‘Gender-based violence is a pandemic, if not a civil war, and it has to end’ – UP Vice-Chancellor Prof Kupe

Posted on December 14, 2020

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Transformation Office recently hosted a webinar themed ‘Stop Gender-Based Violence: Turning the Tide Against the Scourge’. The webinar was a culmination of a number of activities that have taken place to mark 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

The virtual chat – which was moderated by Dr Joel Modiri, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Jurisprudence at UP – featured a panel including Nthabiseng Ramothwala, psychologist at UP; Pierre Brouard, Deputy Director: Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender at UP; Kayan Leung, Policy Development and Advocacy Manager, Sonke Gender Justice; Professor Christopher Afoke Isike, Professor, Department of Political Sciences at UP; Neo Lesela, Founder and Managing Director, Executive HND Industrial Engineering and Chairperson of UP Institutional Forum; and Dr Matete Madiba, Director of the Department of Student Affairs and current chair of the UP Institutional Transformation Committee.

Addressing the panellists and attendees, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP Professor Tawana Kupe said UP has a zero tolerance approach to GBV in all its forms, but acknowledged that, sadly, most women are still going through the violence imposed by the dominance of patriarchy at home and in the workplace. “The levels of violence against women are unacceptably high, it is a pandemic, if not a civil war. Women, children and the LGBTQI community not only live in fear of violence but are also socialised to regard violence against them as a normal part of life.

“During this year’s 16 Days of Activism UP will continue to be amongst the voices speaking out and making a contribution in assisting to fight this pandemic. It has to come to an end and it is up to all of us to fight it. One of UP’s interventions to fight GBV is through our #SpeakOut campaign, which is one of the ways we live the UP way. This ongoing campaign is steered by the Transformation Office.” 

Delivering her address, Leung said it is important to acknowledge that GBV affects all members of society, and everyone has a positive role to play in addressing it, be it at home or in the workplace.

“It is also important to educate ourselves as to how GBV manifests, understand how GBV arises in its different forms: be it physical, emotional, psychological, economic and verbal. For parents, it is crucial to carry yourselves properly, especially around children, as they tend to marry the behaviour witnessed from home to the outside society and different studies have confirmed this.”

Brouard said patriarchy, as a philosophy, normalises and naturalises male power. “GBV is not only predominantly from men towards women or LGBTQI members, but in instances where men are perpetrators, essentially, the conduct is a manifestation of an idea that ‘I can do what I want wherever, be it at home or with a woman’s body’.”

Expanding the conversation further, Prof Isike said in terms of remedies it is necessary to have a better understanding of patriarchy. One of the reasons men resist gender equality in South Africa and across Africa is because they see it as a western concept, something foreign, he said.

Ramothwala added that it is important to teach children, especially boy children, respect for women in particular. “Our homes have a bigger role to play in terms changing people in terms of how to treat each other. Children need to be raised with proper family values because everything they learn at home they will take it outside, to society. Raise children in a way that they are confident in who they are.” 

In her closing remarks, Lesela urged victims of GBV to speak up. “As Prof Kupe has said,  GBV is now a pandemic, we all have a role to play in order to stop GBV, it must be a collective effort.”

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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