Women in HE must be equally safe from gender based violence

June Maguire
June Maguire

#stucwomen18 STUC Women’s Conference pledged action to end gender based violence on university campuses. It will promote and build on the Equally Safe in HE toolkit developed by Strathclyde University. UNISON’s amendment pointed out that this builds upon previous good work by trade unions in universities and colleges.

Supporting the amended motion, UNISON’s June Maguire said that gender based violence has been flourishing for too long on our campuses, for both students and staff, and welcomed the work already carried out by universities like Glasgow Caledonian.

She pointed out that employers have legal responsibilities to address these issues, and thanks to campaigns, media reports, and a growing body of research revealing the scale of the problem, many have now taken steps to address the situation.

“This is a major step forward, but there’s still work to do,” said June highlighting that gender based violence affects both staff and students.

“Some universities have chosen to put measures in place for students first, as they believe developing policies and support for staff is more challenging.”

However June called on employers, including universities to support all gender based violence victims and survivors, for staff and students, whether the experiences are recent or historic, on or off campus, and whether the perpetrators are connected to the university or not.

She pointed to some excellent gender based violence policies in Higher Education institutions, that cover both staff and student victims. For example, Glasgow Caledonian’s policy was introduced last November, and it was the first university to implement a First Responders Network, allowing students to disclose incidents to trained staff.

June added, “Edinburgh University, my own employer, has focused so far on student wellbeing, developing clear guidance for students who’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, and guidelines for staff if students disclose they are victims of sexual assault and harassment.”

There is also a focus on prevention, with campus-wide staff and student education programmes to create discussion around sex, relationships, consent, gender and sexual harassment

A sexual violence working group has also been set up to look at developing staff policy.

But June warned against complacency.

“Unions should be campaigning and negotiating to extend gender based violence policies to staff and playing a key role in casework involving staff and students. Student unions also have a responsibility and we should be asking that they too should be introducing gender based violence policies for their staff.”

She also called on employers, not just those in the HE sector, to recognise the scale of gender based violence, in the workplace and elsewhere, blighting the lives of so many women and girls and called on the STUC Women’s Committee to play a key role in publicising the toolkit, and the successes it has helped to facilitate across Scottish campuses, and developing similar resources for other sectors.

“There is a real need for GBV policies across all women’s workplaces, and unions are key to getting the job done,” urged June.

More information can be found at https://www.facebook.com/STUCWomen/

And the STUC website http://www.stuc.org.uk/about/equalities/women

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