Policies have been passed and appeals made to hold perpetrators accountable, but gender-based violence incidents continue unabated.

The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) hosted a panel discussion on April 11, 2022 at Solomon Mahlangu House to unpack and begin dismantling stereotypes linked to gender-based violence (GBV).

GBV is the targeted attack on a person because of their gender, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community “are equally affected”, said panelist and bachelor of pharmacy student, Ebenezer Maimele (22). GBV is often narrowly understood as only physical violence; however, it includes forms of verbal, psychological and financial abuse.

The SRC’s gender officer, Sbahle Dlamini (20), said that Wits University is not doing enough to bring an end to GBV and called for pictures of perpetrators to be displayed at campus residence entrances, blocking access to alleged perpetrators.

Panelist and copywriter, Palesa Motiki (36), said the university should streamline investigations into GBV as cases are time sensitive. This streamlining, she added, may take the “strain out of the whole situation”. Motiki encouraged cohorts to provide students with a safe environment to feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

Wits LLB student, Noma Sibanda (19), told Wits Vuvuzela that these environments already exist. These include ‘safe zones’ and spaces offered by the university’s Gender Equity Office.

Panelist, author and activist, Hosia Malekane (67), published The Imperatives of Revoking Our Silence, a book about GBV in the university setting in 2021. Malekane said it is regrettable that the discussions about GBV are recurrent and still largely led by the victims, “We need to shift the dialogue and take it to the perpetrators.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who named GBV an ‘epidemic’ in 2020, signed off on three bills in February, 2022 to address GBV in South Africa and hold perpetrators accountable.

The effectiveness of these polices is yet to be felt, as South Africa’s femicide statistics remain disproportionately high in comparison to other countries.

FEATURED IMAGE: Nompumelelo Ranaka (41) shares her experience as a gender-based violence survivor. Photo: Tannur Anders