The University of Venda’s School of Law, Ismail Mahomed Centre for Human and Peoples’ Rights (under the Faculty of Management, Commerce and Law) and Student Affairs in collaboration with Tshwane University of Technology’s Faculty of Humanities, Department of Safety and Security Management, hosted Gender Based Violence Seminar which took place at the University of Venda Sports Hall on Friday, 30 September 2022.
The seminar brought together stakeholders such as the South African Police Service, the United Nations Development Programme, the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, traditional and religious leaders, dignitaries from various disciplines, academics and students, to analyse the increased rates of gender-based violence in Limpopo Province. The seminar was further intended to analyse released crime statistics and implications thereof, as well as to map the GBV crime in all districts in Limpopo Province.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, Prof Jan Crafford when receiving the dignitaries at the Council Chambers said that the programme could not have come at a more auspicious time. He referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent comments that a war was being waged against women in South Africa. He mentioned that the University of Venda is honoured to take leadership in the interventions on GBV.
SAPS Provincial Commissioner Limpopo, Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe mentioned that we all understand that the President has pronounced that GBV should be one of the issues that sit on top of the agenda of every department and in government. “GBV is a second pandemic in our country, and it is for this reason that the South African Police Service and the Minister of Police have raised serious concerns when it comes to GBV and ongoing killings of women and children and the LGBTQI+”. All departments should come together and deal with this crisis. Lt General Thembi Hadebe said,” Limpopo Province is the province that has a serious challenge when it comes to GBV, in the main issues such as assault, common cases, and assault GBH cases”. There are many GBV cases reported around Vhembe District Municipality wherein Thohoyandou policing area is at the top.
The MEC of Social Development, Dr Dickson Masemola started his address by giving the historical background of the GBV which is seen as a widespread problem in South Africa, impacting almost every aspect of life. GBV mostly affects women and girls and is systemic and deeply entrenched in institutions, cultures and traditions in South Africa.
Dr Masemola said that the struggle is to empower society to deal with GBV. We are experiencing huge GBV cases that are occurring daily, despite the education and empowerment that are being put in daily. LGBTQI is becoming part of the issues that we are going through, we must know and understand that we are faced with an ideological case and must be uprooted. He indicated that the President has passed regulations to strengthen the arm of the law to deal with these matters, such as the Domestic Violence Amendment Act and the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Amendment Act. Dr Masemola further emphasised that for the department to be in a better position to strengthen our laws, policies, programmes and actions, we have to be provided with the necessary tools. He indicated that Social Development would launch a forum within the district to deal with matters of GBV, femicide, and substance abuse.
The Interim Director of Ismail Mahomed Centre for Human and Peoples’ Rights, Professor Ademola Jegede who stood in for Professor Ndlovu, the Interim Director of the School of Law, in his opening remarks, expressed that the seminar aims to tackle GBV which is a very important problem of national significance, and is of great concern to everyone, from fathers to daughters, husbands to wives and uncles to sisters, including those of other identities. He indicated that the University and indeed the Faculty of Management Commerce and Law are well pleased to have all these dignitaries who have taken time from their busy schedules to honour this important occasion. Prof Jegede concluded by saying “I trust that by the time we are done with the programme, we will be equipped like David in the bible to throw stones against this Goliath called GBV”.
A representative from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Dr Nelly Mwaka gave a presentation on the role of a bystander in GBV prevention. The UNDP works with the government, civil society, academic institutions, and everybody else to provide government support towards development. Dr Mwaka’s presentation focused much on addressing the question “What is a bystander?”. She said “A bystander is someone who observes violence but also witnesses the conditions under which violence takes place. We should see ourselves as bystanders because none of us can say we have never lived under conditions where violence is perpetuated. As bystanders we need to do something, we should not only see it as a responsibility for police or community leaders”.
Mr Solomon Phungo, the Coordinator of Student Housing, indicated that according to the UN high commissioner for refugees, GBV refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on the agenda. GBV is rooted in inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms and it is a serious violation of human rights. These acts must be identified, confronted, and dealt with. The Student Housing Unit stands ready to assist in the prevention of the GBV scourge. “We will continue to encourage students who are victims to report to us any acts that fall in the broad category of GBV”.
Mr Mauluma Maane, a TVEP representative also gave a message of support. He said, “we want to bring these solutions to find the scourge of GBV. “Make your voice heard by declaring publicly that enough is enough, challenge the gender stereotypes, challenge the condoning of violence against women and children, do not blame girls and women for how they choose to dress and recognise that human rights are woman rights. Break the silence!!! Authorities should ensure the perpetrators are dealt with. Be supportive and believe the victim. As TVEP we are calling on all Men to help us in fighting GBV”.
In his vote of Thanks, Prof Jegede expressed appreciation to all participants for their time. He summarised the presentations and reminded everyone about the urgency to tackle GBV. He also noted that, as one of its units of focus, the Ismail Mahomed Centre for Human and Peoples’ Rights of the Faculty of Management, Commerce and Law will continue to advance research and advocacy agenda around the issue of GBV. He charged the audience, once again, not to be scared to throw stones against the goliath of GBV in society.
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Date: 12 October 2022