On the 3rdof September at 18h00, our students gathered at the Freedom Squire here on campus for a candlelight vigil to add their voice in condemning violence against women and saying no! to rape and murder.

In the week that follow, my office issued a Media Statement condemning acts of gender-based violence and xenophobia and calling for a moment of reflection. This was all triggered by the appalling violence that women and children everywhere had to endure in our country.

The rape and murder of a fellow student at the University of Cape Town is one of many cases of gender-based violence that afflicts women and children in South Africa on a daily basis. The incidents of sexual harassment against female students at this university has also reached un-proportional levels.

We are a society at war with ourselves. Our country is under attack! Our mothers, sisters and daughters are under attack! Women and children live in fear of being sexually abused or murdered. Women should not have to protect themselves from men. Women should feel safe and secure with us as men.

I speak to you today with a sense of shame, that as a nation we are failing to give an assurance to women and children and that we will take proper care for them.

On daily basis we wake up to unsettling reports of sexual violence and femicide. On Friday last week the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr. Ronald Lamola visited our campus after officially opening the Sexual Offences Court here in Thohoyandou.

He informed us during his Public Lecture that our Vhembe district municipality has recorded the highest increase of incidents of gender-based violence of more than 13 000 cases that have been reported in the form of murder, domestic violence, sexual violence, rape and assault cases in the entire Limpopo Province.

This is a very disturbing image for us in this university because we form part of this community and this community is part of us. The bad image of Vhembe community is also a bad reflection on us.

In confronting gender-based violence and femicide, we must challenge patriarchy which remain deeply entrenched within the fabric of our society to such an extent that most women in our communities consider abuse to be a normal way of life.

We need to reject ideas, beliefs, values, norms and systems that perpetuate violence against women and children. As an institution of higher learning we must lead in this fight of eradicating these cultural beliefs and embrace diversity in our campus and communities.

Universities such as ourselves are well placed to provide education and spaces to discuss these issues that is affecting the moral fibre of our societies. Universities must lead in confronting patriarchal systems that subjugate women as second-class citizens.

Patriarchy creates a sense of entitlement among men. It makes men feel entitled to women bodies. Men are not entitled to any woman’s body. As men, we must know that a woman has right to say no.

Women should not have to apologise for rejecting a man. When a woman says no, she means no. Unwanted sexual behaviour which includes harassment, groping, unwanted touching, coercion, sexual assault and rape must be condemned and perpetrators must be made to account.

How many more women and children must live with this constant fear of being attacked and violated in our Campuses, Schools, Homes and even in our Churches?

It has been reported elsewhere that in most of the reported cases the perpetrators of gender violence are not strangers, but people known by the victims such as intimate partners, family members, friends and acquaintances.

This is not the society we want, the status-quo pertaining to how men in our societies treats women must change. As men, we should not stand back and allow women especially in our university to be violated.

Starting from today, we are going to set time aside in the university calendar on quarterly basis for a university-wide dialogue on gender violence led by staff, students both male and female.

We must adopt a zero-tolerance approach to gender and sexual abuse.

We will review our current university sexual harassment policy so that we can decisively expel those who are found guilty of rape from the university and will work with other universities in the country to ensure that such offenders are not admitted elsewhere.

We are going to prioritize all complaints of sexual violence and strengthen our Gender Equity Office and capacitate it to investigate all complaints expeditiously.

We will increase our support to strengthen our student counselling services to provide more holistic therapeutic, emotional, psychological and mental health support services.

We will enhance security measures in and around campus and residences.

We will expedite the process of our boundary fence and access control. We will ensure that the campus is sufficiently lit at night and install surveillance cameras in strategic locations.

We will closely work with-off campus landlords to demand more security measures for students.

We will strengthen our cooperation with the criminal justice system and the Commission for Gender Equality.

I invite you to join hands with the university management in fighting for the safety and wellbeing of women and create a secure environment wherein women and young women feel safe.

I thank you

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