East Londoners protest in support of rape survivors

New support programme for university students planned

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Photo of protesters
Fort Hare students protest against the attitude that women are responsible for being raped because of the way they dress. Photo: Siphokazi Vuso

On Women’s Day, about 40 female students marched from Fort Hare campus down Oxford Street to challenge attitudes to rape, and to encourage survivors to report the rapes committed against them.

Dozens of people also participated in a march by the Anglican Women’s Fellowship to the city’s magistrates’ court. They handed over a memorandum asking for safer handling of cases of abuse against women and children.

A woman participating in the Fort Hare march told GroundUp her story that shows the difficulties of reporting rape. She was raped at the age of six while she was at primary school. She said that when she reported the rape, her teacher and parents never believed her and the perpetrator got away.

“The scar of being raped stays with you for a very long time. It’s even worse when the culprit is out there walking freely,” she said.

“I was once given a T-shirt [with the words] ‘I am a Victim’ in a protest at Rhodes University. I did not want to wear it at the time because I didn’t want to be labeled as a victim. But once I saw other girls like me wearing the T-shirt proudly I realized I’m no longer a rape victim I’m a survivor,” she said.

This was the second march highlighting rape in recent times by female students of the university. They also protested in March.

“We would love the law to use a harsh hand”

Meanwhile, at the Anglican Women’s Fellowship protest, Thobeka Jack, the president of the organisation told GroundUp the reason for the protest is that members of the fellowship are concerned about the way rape cases are being handled within the judicial system.

“The perpetrators of violence against women and children walk free in our communities. The sentences are light, and that is why the incidents are repeated,” said Jack.

Portia Bizane, who took part in the march, said, “We would love the law to use a harsh hand when dealing with cases of abuse against women and children. We are also concerned about the outcomes of the reported cases as they are either delayed, rejected and withdrawn from the courts for unknown reasons.”

Their memorandum was handed to the provincial Department of Justice Chief Director, Thabo Bulube. He promised to take the memorandum to the Department. “I have listened to the concerns. I cannot promise anything as I am only here to receive the memorandum,” he said.

New safe care programme planned

A positive development is that a safe care programme for university rape survivors has been planned for East London by the Masibambane Women’s Care Centre, a non-profit organisation based in the city. The Centre’s Buyiswa Mhambi said that the plan will involve rape survivors, the university itself, police and doctors.

“We are still in a negotiation stage. This program will help by assisting those who are scared to tell their peers or varsity leaders that they have been raped. And this will help a lot as we have a good working relationship with the police,” said Mhambi.

TOPICS:  Court Human Rights Rape

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