Students at the University of the Witwatersrand staged a protest yesterday in solidarity with others protesting against rape culture at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape.
Students demonstrated their support and called for an end to rape culture and patriarchal systems, which perpetuated sexual assault on women’s bodies. Some women protested topless, carrying sjamboks and chanting “one patriarch, 10 sjamboks”.
They painted their bodies with phrases like “revolt”, “kill rapists”, “my body, my choice” and “still not asking for it”.
The protests at Rhodes University were sparked by the anonymous publication of a list showing the names of 11 alleged rapists who committed sex crimes. Students shut down the university, demanding that Rhodes re-evaluate its harassment policy, address rape culture, and bring to task those who are guilty of sexual assault but continue to work in leadership positions.
Pictures by Zahra Haider
Simamkele Dlakavu, a social activist and former media and communications manager for Oxfam SA, said that the silence around rape needed to be broken, and that rapists must be named and shamed.
She also called out President Jacob Zuma as a rapist, saying she believes Khwezi, the woman who accused Zuma of rape in 2007.
“We have a president who is a rapist. I say that proudly, not scared of defamation charges, because I believe Khwezi …We remember Khwezi, we stand here for Khwezi,” she said.
Dlakavu also spoke about how she was raped by a close friend in her first year at Wits and how she hid it from her mother.
“This week I had to tell my mother that … because I knew she would send me back home. She didn’t want me here by myself.”
She expressed her gratitude to the women at Rhodes for starting the movement.
“They gave me my voice this week and I’m so grateful to them. They affirmed us all,” she said.
Meanwhile at Rhodes, the academic programme resumed on Monday, as planned, after being suspended for most of last week.
Catherine Deiner, the media relations officer at Rhodes, said the deans had been requested to consult with head of departments to arrange for the rescheduling of tests and due dates for assignments falling between Monday, April 18, and Tuesday, April 26.
“A full programme of awareness-raising activities has been planned by staff and students, and has begun. The Legal Resources Centre is assisting students who wish to open cases of rape and sexual assault or harassment,” she said.
She also said a third meeting would be held on April 28 by the interim committee, an open forum for all concerned staff and students. The committee will look at the proposed terms of reference for the task team, which was set up to investigate the broader problem of rape at the institution.
“We remain committed to engaging our students on any issues that are of concern to them, and to the eradication of sexual violence and abuse,” she concluded.