Fear grips female students at UCT

File photo: Tracey Adams

File photo: Tracey Adams

Published Oct 16, 2015


Cape Town - UCT students at Hiddingh Campus have raised concerns about their safety, saying they fear being sexually harassed by other students.

About 100 students, most of them female, marched on campus on Thursday. They called for the university to act and be strict on sexual harassment cases at the institution.

The protest was sparked by an incident in which a first-year student was allegedly sexually harassed in a bathroom by a male student on October 5.

Since then, a number of students have come forward with similar complaints, said the female student, who did not want to be named.

UCT student Jasmin Valcarcel said their protest was to put pressure on the university to take the matter of sexual harassment more seriously.

“It doesn’t look like they are taking these matters seriously. The victimised girl has gone to all the right people, who are supposed to be dealing with these matters, but it seems like nothing has been done. No discipline has happened,” she said.

“We are definitely concerned about our safety. All girls are now living in fear. This is a small campus and we all know and trusted each other before this incident happened.”

The victim’s friend, who also did not want to be named, said the student was currently not psychologically stable, and is not able to attend classes due to her ordeal and “knowing that the guy is roaming free and she has to watch her back”.

The protesters chanted “Wathint’abafazi, wathint’imbokodo (You strike a woman, you strike a rock)” and sang Struggle songs denouncing violence against women.

UCT spokesperson Patricia Lucas said a sexual harassment complaint was registered with the Discrimination and Harassment Office (Discho) on October 6.

She said on the same day the Discho legal adviser and case co-ordinator who assisted the complainant referred the matter to the University Student Disciplinary Tribunal (USDT).

“Disciplinary charges are processed and administered by the USDT; Discho assists with medical/counselling referrals, support and advice.

“All disciplinary matters regarding students and staff at UCT are treated confidentially, and the university will provide no further information on this case.

“However, the complainant has been briefed on the development of the disciplinary action,” said Lucas.

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