During the Covid-19 lockdown, there were horrific reports about another wave … that of gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide. Sanjay Munnoo writes that although it is a global problem, it occurs at an unacceptable rate in our country

According to Police Minister Bheki Cele, there were more than 87 000 cases of GBV reported during the first week of lockdown. 

Government will be implementing an emergency response action plan that is anchored by five key interventions: 

1. Urgently respond to victims and survivors of GBV; 

2. Broadening access to justice for survivors;

3. Changing social norms and behaviour through high-level awareness raising and prevention campaigns; 

4. Strengthening existing architecture and promoting accountability; and 

5. Creating more economic opportunities for women who are vulnerable to abuse because of poverty. 

During the pandemic there were also a host of exemption notices as well as new and draft legislation, including the Draft Code of Good Practice and Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the Work Place (draft code of good practice). 

Many of the new pieces of legislation required interpretation and Saiosh has proudly hosted webinars on most of them. Saiosh also has an online OHS legal advice forum, with an OHS advocate on standby to assist our members. 

Kim Lebotschy from Dremik has highlighted the relevance of OHS to the draft code of good practice: 

On page 35 the draft notes that: 

8.2 Employers are required to have clear rules, policies and procedures prohibiting all forms of violence and harassment (and other forms of unfair discrimination) that impede the dignity, health and safety of all workers. 

8.3 The policy should clearly state that all forms of unfair discrimination – which are regarded by the employer as a very serious form of misconduct – may result in dismissal. 

8.6.1 Violence and harassment is a form of unfair discrimination on the basis of any listed or arbitrary ground and/or conduct which infringes on the rights and dignity, health and safety of affected person(s) and/or complainant(s) in the workplace. 

9.2.2 (c) Effective OHS measures have to be adopted and implemented, including harm reduction strategies.

10.1 Treatment, care, and support programmes must ensure that:

(a)  health and safety measures are clear on interventions required and the procedures to be followed in managing different forms of violence and harassment; 

(b)  the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work are included in the workplace OHS strategy; 

(c)  employers and workers are jointly responsible for contributing towards a safe and healthy working environment; and

(d) records of available security, police, health and safety and other support services are kept.

Saiosh will lead the way and arrange for further analysis of the draft code. We call on health and safety professionals to encourage colleagues at the workplace to take a stance against GBV. 

Keep healthy and safe.  

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