Campus protests educate students about sexual violence‚ panel told

Student protests play a pivotal role in addressing gender-based violence at South African universities.

Speaking at the International Conference for Preventing Violence in Cape Town on Friday‚ Stella Musungu – in a presentation called Evaluating a Gender-based Violence and Bystander Intervention Programme within University Student Residences — said that often students don’t really know much about gender-based violence and what these concepts mean.

“During orientation weeks and workshops during the year‚ the information is disseminated”‚ but these topics are broad and there is not always the time to “unpack everything” during the discussions. She added that discussing these issues doesn’t come naturally to students.

“But I do believe that the protests‚ and the action being taken‚ are invoking thought and it is encouraging students to discuss and address gender-based violence in universities‚” she told the panel.

“So I think we are getting there – but we need to do more‚” said Musungu‚ who is a member of the HIV/Aids‚ Inclusivity and Change Unit at the University of Cape Town.

Musungu’s colleague‚ Sinegugu Duma‚ of the Division of Nursing and Midwifery at UCT‚ told the panel that 37 male and female students had taken part in focus group discussions on university student leaders’ perceptions of safety and fear of sexual violence on campus.

 “There was a sense of tolerance of rape culture among these young adults‚” Duma said.

She quoted one male student leader‚ who said: “I sometimes think we stress too much about things. I know it is a major problem out there‚ but we also need to live our lives and be happy.”

Others made jokes about sexual violence: “Sex is like pizza. Even if it is bad it is good‚ even if it is cold or hot‚ it is good. Whether it is thick or thin‚ it is good. Whether it is from Debonairs or Scooters it is good. Sex is good.”

What also emerged during these discussions is that often students have a false sense of safety and often neglected to take basic precautions.

Earlier this week TMG Digital reported that angry students took to the streets outside the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) on Wednesday morning chanting: “Rape must fall.”

Their protest follows allegations by a student that she was raped by police. On Friday the university confirmed that police are investigating a case of alleged rape but that it apparently took place off campus.

In April this year Rhodes University students went looking for accountability when a list of 11 people‚ who allegedly committed sexual assaults emerged on social media. The students marched to various residences looking for the individuals on what was called the “Reference List”.

 

 

– TMG Digital

 

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