Unisa to change rape definition after outdated documents cause social media outrage

The University of SA issued a notice to "affected students" following social media outrage about the outdated definition of rape in a study guide.
The University of SA issued a notice to "affected students" following social media outrage about the outdated definition of rape in a study guide.
Image: Dudu Zitha/Sunday Times

The University of SA says it has issued a notice to “affected students” following outrage on social media for the outdated definition of rape in one of its study guides.

On August 14, a Twitter user identified as Robyn Porteous shared an image of an extract from a Unisa study guide that defined rape “as deliberate, illegal intercourse with a woman without her consent”.

According to the study guide, only a woman could be a victim of rape, and only a man could be the transgressor.

“In legal terms, a boy can therefore not be raped by a woman, and a girl who is sexually abused by a woman cannot be considered a victim of rape. Such sexual transgressions will be regarded as immoral assault,” read the extract.

The definition was in the university's study guide for EDPH0D8, the Educator in a Pastoral Role.

Rape definition in SA

The definition of rape in SA was changed in 2007 when it was classified as an act that could be committed by both genders.

“Any person ('A') who unlawfully and intentionally commits an act of sexual penetration with a complainant ('B'), without the consent of B, is guilty of the offence of rape,” defined  the criminal law (sexual offences and related matters) amendment act of 2007.

PGCE material phased out

The university's spokesperson Martin Ramotshela confirmed to our sister publication TimesLIVE that a notice was signed and issued on Monday.

“The learning material that was part of the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) qualification will be phased out and a notice has been issued out to the students,” he said.

After calling out the university on social media, Porteous said a lecturer at the university assisted in “escalating the matter to the VP & the VC”.

" ... confirmed that an errata will be sent out in relation to use of the incorrect and out-of-date definition of rape.

“This is how you help, by doing what you can in the position you’re in. I’m grateful.”

Social media reactions:

Social media users, who took to Twitter, called the university's definition “awful”, adding that it needed to publicly apologise for this “insult”.

Here is a snapshot of some of the reactions:

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