“Rape justification” textbook sparks outrage

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A passage in a Grade 10 Life Orientation textbook currently being taught in schools has incited anger for reportedly promoting victim blaming and rape culture.

The piece first started making waves when Facebook user Yonela Palesa Moopelwa  posted an image of it to her personal wall and on Twitter.

In the example, a girl called Angie tells of how she went to a party where they were drinking a lot of alcohol.

“My friends started acting badly,” the piece says. “They pushed me into a room with a boy I did not know and locked the door. They just laughed when I banged on the door to be let out. This guy was so horrible…he raped me.”

Pupils are then asked to answer three questions, the first being:
"List two ways in which Angie's behaviour led to sexual intercourse."

“This activity is teaching our kids to justify rape! How can this be allowed, in a country that already has horrifying rape statistics?” Moopelwa wrote about the offending piece appearing in the Focus Life Orientation Grade 10 Learner's Book, with many echoing her sentiments and sharing her post.

READ: Life Orientation textbook: Teaching girls that rape is their fault

The Department of Basic Education’s spokesman, Elijah Mhlanga, sent out the following statement:

"The Department of Basic Education has noted concerns and complaints emanating from a page in one of the Grade 10 textbooks. The content referred to is both unintended and unfortunate.

"To summarise the matter, it is a story about a girl who went out to a party with friends without seeking permission from her parents, as they would have declined the request.  They drank and got drunk. While they were drunk, the friends pushed her into a room with an unknown male and locked the door Where she was subsequanlty raped  by the unknown male. Now she feels she can't report the rape to her parents because they will know that she lied. She is so hurt and scared as there are possibilities of contracting HIV, pregnancy or both. She is also regretting going to the party.

"Three questions are posed to learners after this story. The problem is the first question, namely:

"'List two ways in which Angie's behaviour led to sexual intercourse'

"This question raises very serious misconceptions and stereotypes about "rape" and the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, in that the victim might have played a role that led her to be raped. The department is fully aware of implications such scenarios have on the psyche of our children and the general public about the scourge of rape that the country is battling with. Furthermore, the question refers to the incident as “intercourse” which may further confuse learners. The importance of mediation by  teachers in this instance becomes important as should be the case in a classroom environment.

"We also acknowledge such content may further perpetuate impunity and victim blaming. The objective in a subject as important as Life Orientation is to equip learners with skills to deal with and face life’s challenges, it is unfortunate that this particular section in the textbook is certainly not part of that.

"The process of compiling such content includes a panel of experts who make inputs in line with set guidelines. This is followed by a review of the content by a subject specialist. The textbook in question, published and distributed in 2011 forms part of content that Minister Angie Motshekga has asked to be tested for inappropriate or contradictory content.

"The evaluation process is conducted by subject specialists from provinces and districts, where in the textbooks are subjected to a rigorous screening process.  'We cannot at this stage blame the subject specialists that evaluated the material, we can however remedy the situation as we have done in the past with other material that was later found to have inappropriate content, i.e. picture, misleading text, etc' said departmental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.

"The department has in this regard already written to the publisher in order to remedy this and ensure the material is no longer taught in our classrooms.

"The department welcomes inputs made by parents, the public, civic organisations and other interested parties into what learners are taught and exposed to in their learning material, this is truly reflective of the societal importance and significance of education. 'We also encourage active, consistent critique of all teaching and learning material of all grades and subjects. It is through these engagements and contributions that we can achieve the best quality of content for the millions of children whose education we are entrusted with', Mhlanga added.

"Lastly, the Minister has appointed a Task Team to further evaluate textbooks to ensure they are free of bias in terms of race, sex, gender and other forms of discrimination, the task team will at a later stage make recommendations to the Minister.

"The Task Team comprises of experts from Higher Education Institutes ( HEIs).  This Committee will look at a broad sample of textbooks, specifically for the development of a textbook policy on promoting content that fosters diversity going forward."

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