Student union calls for bold measures to deal with violence against women on SA campuses

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Last week, alleged rapes were reported at Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape in the Western Cape. Photo: Twitter/UCT SRC
Last week, alleged rapes were reported at Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape in the Western Cape. Photo: Twitter/UCT SRC


The SA Union of Student (SAUS) is calling for stronger measures to be taken in response to violence against women in tertiary institutions.

This comes after several allegations of rape which were reported on a number of campuses recently.

Last week, alleged rapes were reported at Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape in the Western Cape. In a statement on Monday, the union said in March a rape allegation was reported at the University of Free State.

READ: Two Western Cape universities entangled in rape allegations

In the statement, the union is calling – among others – that within 24 hours of the alleged incident, the university must apprehend and remove the alleged perpetrator on campus.

Additionally, universities must develop and review their policies on sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment on campus in consultation with all students and student leaders.

SAUS also wants the police and the National Prosecuting Authority to establish a dedicated unit that will investigate GBV cases at higher education institutions.

City Press reported last week that apart from the two investigations into recent alleged racist incidents at Stellenbosch University, the institution was also probing a case of a student who was allegedly raped by another student on campus.

In its statement, the SAUS said:

The alleged rape happened at a men’s residence. The student was arrested and later granted R1 000 bail. He is due back in court next month.

The university said it would suspend the alleged rapist.

Last week, a student who alleged she was raped by an academic at the University of Cape Town took to Twitter claiming that the university was protecting the alleged rapist, an allegation the university refuted.

The SAUS said it had also been alerted of an alleged rape at the University of the Free State in March, which the university had not dealt with.

READ: Stellenbosch residence has a culture problem

“It is our contention that, for as long as institutions of higher learning perpetually place their elusive interests of reputational damage first, over their commitment to eradicating these crimes, they are in fact building a sector that breeds gender-based violence and is a safe haven for the perpetrators.

“In many instances of cases reported to the university authorities, perpetrators receive a lousy momentary suspension, as was with another case a few years ago when the perpetrator received a six- months suspension pending a successful prosecution.” The reunion statement read: 

Further exacerbating this conundrum is that often the cases are postponed almost indefinitely by the courts, further delaying the course of justice.

The student union said it would embark on a national conversation with stakeholders in the tertiary institutions around violence against women students.

Meanwhile, in 2020 the department of higher education, science and innovation released a policy framework that was supposed to help institutions deal with such violence.

This after it found that universities did not have systems in place to collect rape statistics and report them to the department. It also said that tertiary institutions did not have the means to deal with violence against women on campuses and this led to survivors not getting the support their required.

READ: We have normalised the abnormality of teenage pregnancies

According to the policy, institutions have to submit regular reports to the department on the number of cases of violence against women cases that have been reported.

They have to report the number of cases prosecuted and those referred for disciplinary proceedings as well as the time taken to resolve cases and actions taken to mitigate obstacles in resolving such cases.

They also have to state the programmes or interventions in place to improve safety and reduce gender-based violence incidents.


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