Little action on sexual violence at universities

2014-10-13 00:00

A TOTAL of 247 cases of sexual violence, domestic violence and rape were reported at South African universities over the past three years.

These figures were provided on Friday by the Higher Education Department in response to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance.

The figures were given for 15 of the country’s 23 universities who responded to a request from the Education Department for their figures on rape, sexual abuse, harassment and domestic violence.

The institutions were asked for figures for 2012, 2013, and the current year and to specify outcomes of the cases.

For the current year the University of KwaZulu-Natal has reported one case of rape that was withdrawn at the complainant’s request.

There were five reported cases of sexual abuse or harassment. Of these three were referred to the student disciplinary court but subsequently withdrawn at the complainants’ request. In one case the accused received a warning and a R800 fine while the other could not be dealt with as the accused was not a registered student.

Over the three-year period the University of Fort Hare reported eight cases of rape and 70 of domestic violence. No action appears to have been taken in any of these cases.

According to the DA, of the 68 reports of sexual abuse or harassment 38 were taken further while of the 149 reports of domestic violence “a paltry 18 were pursued to a conclusion”.

In answer to a DA parliamentary question in August on sexual offences committed by teachers in schools it was revealed that around 100 cases are reported each year. The highest numbers of such cases were reported in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Sexual violence in South Africa reflects cultural biases reinforced by patriarchal societies “whether its Zulu, Afrikaner or English-speaking”, said Branfield, founder of Operation Bobbi Bear, which cares for and fights for the rights of sexually abused children.

“The attitudes in South Africa have not changed along with the rest of the world.”

Specialist child abuse investigator Marc Hardwick said: “We are moving as a society where sex and sexy things are selling. Young girls and women are objectified as a result of that. There is not a healthy respect.”

Sexual violence or abuse is not mentioned specifically according to the UKZN student code of conduct, which states that “under no circumstances will any form of violence or threats of intimidation be tolerated within our community”.

A UKZN spokesperson was unable to respond yesterday regarding questions about the institution’s policy, if any, regarding sexual violence. The student representative council were also approached for comment but had not responded by the time of going to press.

• Stephen.Coan@witness.co.za

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