Anti-Rape Protests Shut Down Rhodes University In Grahamstown, South Africa

South Africa University Protesters at Rhodes University are calling for a change to the university’s rape policy.

Anti-rape protests reached a breaking point Wednesday in Grahamstown, South Africa as university students continue to call for rape policy reform at Rhodes University.

A sexual assault and rape awareness campaign was initially launched by Rhodes students earlier this month under the name #Chapter212––a reference to the chapter of the South African Constitution regarding safety and dignity of the student body. The campaign began on April 11th when students plastered posters around the Grahamstown campus. The posters were intended to raise awareness of the university’s policies regarding sexual assault and rape on campus. They included quotes and statements accusing management of victim-blaming and ignoring rape allegations altogether.

“Members of the movement state that management is accountable for perpetuating rape culture at Rhodes, and these discriminatory and victim-shaming policies must change,” writes Mishka Wazar for Rhodes' student news publication, Activate. The Campus Protection Unit (CPU) removed the posters the morning of April 12, though students continued to repost them around campus.

On Sunday, an unnamed group leaked the names of eleven alleged rapists at the university. The “reference list,” which was posted to the RU Queer Confessions, Questions and Crushes Facebook group, went viral under the hashtag #RUReferenceList. Shortly after the list was made public, students converged at the Steve Biko Buildings and proceeded to march to the various residences of the men appearing on the list. Protesters called for the individuals to face the crowd.

The protesting students also drew up a list of demands for the university’s management, which they handed to RU Vice Chancellor, Sizwe Mabizela. The demands called for changes to the university’s rape policy, including a request that the definition of rape be reviewed and the burden of proof removed from victims. The students said they would shut down the campus if their demands were not met.

The protests continued around campus this week.

On Monday, students gathered outside the RU law department, demanding to speak with the law facility’s dean about the rape allegations––a majority of the alleged rapists were law students.

The hashtag #nakedprotest circulated on Tuesday as some students marched topless throughout the campus.

The situation turned volatile on Wednesday when police got involved. According to Reuters, five students have been arrested. Video footage shows one of the arrested students suffering from a panic attack while in police custody. Police used rubber bullets, stun grenades and pepper spray to disperse protesters.

RU has suspended activities on campus until further notice.


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