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South Africa bolsters university plans to tackle gender violence


GBV and mental health “battles” must be won, says higher education health body

South Africa has released instruments to increase the uptake of a national framework on gender-based violence (GBV) in higher education.

Higher Health, a national higher education health organisation, said the plans direct universities to set up infrastructure for “a comprehensive response on cases of sexual and gender misconduct, rape, and sexual assaults”.

These include sexual and gender-related misconduct contextual guidelines; procedural guidelines for protection from sexual and gender-related misconduct; a protocol on post-school education and training code of ethics; and a protocol on rape and sexual assault cases.

Ramneek Ahluwalia, Higher Health CEO, said that 50,000 students had sought advice and help from existing GBV support services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The instruments were released on 27 August, and come in the wake of the murder of a Fort Hare student in the Eastern Cape. The Department of Higher Education and Training has been criticised for “inaction” on GBV in higher education.

The guidelines aims to ensure that reporting and disciplinary systems are put in place, and that rape kits, psychosocial support services and “survivor-friendly infrastructure” are available across all campuses.

“Improving the mental health and wellness of our students and staff, and protecting them from GBV, are battles we must win,” said Ahluwalia, in a statement.