NEWS

Harsher Security Is Not The Answer To Curbing Rape At SA Universities

"We need to be producing a new kind of men in South Africa."

03/10/2017 16:21 SAST | Updated 03/10/2017 16:21 SAST
Twitter
Rape culture is what needs to be combatted first at our universities, before security is ramped up, say gender activists.

Nelson Mandela University (NMU) students have resorted to protesting in an attempt to force the institution to get stronger security on campus. But experts say other measures should be taken to protect students.

NMU confirmed two students were attacked, one raped and the other stabbed, by an individual who is not a student on Monday night.

NMU SRC president Pedro Mzileni told HuffpostSA, "The security structure is weak... The university is lazy and negligent around issues of security."

But Wits senior anthropology lecturer Kelly Gillespie says adding more security on campus is not necessarily the route that should be taken.

"What I would hate to see is rape being used as an excuse for the securitisation of institutions," she said.

Gillespie said the mindset of men should be the main focus at institutions.

"There should be critical projects that address rape culture, which is endemic, and universities should be concerned with producing a new kind of men in South Africa."

She says there should be "a deep cultural shift in the way gender is taught in South Africa".

"We can't just lock down campuses, we need campaigns [to educate students about rape culture], 24-hour numbers to call [in cases of emergency] and good response times [for victims]," she said.

However, Gillespie said solving the issue externally, especially where it involves two students, may be the best option.

"There should be more progressive ways of solving this as an organisational matter."

She said she saw this as a viable option if universities addressed the matter instead of allowing it to simply "die".

"Sending a student to the police is not always the answer because it can mean ending up with more misogyny and toxic masculinity."

She said rape culture in South Africa is "endemic" and "needs urgent attention".

Gillespie commended Rhodes University as being one of the universities that has taken real strides towards solving issues surrounding rape culture.

"Men still have a sense of entitlement and think they can get their way with women."

Sara Chitambo, who is the programme manager for Zazi Campaign, says the key to addressing this dire situation is "bigger than an isolated issue involving a security breach".

She mentions issues of toxic masculinity, patriarchy and socialisation as being the key focus areas.

"Men still have a sense of entitlement and think they can get their way with women," she said.

"It's in the language. Men use words like 'stock' when referring to women. How do you respect someone you call that?" she added.

Chitambo said men need to start speaking about these issues.

"We are very reactive, but we don't see men speaking out... We need spaces where men can reflect."

She said the universities should work on finding appropriate procedures to tackle rape on campus.

"They [universities] should start by having offences policies that can be followed... No one really knows how to report these issues," she said.