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Topless university students demonstrate against rape inaction

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Students using sandbags to barricade road leading into campus. @ewnreporter
Students using sandbags to barricade road leading into campus. @ewnreporter

Rhodes University students held protests over policies they say do not protect rape victims. Reacting to a “reference list” that was published bearing the names of alleged rapists at Rhodes University, students took to the streets to voice their disapproval over the bias policies institutionalized by the university.

Some female students demonstrated topless at the University to reinforce their position of better policies that protect rape victims and trauma services.

According to an interview with the South African magazine Mail & Guardian Sian Ferguson explained, “For now, our concerns are the sexual assault policy which has been under review for over a year. The policy is problematic as it excludes victims who have been forced to penetrate their perpetrators in its definition of rape. It also puts the onus on the victim to prove their perpetrator intended to rape them.” Sian

Sian Ferguson, is a student organizer and current chair of the Gender Action Project at Rhodes University. The demonstration, which has made #RUReferenceList trend, has seen three women arrested amidst confrontation with the police.

The university administration has not remained silent on the matter, despite being blamed for sweeping rape cases under the rag. Vice Chancellor Mabizela said that the low capacity in the university’s counseling services will be improved and the counseling service will be open 24 hours. Mabizela said that the names on the list would not be investigated until formal charges are laid. He also stated that the core issue lied with the Sexual Offences Act, which the university follows in its rape policy.

The university’s operations are at a standstill as students continue to protest. Ferguson a student organizer said “There is a partial shutdown, it’s not endorsed by management but students are disrupting academic classes. This partial shutdown will continue until the demands are met.”

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Ivy Mang'eli
Ivy Mang'eli is a graduate of Daystar University. She is passionate about youth affairs and social development