UNIVEN GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE INDABA ADDRESS By Dr NR Raselekoane

(HOD: Institute for Gender and Youth Studies)

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a pervasive and systemic problem which is deeply entrenched in South Africa which continues to haunt South Africa despite our grand and lofty gender policies and strategies.

Despite our impressive gender policies, South Africa has one of the world’s highest gender-based violence rates in the world, and this is comparable to countries that are at war. The widespread disregard, marginalisation, exploitation, subordination and exclusion of women and girls in our communities continue unabated in South Africa.

Gender-based violence has now become a national crisis in South Africa. This is the case because women and girls continue to suffer physical and emotional abuse at the hands of men and boys despite the constitutional guarantee for respect, dignity, safety and security and gender equality.

This scourge continues unabated because the patriarchal system, power structures, cultural practices and hegemonic masculinity lead men to feel as if they own women, and that sexual intimacy and submission by women is owed to them. Today, we hang our heads in shame because of the outrageous and abhorrent incidents of gender-based violence sweeping across our country. These include the horrific and grisly fatal shootings, stabbings, burning, rape, butchering and disemboweling of women and children by men. Anene Booysen, Reeva Steenkamp, Karabo Mokoena, Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels, and Thandi Mampana in Gamarishane are just some of the casualties of this scourge.

University campuses across the country are also replete with disturbing stories of female students living in fear as they are always terrorized, abused, brutalized and maimed by their intimate partners who should be protecting and pampering them with love. As a University, we also have had our fair share of incidents of gender-based violence.

As members of the Univen community, we should join hands to deliver a deadly blow to the vicious patriarchal system which perpetuates violation, exploitation, demeaning and trashing of women. This change is NECESSARY and it is a MUST to ensure that women and our female students are also treated fairly, equally and with dignity and respect just as men.

Members of the Univen community should also build, uphold and practise a culture of tolerance, respect, accommodation and inclusion to promote gender equality. Once female lecturers and female students are free from any form of abuse, they will be able to focus on capacitating and developing themselves to be the best they can be. Once this is realised, Univen staff and students will become social agents who can socialise and teach men and boys to respect and acknowledge women and girls as their equals.

To promote gender equality, human rights and social justice for all, Univen shouldalso have clear and targeted plans and programmes for bothstaff and students to fundamentally change their mind-set. All Univen policies should be gender-sensitive. Univen should create and provide a safe and secure environment for female students by establishing a zero-tolerance policy to all forms of gender-based violence on campus. There should also be effective structures for monitoring, assessing and evaluating the implementation of gender policies at Univen.

Univen should also ensure that all academic qualifications also have a component on gender issues. Most importantly, the University should also recognise, appreciate and capacitate the Institute for Gender and Youth Studies by providing it with more support so that it can be effective in executing its mandate on gender and youth issues on campus and beyond.