According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) refers to any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships. It encompasses threats of violence and coercion. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual in nature, and can take the form of a denial of resources or access to services. It inflicts harm on women, girls, men and boys.
On Friday, 21 April 2017, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) community, led by Student Affairs in partnership with the Institutional Office for HIV and AIDS (IOHA), Campus Health and Community Engagement, will be walking against SGBV. This is to emphasise the University’s commitment to end all forms of SGBV before it happens and responding to the needs of all survivors, who can be women and girls, as well as men and boys. This will additionally create an enabling environment for individual and collective change. The Walk will start at the Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus (APB) at 11am and end at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus (APK).
According to the United Nations (UN, 1 in 3 women still experience physical or sexual violence (2016). However, such violence is experienced by both women and men, especially among the vulnerable groups. This experience is likely to happen to any individual at any space or in any community, not forgetting high education institutions (HEIs). Some of the cases have not been reported as survivors fear stigma and discrimination.
“The questions remain, how do we support survivors within the different communities? How do we prevent SGBV from occurring and reoccurring, further creating safe spaces for everyone? We want our communities to strive to protect individuals and blow the whistle against GBV. The recent rape incidents that made the news in the West Rand here in Johannesburg were chilling. Unless society reiterates the voices and messages to stop gender-based violence, we will not heal as a nation. Sexual violence in South Africa is vile, we have to keep on educating our people and prosecute those that do not learn to respect the dignity and rights of other people” says Rainny Nkhatho, Head: IOHA.
South Africa is characterised by high levels of sexual and gender-based violence and its tertiary education institutions are not exempt from this violence or gender inequalities.
At the Walk, UJ Management and staff, Higher Education AIDS (HEAIDS), Student Leaders and SGBV ambassadors, will pledge to fight SGBV.