03 December 2021 | Story Lunga Luthuli | Photo Supplied
Geraldine Lengau, Senior Officer in the UFS Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Office within the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice, calls on men to take the lead in ending gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality and the scourge continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations, with many communities – especially women and children – suffering the most from the atrocious acts. 

South Africa remains the country with the highest number of violent acts, especially against women, and Statistics South Africa reports that one in five partnered women has experienced physical violence. 

Gender-based violence can take many forms, including 

• sexual harassment; 
• rape and/or sexual violence;
• stalking (deliberately and repeatedly following, watching, and/or harassing another person);
• physical, emotional, and economic abuse; and
• child abuse.

Geraldine Lengau, Senior Officer in the Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Office within the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice, says: “Individuals must be vigilant of toxic environments where emotional and physical abuse are rampant.”

 “Even in the workplace, individuals can experience gender-based violence and it can play itself out in the form of power dynamics, prejudice, and discrimination.”

To help end gender-based violence at work, Lengau says, “Institutions have a duty to implement policies and procedures to increase awareness and sensitisation about this pandemic.”

Societal norms often contribute to victims deciding not to report these criminal acts for fear of being judged, with many women still being considered guilty of attracting violence against themselves through their behaviour.

“It is important for communities to provide support to victims and for organisations to have a zero gender-based violence tolerance policy. Victims must report any act, and in extreme cases, they must not be shy to get a protection order,” Lengau says. 

With the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign in full swing, Lengau says, “It is a great international initiative to tackle and raise awareness around issues of gender-based violence; however, it is not enough. It should go beyond the 16 days.”

 “To rid society of gender-based violence, our communities – men and women – should work together to root it out. Men should take the lead in tackling issues and bringing about solutions. Women should never get tired of speaking out; there is help for them.”

“Gender-based violence is a societal ill and women need to know that they should not bear the shame,” she says.

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