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Researchers, criminologists and policymakers converge at IIE MSA GBV Colloquium

While much research has been conducted around victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV), comparatively little attention has been given to defining the perpetrators of this act. This is one of the issues that came under the spotlight at the IIE MSA GBV Colloquium, hosted by the campus’s School of Social Science on Tuesday, 6 December 2022.

The IIE MSA GBV Colloquium presented a unique forum for stakeholders to share ideas for putting an end to GBV, explained Head of Campus, Andre Lubbe. “This is especially relevant as we commemorate 16 Days of Activism Against GBV,” Lubbe said, noting that with events like this, along with research to understand the phenomenon and campaigns to raise awareness, it would be reasonable to expect related statistics to be declining. “Instead, the opposite is true. However, we are proud that our academic leadership at IIE MSA, a brand of the Independent Institute of Education, is at the forefront of bringing together the right people to tackle this scourge.”

According to Dr Alex Asakitikpi, Head of the IIE MSA School of Social Science, the fact that statistics for these crimes are increasing indicates that there is a gap between current policies and strategies intended to end GBV, and what is experienced by activists on the ground, such as NGOs. The Colloquium provided an opportunity to identify such gaps and make recommendations to address them.

At the same time, it created a platform to craft a clearer understanding of perpetrators of GBV, which Asakitikpi maintains, is currently limited. The input of several experts, from criminologists to the South African Police Services, ensured that the framework that was consequently developed around this understanding was multidimensional, allowing for a holistic view of those who commit violence against women.

“Until this point, our research has been largely skewed towards understanding the circumstances of victims of GBV. Our hope is that the framework created at the Colloquium provides insight into perpetrators from a socioeconomic perspective: for example, how do perpetrators define masculinity? How are they influenced by the values of their communities?”

Asakitikpi pointed out that the participation of stakeholders ranging from the researchers, such as the Human Sciences Research Council, to the Department of Social Development was one of the factors making the Colloquium a unique and powerful vehicle. To harness the diversity of these voices, the full day event included a two-hour Q&A and discussion session, creating scope to pave a way forward in view of the information that emerged.

Importantly, the Colloquium also invited input from the UN Women and some NGOs such as the Restorative Justice Centre, Soul City for Social Justice, Trevor Huddleston, and Centre for Community Impact. The insights of these groups are considered especially important, as they are often cut off from other stakeholders in the fight against GBV. “The work in this field is often very siloed, so it’s very useful for all stakeholders to be able to weave their experiences together,” Asakitikpi noted. He added that the participation of the intergovernmental organization such as the UN Women ensured the inclusion of global insights, which must be seen against the circumstances of the South African context.

Dr Asakitikpi insists that the work initiated at the Colloquium is just a starting point: the School of Social Science intends to use the learnings gleaned at this gathering as a springboard for further research. Over the next three to five years, teams from the school will focus on two to three areas identified as GBV hot spots, which will become their ‘research laboratory’. “We will hone in on communities in these areas to see what trends are prevalent, and how dynamics at the micro- and meso-levels create the monster that is GBV.”

The school will further engage members of the media to discuss how the phenomenon is portrayed in society and will collaborate with both government and established NGOs to provide data that will be used to shape more informed intervention strategies.

“This is a long-term project, but we are looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labour as GBV and femicide in South Africa become a diminishing threat,” Asakitikpi concludes.

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