27 June 2019 Volume :7 Issue :35

Combating Gender-Based Violence at UKZN

Combating Gender-Based Violence at UKZN

By Janine Hicks

Students, staff and management at institutions of higher learning across the country, as well as leadership within the Department of Higher Education and Training, have been outraged at the levels of gender-based violence (GBV) on university campuses and residences. This includes sexual harassment, sexual violence and assault, bullying and intimidation of gay and lesbian students, as well as crimes such as rape. While in some instances students complain of unsafe spaces in and around campuses and in off-campus residences, research and statistics reveal that many instances of GBV occur within intimate partner and peer group relationships. With lack of awareness on what constitutes GBV, and what counts as consent to unwanted sexual attention and acts, fear of stigma and lack of confidence in the university reporting mechanism leads many students to either not recognise or report such instances of GBV. 

As a university, we have an obligation to provide a safe teaching and learning environment – which means that we have to put measures in place to prevent and respond to instances of GBV. The UKZN Senate responded in October 2017 by enacting GBV and sexual harassment policies, which can be found online at https://aessupport.ukzn.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Policy-on-Gender-based-violence.pdf

The GBV Policy begins with the following declaration:

Gender-based violence is an affront to human dignity and is fundamentally at odds with the ethos and the values of the South African Constitution, to which the University of KwaZulu-Natal subscribes. The University is committed to providing a work and living and learning environment that is free from violence of any form, unfair discrimination or harassment and, in particular will not tolerate any member of its community engaging in violence on the basis of gender, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

GBV Policy and Committee

A Procedures and Guidelines document was adopted, which envisages the creation of a Gender-based Violence Committee (GBVC), to monitor reported incidents of GBV and oversee the implementation of the GBV Policy. The GBVC was finally appointed and quorate in September 2018, and we have been extremely busy since then to discharge our mandate and address the unacceptable scourge of GBV at our Institution. 

The GBVC comprises representatives from the SRC, School of Law, Human Resources, Student Residence Affairs, Student Support Services and Student Services, Risk Management Services, Professional Services Board, and other nominated experts and relevant entities. Membership is on a three-year basis, renewable once, depending on members’ availability to serve. All members are required to sign confidentiality agreements, in accordance with the GBV Procedure and Guidelines document.

The mandate of the GBVC is as follows:

•    Monitor and review the implementation and impact of the UKZN GBV and Sexual Harassment policy documents and procedures at UKZN;

•    Monitor the investigation and outcome of all reported complaints of GBV at UKZN and collate all statistical information on the outcome of such cases;

•    Collaborate with University stakeholders to propose the undertaking of special projects to address gaps and shortcomings in the University’s response to GBV at UKZN;

•    Develop recommendations on GBV prevention and awareness campaigns and measures at UKZN, and collaborate with appropriate University and external stakeholders in this regard;

•    Periodically review and propose any amendments to the GBV Policy, Procedure and Guidelines, and Sexual Harassment Policies; and

•    Report regularly to Senate on emerging recommendations, issues of concerns, and progress in regard to the implementation of the GBV Policy.

GBVC interventions

Since our inception, the GBVC has worked to address a range of critical issues to raise awareness of GBV, ensure that an appropriate policy framework is in place, gather and record reported statistics, monitor GBV cases in the system, and above all, to ensure that an appropriate reporting and response mechanism is enacted to assist and respond to those reporting instances of GBV. The GBVC has developed an annual programme of action (POA) to guide the implementation of various reporting, awareness and response measures undertaken by the various UKZN departments as represented in the GBVC. The POA reflects a co-ordinated set of interventions to ensure no gaps and duplication in effort, as well as collaboration amongst key stakeholders. 

Reporting protocol

A reporting protocol has been developed, with clarity on the reporting process, flow and roles of relevant UKZN stakeholders - from RMS to Student Services and the Office of the Proctor. This is currently being reviewed by implementation stakeholders, and once adopted, the final version will be publicised in the UKZN community. We have proposed the development of public information materials reflecting the reporting and response mechanisms for display on posters and through UKZN social media platforms to ensure all UKZN stakeholders are aware of this protocol.

Emergency response mechanism

The GBVC and RMS have been working hard to ensure a viable and immediate emergency response mechanism to instances of GBV. At the heart of this is the mobile panic button, embedded in the UKZN mobile app. The mobile panic app is active and RMS staff have been trained on how to respond and how to track all calls and outcomes on the RMS system which will be monitored by supervisors. The panic app will be launched and popularised within the University community through the Institution’s online communication and social media platforms.

Statistics and progress in reported GBV cases

Of huge concern to the GBVC is the lack of consolidated data on reported GBV cases. The GBVC has developed a matrix to collate such data, and has established a reporting mechanism with the office of the Proctor to obtain quarterly updates on all matters currently before it. This matrix will provide the GBVC with reliable statistics, on a quarterly basis, of all GBV cases currently under investigation or undergoing disciplinary processes together with outcomes on each matter. 

Training of RMS and residence stakeholders

RMS has already convened pilot training sessions for 30 of its officers and its investigators to ensure they are familiar with concepts of GBV and their obligations in terms of the GBV Policy and Procedures document. UKZN has contracted the Advice Desk for the Abused to undertake an in-depth training programme of all RMS officers. Such training will also be extended to Residence Assistants (RAs) to ensure inclusion of reporting protocols in their training and residence tours processes. Comfort Rooms for all RMS campus offices have been identified and resourced and have been operational since 1 April 2019.

Environmental audit

The GBVC has fed issues of concern raised by students in relation to unsafe spaces for inclusion in a UKZN environmental audit. he GBVC is anticipating an update on interventions in response at its next meeting.

Staff induction and training

The GBVC is overseeing the development of material to share with school boards and management committees for inclusion in staff induction. This will include a video that speaks to the definition of GBV, the policy and procedures framework and the reporting protocol.

Development of a compulsory cross-discipline module

The GBVC is liaising with the College of Humanities to develop and pilot a cornerstone type programme for potential roll-out across all Schools. This will address issues of diversity and social cohesion including GBV, homophobia and other forms of discrimination as well as hate crimes.

Way Forward

The GBVC welcomes the appointment of a GBV Task Team on the UKZN Executive Management Committee (EMC). This will serve as a means for us to report on issues of concern relating to GBV, requiring response from UKZN administration. We will be sharing quarterly progress reports, statistics and progress on reported GBV cases, updates on projects initiated by the GBVC, and any issues of concern regarding gaps or challenges requiring intervention by the EMC.

What to do in the case of rape or sexual assault:

•    Contact RMS – 031 260 3777

•    After hours emergencies:

- RMS (Westville) 031 260 7133

- RMS (PMB) 033 260 5211

- RMS (Howard) 031 260 2540/2

•    Report the assault and lay a charge at SAPS (RMS will assist you with this)

•    Go to a hospital/District Surgeon within 72 hours of the rape (RMS will accompany you to a Thuthuzela Care Centre)

•    Make an appointment with a UKZN Student Counsellor in the respective Colleges’ Student Support Services

Additional off-campus support:

•    Lifeline Durban – 031 312 23 23

•    Lifeline PMB – 033 394 44 44/0861 322 322

•    Thuthuzela Care Centres – 031 401 0394: Umlazi TCC, Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital; Phoenix TCC Mahatma Ghandi Memorial Hospital; RK Khan TCC, RK Khan Hospital

•     SAPS Umbilo – 031 203 2409

•    Advice Desk for the Abused – 031 262 5231

•    Open Door Crisis Centre – 084 409 2679

•    Jess Foord Foundation – 0861 333 449

•    Isipingo Support Centre – 031 902 2158

•    Cleremont Women’s Project – 031 707 2221

Janine Hicks is Chairperson of the UKZN GBV Committee and a lecturer in the School of Law. The above is written in her personal capacity.

*Picture of Janine Hicks courtesy of Independent Newspapers

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