The Commission for Gender Equality says for true gender transformation to be realised, institutions of higher learning must first acknowledge where they are failing.
The commission kicked off its two-day investigative hearings into gender transformation at institutions of higher learning in Kempton Park yesterday.
Administrators at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and Sefako Makgatho Health Science University were the first to come under fire.
This after presenting what the commission deemed sanitised reports into allegations of sexual misconduct and gender transformation at the universities.
In 2017, WSU recorded the highest number of rapes at any South African university, with 47 rapes reported just that year alone.
WSU Vice Chancellor, Professor Rueshiell Songca, says while the university has made significant strides in combating gender-based violence, it remains an area of concern.
And while several programmes have been introduced to educate both staff and students, the commission found no policies were in place to formalise sexual harassment complaints.
Issues of safety and security have also come under scrutiny with many female students reporting that a lack of security maintenance at student residencies had left them vulnerable to sexual violence.
The Chairperson of the commission, advocate Nthabiseng Mogale, slammed university administrators for attempting to water-down the true extent of gender disparities at their institutions.
At the same time, Mogale called for the tackling of sexual violence veiled as cultural practice, saying such abuses can no longer be overlooked.
She was referring to the ancient practice of Ukhuthwala, where young women are abducted for the purpose of marriage negotiations.
The tradition, which is particularly practiced in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, is increasingly marked by sexual violence and the forced marriage of girl children.
Mogale says gender-based violence masquerading as cultural practices can no longer be tolerated.
She’s called on institutions of higher learning to facilitate an end to the practices.
The commission is expected to release its recommendations into WSU and SMU once the hearings conclude later this week. Article by Naomi Kobbie
Written by: Lindiwe Mabena