Nude female demonstrators took to the Great Hall stairs to show solidarity with fellow student protesters at Rhodes University
Tebogo Tshwane and Nozipho Mpanza
About twenty female protestors went topless in the rain at Wits University today to show their solidarity with the #RUReferenceList at Rhodes University. Many took the opportunity to share their frustrations about a system that puts victims on trial before the perpetrators.
“We know that you go through a trial before your rapist goes through a trial. We know that you’re criminalised for being raped,” said one of the demonstrators.
Wits activist Simamkele Dlakavu who tearfully recounted her rape ordeal, said, “There needs to be a social cost, these men rape and nothing happens”.
Video: Candice Wagener
The demonstration referred to as #iamoneinthree was organised by a group of women calling themselves “Wits FeesMustFall Feminists”. The event, which had a noticeably low male turnout, spoke to the statistic that every one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
The women mirrored the protests held at Rhodes last week by demonstrating in the nude to challenge the attitudes of men towards the way women dress and behave. The message was clear: whether a woman is dressed or not, she is “still not asking for it”, a slogan which appeared on the bodies of many of the protestors.
The Wits demonstration did not only open the dialogue around issues of sexual violence and rape in society; it also created a safe space for women to openly share their experiences of sexual violence.
“We came together to stand against the rape culture that is at the institution, which we can also feel everywhere as women,” said Palomino Jama, a second year student at Wits University.
Men are responsible for dismantling rape culture
Thato Magano, a master’s student in African Literature, said that he was participating in today’s demonstration as a black gay man who is vulnerable to sexual assault because of the way in which society has feminised him. He added that he believes that it is the responsibility of men to end rape culture.
“There’s nothing that a feminised, female or marginalized body can do to convince someone who has incredible amounts of privilege that what you are doing is not right until that person has come into their consciousness,” said Magano
Students reiterated that the issues of sexual violence in universities were not exclusive to campuses but were a reflection of larger society. Because the people that are the perpetrators on campus are the same perpetrators on the outside.
Wits Vuvuzela, #RhodesReferenceList: Journalist denies rape allegations, April 21, 2016
Wits Vuvuzela, Book Launch: Rape- A South African nightmare, March 4, 2016
Wits Vuvuzela, ‘I don’t remember being raped’, September 19, 2014