Outrage over pupils’ sex act image

2015-10-16 10:30
School desks. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

School desks. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Pietermaritzburg - An image of five Hilton College boys engaged in a mock sexual act has triggered a wave of outrage.

The picture of the four pupils in uniform pretending to carry out sexual acts on another male pupil, who is dressed in a St Anne’s ­Diocesan College uniform, went viral on social media yesterday.

It is unclear whether the boys were enacting a gang rape or ­consensual sexual act.

The picture was posted on Instagram by one of the pupils late on Tuesday night and soon spread, with hundreds of people sharing and commenting on the image.

The pupils cannot be named ­because they are underage.

Hilton College headmaster ­Peter Ducasse released a press statement saying the school was “appalled” at the highly offensive picture.

“We cannot condemn this ­sufficiently strongly. It flies in the face of all that the school stands for and teaches,” said Ducasse.

He added that the school was ­investigating the matter in a “very serious light” and would take ­appropriate disciplinary action once this was complete.

Gender studies and education specialist Dr Promise ­Makhosazane Nkosi, a lecturer at UKZN, said the picture depicts ­exactly what is happening in ­society and questioned what the government and society were ­doing to educate people, especially pupils, about gender equality.

“We are far from achieving ­gender equality,” Nkosi said, adding that the ­picture showed how stereotypes were “entrenched” in society.

“We are debating continuously, yet no one is acting on a solution. We need to stop talking and need to start acting,” she said.

Women and Men Against Child Abuse advocacy manager ­Germaine Vogel said the pupils and their friends should ­understand the implications of the picture they had created — “It is illegal and could incite rape, a scourge which we should all be fighting in this country, not ­encouraging or making light of.”

Teddy Bear Clinic clinical ­services director Dr Shaheda Omar said the picture proved that society had become desensitised to rape.

“The fact they have done this demonstrates a level of desensitisation. Where do children begin to conceptualise a rape scene if they haven’t been exposed to do it?

“The subliminal message ­conveyed to children is rape is not that bad, because people are ­getting away with it and it becomes acceptable.

“It becomes a sexualised culture associated with aggression and ­violence, and this is normalised. That is what this picture depicts,” she said.

St Anne’s headmaster David ­Arguile said they were made aware of the picture by a senior pupil. ­Arguile said he had since been in numerous meetings with Ducasse.

“It was certainly our school uniform [used in the picture]; however, I will leave Hilton College to complete their investigation, which should lead to how the boys got their hand on one of our uniforms. We will then take it from there,” he said.

St Anne’s e-mailed former and current pupils and their parents yesterday.

In the e-mail Arguile said he was personally appalled at the behaviour of the Hilton boys. His reaction was not only linked to the protection of St Anne’s image, but also to the fact that this incident was “yet another example of a disturbing trend of many schoolboys disrespecting girls and often reducing them to sex objects”.

He asked the St Anne’s community not to share the image on social media.

“St Anne’s will obviously keep a close eye on Hilton College’s ­response to this incident. In my ­opinion, this incident provides further evidence of the need for all schools to improve their education of pupils in terms of appropriate respect for each other, especially for pupils of the opposite sex. I assure you that St Anne’s is committed to this cause,” said Arguile.

A parent of a St Anne’s pupil, who would not be named, said that every mother with daughters feared sexual violence, and the picture and act by Hilton boys “strikes to the very core”.

“My instinct is to say that I don’t want my daughters anywhere near Hilton College boys. I also feel so sorry for these boys’ mothers and sisters — they must feel so ashamed.”

Facebook and Twitter were alive with comments from ­angry readers who saw the post by the Hilton schoolboys.

•Hlanganani ‘Hlaspi’ Gumbi said: “They clearly have no idea of the sensitivity of the issue and think it’s funny. Our rape culture and misogyny against women is so desensitised that we now feel nothing and have normalised this situation to jokes. Shame on these boys.”

•Sharlene Collins said: “Clearly their parents are wasting their money on ­education for these [pupils]. Nothing is private on any ­social media site.”

•Harrington Harrington wrote on Hilton College’s ­Facebook page, asking: “Have you seen the disgusting things your students not only think and do, but share?”

•Lize Hartley tweeted: “I also hope it’s not just women speaking up. Boys, men, Hilton College Old Boys all need to condemn this. Publicly, and without reservation. I hope @Hilton_College will post as openly about addressing this as they do their sport results.”

•Mpumi Ngqula ?tweeted: “This is rape culture. This is why women in this country are terrified. And your boys ­behave like this.”

•Kati Reeve said: “Proof that absurd amounts of ­money doesn’t buy you basic respect.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  school

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