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SHAC (Wits) reconfirms Policies and Procedures against Gender-Based Harm

Wits University is experiencing a significant pushback against its victim-centered policies and procedures for dealing with gender-based harm (GBH). Against this backdrop, the members of the Wits Sexual Harassment Advisory Committee (SHAC) – as established by the University’s Senate and Council and comprising experts from a range of disciplines to advise and advance the University’s efforts to end GBH on campus – are issuing this statement.

Globally, women have made substantial gains in terms of political representation and the institutionalization of policies and mechanisms designed to achieve gender equality and address gender-based harm. In the wake of the #MeToo moment, we observe that such steps have triggered in many places a backlash instigated by (alleged) perpetrators and their allies. Those at the forefront of this pushback are attempting to destroy the gains made within institutions, arguing that progressive mechanisms put whole societies at risk which, of course, assumes that only a patriarchal social order is stable. Proponents often occupy positions of high social status that enable them to organize this pushback from behind the scenes as they attempt to re-establish non-transparent old boys’ networks. A key strategy proponents of pushback deploy, amongst others, is to appeal to Himpathy (“…the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault…”) in order to portray gender and social justice activists as irrational and ideologically blinded, whilst (alleged) perpetrators are presented as innocent victims. …