UP suspends sexist poster students

2017-06-02 17:04
University of Pretoria (Wim Pretorius, News24)

University of Pretoria (Wim Pretorius, News24)

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Pretoria – The University of Pretoria (UP) has identified and suspended all male students who displayed posters with sexist slogans during a residence competition in May.

Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tinyiko Maluleke said the university took a dim view of the incident that took place during a Serrie residence competition, where female students had to dance in front of a crowd and be judged by a panel.

The posters were meant to distract the dancers.

The slogans included offensive and sexist remarks like: "There’s better uses for that mouth."

"It is totally unacceptable to make those kinds of statements that were seen on the placards that some students were carrying, we simply as a university reject those sentiments, it was totally out of place and in contradiction of the letter and the spirit of our policies of sexual harassment," said Maluleke.

Maluleke added that just because the students may be allowed to write exams, does not mean the case has been dealt with or that they have been pardoned, as the University will not rest until the matter has been fully investigated and recourse has been delivered.

"All identified students have indeed been suspended by the university and I think the fact that some of them may be allowed to write exams is not a negation of their suspension. So this suspension still holds."

UP spokesperson Candice Jooste said the matter will only be finalised next semester. 

There was social media outrage after images of the poster made their way to social media platforms, with some defending the male post wielding students.

Facebook user Elsje Nothnagel said: "Let's see, a 20-year-old something guy made a tongue-in-the-cheek joke at a cultural event as has been the tradition for many years. I think his future will be just fine."

Karishma Ramdev, referring to one of the poster students, said: "Maybe he must be evicted from res and banned from res activity."

#SpeakOutUP campaign

Maluleke said the SpeakOutUP awareness campaign which was rolled out in 2016 had two main aims; to help students become more aware of the policies that are in place to deal with sexual harassment and gender based violence on campus as well as to make students aware of what sexual harassment is.

"We can’t take it for granted that a first year student arriving here knows exactly what the boundaries are in terms of sexual harassment," said Maluleke.

"Also give students information about what to do or where to go if they become victims of sexual harassment or witnesses of sexual harassment occurrences at the university."

Maluleke said they also had a centre for students that provides support for students in terms of HIV/AIDS, sexual harassment, gender based violence and even those who are victims of homophobia.

He said a protection office with a protection officer has also been established, where students can go when they experience discrimination of any kind and that the department of student affairs provides counselling.

Maluleke admitted that there was always room for improvement; he said the university was looking into a 24-hour crisis centre as students said that incidents can occur at any time. 

"One of the things we are exploring now is the establishment of such a point of contact that is 24 hours available, but we are also exploring how we can cooperate with the Steve Biko Hospital for example which has a Thuthuzela centre which is a multi-disciplinary centre."

"Where there is a team, medical, psychological, psychiatric and so on, which helps victims of sexual harassment, so we are talking to them to see how we can liaise and work together with them."

University policies

Maluleke said the university had policies in place to deal with sexual harassment, gender based violence, homophobia and racial discrimination, and that part of the awareness campaign was to make the policies known better and have the policies be intersectional as a case of sexual harassment may also be a case of homophobia at the same time.

"The policies speak to the university's very strong conviction that there is no place for sexual harassment, gender based discrimination, racial discrimination in the university. There is absolutely no place, this will not be tolerated."

"Also from the side of the university, there is a keen awareness of the damage that these offences do to the dignity of the victims, not just their rights. We are going beyond mere rights awareness but also the dignity of people who are affected."

"We also know that this impacts very negatively on their academic project which is really the central project that the university is about."

"Students who are victimised like that will not be able to succeed in their studies."

Maluleke said in cases where there is a criminal element, the university will not hesitate to lay criminal charges against the perpetrators.

Read more on:    university of pretoria  |  pretoria  |  gender rights  |  sexism

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