UCT SRC want Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie lecture cancelled over 'transphobic' comments

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Chimamanda Adichie speaks at the 2018 Action Against Hunger Gala at 583 Park Avenue on October 30, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Chimamanda Adichie speaks at the 2018 Action Against Hunger Gala at 583 Park Avenue on October 30, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
  • UCT's SRC wants a guest lecture by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie cancelled. 
  • The student body has accused the writer of transphobia. 
  • UCT says it will not cancel the event set for Wednesday.

The University of Cape Town's (UCT) Student Representative Council (SRC) wants an open lecture by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie cancelled, accusing her of transphobia.  

"As an institution which actively promotes intersectional feminism through its curriculum, it is important for us to recognise that Ngozi Adichie enhanced the divide in the feminist community with her anti-trans remarks, instead of using her platform and influence to highlight how trans women also have a right to simply be recognised as who they are without having to defend their womanhood," the SRC tweeted.

"We requested that the [Vice-Chancellor] change her as the guest speaker of her upcoming Open Lecture in solidarity with transgender students and staff in this institution." 

UCT said the Vice-Chancellor would not cancel the open lecture. 

"It is our view that the invitation of internationally acclaimed author and renowned feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to deliver the next Vice-Chancellor's Open lecture, entitled, 'The Idolatry of Theory: a defense of storytelling' in no way diminishes, undermines or changes our ongoing efforts in creating a culture of inclusivity, tolerance and acceptance for our diverse community within the university."

UCT viewed the lecture as an opportunity for debate and different perspectives on the same issue. 

"Cancelling the lecture will rob us all of the opportunity to share, to express, to learn and to change our minds. The alternative of silencing in our view robs us all of these opportunities," UCT said.

ALSO READ | 'I thought I was going to die' UCT student scoops Honours degree after beating Covid-19

It added that the university was the first to ratify the Inclusivity Policy for Sexual Orientation and offered students and staff a choice of honorifics. 

"Adichie is known for her LGBTQIA+ rights advocacy in Nigeria. While her advocacy has been controversial, it has to be understood in the full complexity of its context. Further, she has been unequivocal in stating that 'I have and will continue to stand up for the rights of transgender people'. As a university where we must fully embrace the most difficult and challenging conversations, we should only deny people a platform when the grounds for doing so are unequivocal. This is clearly not the case here."

The SRC said in a 2017 interview with Channel 4 Ngozi Adichie said, "... trans women are trans women", when asked whether trans women are "real women". 

The SRC claims that in a subsequent clarification, Ngozi Adichie said trans women are not women. 

Read Adichie's full clarification here.

Writer JK Rowling has also been caught up in a debate on the topic, and has been called a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF). 

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