Students Say Its A Woman’s Time Against Rape Culture By Cheryl Roberts

21 Apr

If 1956 was known as the year that oppressed South African women marched for human rights and against apartheid’s horrendous pass laws, then 60 years later, motivated by the fierce battles which oppressed black women engaged in to get their rights,  the year 2016 is going down as  ‘A Woman’s Time Against Rape Culture’ at tertiary institutions.

Our South African society has been demanding that rape and sexual abuse of women and girls and children be eliminated; that men stop abusing women’s bodies. There have been pockets of protest here and there; there’s also much social media activism, usually from the same voices consistently raising awareness against rape and calling for its end.

The students at Rhodes University reached breaking point. Although they faced the might of security ammunition, they have demonstrated they are using their young women’s power, determined to break rape culture and out those, at the tertiary institution, guilty of misogyny, sexual abuse and rape.

Anti-rape protesting students at Rhodes University have our praise and commitment; that is those of those women and people who never tire of calling out the scourge of the negative that is rape and sexual assault. The young protestors are brave, fierce, confident; most importantly; they have had enough of men thinking they have ownership of women’s bodies.

The young students are putting it out there; laying their lives on the front line of battle. They know that sexual abuse and assault of women has been there since generations ago. They have heard the whispers, they know some of the truths within their own families. And now, they experience it at what is supposed to not only be a place of learning and acquiring information, but should also be a safe place to personally occupy and thrive within.

The students have had enough! They know of one to many rapes, they have experienced sexism and misogyny, they are also aware of sexual abuse. Students, academics, tertiary staff are all guilty at the tertiary institutions.

Get this! Thug rapists and sexual abusers are everywhere! They are in families, in sport, in schools and tertiary institutions, at work places, in neighbourhoods, public spaces. They are all over, all day and every day and night.

University executives and management are seemingly more concerned about their academic ratings and salary increases than being willing to spearhead any action to eliminate rape culture at a tertiary institution.

The images of Rhodes University Vice Chancellor, Dr Mabizela standing between protesting anti-rape students and aggressive ammunition shooting police may be seen as heroic. But this heroism is uncalled for and not needed if rape and sexual assault and abuse of women and girls didn’t occur in our rape-riddled South African society.

Protecting brave protesting students from the security machinery of a ‘democratic’ country which employs force and violence to curb dissent and protest for sure needs lots of courage and is commended. Its the young people protesting rape culture who are heroic; it’s those who remain silent who allow and perpetuate rape culture by allowing it to exist.

However, it shouldn’t come down to this about students having to protest against rape to bring an awareness about rape and sexual assault which they confront on campuses of tertiary institutions.

Why are men especially, quiet about rape and assault of women at tertiary institutions and in society? Its men who are the aggressors, who are claiming to own women’s bodies, who are doing the raping and sexual aggression. Its your brothers, men friends, husbands, boyfriends, men neighbours, men colleagues, sons and fellow countrymen who are committing sexual violence which has probably occurred within your family but your family victim and survivor is silent about it because she fears facing the aggressor and confronting all its negatives.

‘Rape engulfs our society. Rape must be spoken about if we are to create the tools to begin to eliminate this horrific brutality,’ write feminist and black woman academic Pumla Gqolo in her book ‘Rape Is a South African Nightmare’.

‘Why are rich and powerful men protected when they commit rape? Why are national treasures like sportsmen, always assured they won’t get the years they deserve when they are guilty of rape’, are the questions asked by Pumla Gqolo, in her writings.

Rape isn’t just a South African nightmare. It is every woman’s worst fear. And it should be every man’s concern and objective to have sexual abuse and rape eliminated.




photo image: Reneilwe Mathibe

pic acknowledgement: reneilwe mathibe

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