By Nondumiso Ngcongo
DUT STAFF AT THE UNIZULU SGBV DIALOGUE
The department of Higher Education in partnership with HEAIDS held its first ever Sexual Gender Based Violence dialogue. It took place at the University of Zululand on Friday the 24th of February 2017. The KZN Universities were all present together with eight TVET colleges. This event was held in response to rising levels of gender-based violence in and around higher education institutions. A protest of the same event had occurred at Rhodes University, where the students appealed to University management to do more to protect the rights of those who had experienced sexual violence within the institution.
After the protest, more students at other institutions revealed that they had the same problem and such cases were ignored, as there are no policies in place for such cases. It was revealed that in some instances, the perpetrators were the academic/admin staff and this made it even harder for students to report. There is often fear of more victimization. In understanding these challenges, the aim of the dialogue was to find amicable solutions that could help in drawing the policy framework.
The statistics given at the dialogue suggested that 62% of students do not feel safe in all institutions of higher learning, including TVET college students. Disturbingly, only 10% of cases that get to be reported. One of the contributing factors that has been identified is substance and alcohol abuse. Some offenders commit these offences unknowingly due to the fact that they were under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.
Rigid gender norms were also revealed as a major challenge for both men and women. Female students spoke out about being abused based on the type of clothes they are wearing. The female students spoke about how when they are wearing revealing clothing items men pass harsh remarks. “It is very harsh especially at our University, females are not comfortable when wearing short clothes”, said the University of Zululand Vice Chancellor Prof. Xoliswa Mtose. A UKZN male student raised a significant point of being educated about gender violence. “When does it become an abusive act or attempt?” He was referring to the fact that young men are often aware of the potential violence in their actions. He went on further to say as much as there are deliberations of drawing up policies, there also should be deliberations of how we can teach the society about the forms of abuse.