Our universities are very rich in human resources. Many of our nation’s finest brains, analysts and innovators work there. One would imagine, therefore, that universities would lead the nation in combatting rape which is prevalent in our society, not through punitive measures and retribution, but through intellectual discourse and progressive thinking. No group of female students should have ever felt the compulsion to protest vigorously on this matter to get the universities to come on board in the campaign that they are now waging. The Vice Chancellors should have taken the lead of their own volition.
For a very long time, universities have continued to be very unsafe spaces for women students. This is abhorrent. Rape, sexual harassment and sexual assault have continuously occurred and universities have never to our recollection accorded the problem the priority it very clearly deserves. This situation can no longer prevail.
Why should it even be necessary for women students in particular to undertake the #EndRapeCulture campaign? Why do they have to stir the university authorities and the police to take action? University authorities, the police and student representatives should have been working together on the problem for the past twenty two years. A system should have been in place by now that ought to have produced positive results and made every South African university or tertiary institution a completely safe place for women students desiring to concentrate on their education without any fear of any sexual attack from any fellow students.
Congress of the People urges every Vice Chancellor and every principal to recognise the depth and ugliness of this problem and to use research readily available to them to provide inspiring leadership.
Students who are accused of sexual assault should be thoroughly investigated by the university involved and the police should be called in if a sexual crime is suspected. Women students should not have to endure the anxieties and fear they are presently experiencing in all our tertiary institutions at present. This simply adds to the strain that all students experience as they prepare for their assignments and examination.
COPE calls for every university and tertiary institution to take up the rape issue both as a matter for university research as well as for innovative, expeditious and effective action. Women students must have the right to study without any fear of sexual assault.