Few rules against women abuse at universities

Rhodes University students cry during the remembrance function of Khensani Maseko who committed suicide after allegedly being raped by her boyfriend. Picture: Luvuyo Mehlwana
Rhodes University students cry during the remembrance function of Khensani Maseko who committed suicide after allegedly being raped by her boyfriend. Picture: Luvuyo Mehlwana

Many South African universities and public colleges have no policies to deal specifically with sexual- and gender-based violence.

And because of this, the Higher Education and Training Health Wellness & Development Centre, an implementing arm of the higher education department, will “soon” gazette a policy with input from universities and colleges to help them deal with rape and violence on campus.

But the details are being kept under wraps. Communications officer Luxolo Matomela said we would have to wait for the policy to be published to find out the details. City Press understands that processes were underway in the department of higher education and training to gazette the draft policy. 

City Press canvassed the country’s top universities to find that many had no such policies in place to deal specifically with gender-based violence, including rape, and not just sexual harassment.

The have-nots

. Nelson Mandela University spokesperson Zandile Mbabela said gender-based violence cases were dealt with under the sexual harassment policy. “We hope the [development centre’s draft] policy framework will help to develop a policy to explicitly deal with reported gender-based violence and sexual violence cases.”

. University of Fort Hare spokesperson Khotso Moabi said it was a cause for concern that the institution does not have a clear policy on harassment in general and gender-based violence in particular. He said there had been moves to develop protocols and a structure to deal with gender-based violence, including that the student affairs division “is benchmarking with other universities on their policies and structures to fight gender-based violence and to enable us to finalise our own policy”.

. University of Johannesburg senior lecturer professor Corné Davis said the institution had had a sexual harassment policy in place for years. She said gender-based violence was a complex matter and the university was currently busy “working towards having the policy”.

. Vaal University of Technology spokesperson Mike Khuboni said its policy was still a work in progress. “It still has to be circulated for comments and inputs before it can be adopted.”

. North-West University spokesperson Louis Jacobs said the code of conduct and various policies form the basis from which disciplinary actions against staff and students are derived. “The concept of gender-based violence is much wider than that and in this regard the institutional forum of the university has embarked on a process to put such a policy in place,” Jacobs said.

The haves

. University of Witwatersrand’s Crystal Dicks, director of the gender equity office, said it was established in February 2014 as a holistic, autonomous and integrated office that deals with all aspects of gender-based violence and the advancement of gender equity, including sexual harassment, sexual violence and sexism.

Dicks said Wits “is the only university in the country that has a specific, complainant-centred policy dealing with gender-related misconduct”.

. University of the Western Cape (UWC) interim spokesperson professor Cherrel Africa said UWC had a policy and council had approved its newly updated sexual violence policy in June, which outlines the rights of complainants and alleged perpetrators and procedures for reporting sexual offences at the university.

. University of Cape Town (UCT) spokesperson Elijah Moholola said its sexual harassment policy, tabled before council in March 2008, and the UCT sexual offences policy are intended to deter rape and sexual assault, encourage the reporting of such incidents and provide for a comprehensive complainant-centred rape and sexual assault response.

. University of Free State spokesperson Lacea Loader said the institution had adopted two new policies – the anti-discrimination, promotion of equality and social justice policy and the sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual violence policy in June. She said the policies were adopted to promote equality and social justice and to eradicate unfair discrimination against staff members and students.

. University of KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Normah Zondo said a policy had been effected in October last year to address the pandemic of gender-based violence and sexual harassment.

. Stellenbosch University student affairs director Birgit Schreiber said a policy on unfair discrimination and harassment was approved by the council in 2016.

“This is managed primarily by the equality unit, which coordinates, educates and raises awareness on HIV/Aids sexualities, gender non-violence and anti-discrimination,” she said.

. University of Pretoria (UP) spokesperson Rikus Delport said the institution had had a sexual harassment policy in place for many years, which encompasses sexual assault. Delport said the university was now in the “process of developing an anti-discrimination policy, which is being circulated for comment by the UP community”.

“The anti-discrimination policy will have a vigorous approach to all harms, including sexual harassment and rape, allowing for prevention and redress,” Delport said.

* This article was update on Tuesday August 14 to reflect UP under "The haves" list

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