Unisa to act after outrage over study guide's outdated definition of rape

2019-08-19 20:57


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A University of South Africa (Unisa) study guide drafted by lecturers and published in 2011 has been criticised for its outdated definition of rape.

The university, however, said the guide, which is part of its post-graduate certificate in education (PGCE), was being phased out and replaced with a new one.

A Twitter user shared an image of a page from the Unisa study guide that defines rape as "... deliberate, illegal intercourse with a woman without her consent (Robertson 1989:4)".

It continues that "only a woman can be a victim of rape, and only a man can be the transgressor. In legal terms, a boy can therefore not be raped by a woman, and a girl who is sexually abused by a woman cannot be considered a victim of rape. Such sexual transgressions will be regarded as immoral assault (Le Roux 1992: 142)".

This definition changed in 2007, when rape was classified as being gender neutral.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act No. 32 of 2007 also referred to as the Sexual Offences Act) is an act of Parliament that reformed and codified the law relating to sex offences.

The definition of rape, as defined by the act, is "any person (A) who unlawfully and intentionally commits an act of sexual penetration with a complainant (B), without the consent of B, is guilty of the offence of rape".

The page with the definition is allegedly contained in Unisa's study guide for EDPH0D8 - the Educator in a Pastoral Role.

In the introduction to the chapter "Child Abuse: an Educators Guide for the Senior Phase and FET" wherein the definition is included, it is stated that "some people do not respect the fundamental rights of others, especially those of women and children, who are usually very vulnerable ... in this learning unit, we deal with the problem of child abuse in our contemporary society and ways to empower the senior phase and FET educator.

"It is difficult to define the definition of child abuse, as researchers cannot agree on one comprehensive definition," it read.

Social media users expressed outrage at the oversight.

Some called the university a "disgrace".

Others demanded that Unisa should apologise. 

Others wondered what other aberrations in fact there might be in the learning material. 

Model and actor Mohale Motaung was flabbergasted.

Unisa spokesperson Martin Ramotshela, responding to questions from News24, confirmed the learning material was part of the PGCE qualification, adding that it was being phased out.

"At the outset, we confirmed that the module in question is part of the PGCE qualification, which is currently being phased out as the university now teaches in the new aligned PGCE qualification," said Ramotshela. 

"The university has noted this error and has already issued an erratum notice to affected students, advising them to replace this definition with the correct definition provided for in our law.

"We also affirm that our quality assurance process is rigorous in order to minimise errors of this nature. However, when such errors are picked up, they get corrected immediately. Students are also encouraged to report any possible errors to the university via the established channels of communication so that they can receive prompt attention," he said.

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