‘Sexual Harassment Officers’ deployed to root out GBV in WC government

‘Sexual Harassment Officers’ deployed to root out GBV in WC government

The Department of Social Development in the Western Cape has outlined its strategy to combat gender based violence (GBV) within its own ranks and in the broader South African context, pledging to deploy volunteer “Sexual Harassment Officers”.

In the wake of the bombshell dismissal of Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz following a raft of sexual misconduct allegations, the Department said that the province’s government structures are clamping down acts of violence towards women.

Social Development outlines GBV interventions

In a statement issued on Wednesday, former Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato – now head of the Western Cape’s Department of Social Development – said that the Western Cape’s Provincial Parliament’s Standing Committee was briefed on plans to combat sexual harassment within its own operations, as well as to combat Gender-Based Violence (GBV) across the province.

He said that in the event of sexual misconduct allegations being levelled against colleagues, the following interventions will be actioned:

  • The Department will train and appoint Sexual Harassment Officers (SHOs), who are volunteer appointees responsible for being the first point of contact should an incident of sexual harassment take place within the department.
  • The Department’s internal policy will offer complainants the choice of a formal or informal process to deal with their complaints, and takes into account the power dynamics which so often hamper justice in these cases.
  • The Department also provided an update on the implementation of its province-wide GBV reduction methods, which include measures to provide psychosocial care for survivors at GBV shelters and Thuthuzela Centres.

‘Delicate balance’ required to protect victims

Plato said that he hopes that the latest interventions will go a long way to stemming further incidents of GBV in government structures. He noted that there is a “delicate balance” to be struck between rooting out offenders and protecting victims.

“GBV and sexual harassment are traumatising, egregious, and highly nuanced issues that affect many within our province and our country. The policies which the Department has put into place to eradicate sexual harassment within its own ranks strike the delicate balance between holding perpetrators accountable, and protecting the rights of complainants to anonymity and to their choice of method for resolving complaints,” he said.

“At the same time, the Department’s six-pillar approach to tackling GBV broadly in the Western Cape, takes a comprehensive approach to decreasing the scourge and addressing the needs of victims.”

“It is imperative that the rights of sexual assault and GBV victims and complainants remain paramount, and not be compromised for political ends.”

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