop gender based violence.