Task team to fight rape at tertiary institutions
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Johannesburg - Half of the students at tertiary institutions around the country as well as 41 percent of staff members believe their universities or colleges are not a safe environment.
A further 62 percent felt that female students would be sexually harassed at the institutions.
In South Africa as a whole, 150 girls are raped every day with only about 5 percent of such cases being reported.
These were the harrowing findings that came out of a survey by the Higher Education and Training HIV/Aids (HEAIDS) programme, which conducted interviews at 26 public universities and 50 technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges across the country. HEAIDS head Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia revealed the findings in Joburg on Thursday when a tactical task team appointed to look into sexual abuse in tertiary institutions was announced.
Higher Education Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana said it was these statistics and recent protests at Rhodes University in Grahamstown against rape culture at the institution earlier this year that prompted them to form the task team.
He admitted that the department was not as proactive in dealing with the sexual offences committed at those at tertiary institutions as it could have been, but would now deal with this as a matter of priority.
"This matter will be top of our agenda as a department," Manana told the gathering.
The task team consists of officials from several government departments, including Higher Education and Training, Social Development and Women and Children.
Researchers and representatives from universities around the country as well as those from UN Women were also part of the team, and Manana said they would soon include officials from the SAPS as well as the Justice Department.
This was, according to the HEAIDS survey, as arrests were only made in 50 percent of rape-related case and there was a conviction rate of only 4.1 percent.
"We have an all-encompassing team to find solutions and problems (regarding) sexual offences at our higher education institutions," said Manana.
The 14-member team will be tasked with visiting universities and colleges to speak to students and staffers about sexual abuses there. They will then draft a framework policy which will guide institutions on what protocol to follow when these types of offences are committed.
The team will also be mobilising resources and advise government on how to curb sexual crimes at tertiary institutions.
The multi-level team would hold their first meeting this month and would start consultations with those at higher education institutions from the beginning of next year.
By the middle of 2017, they would begin to submit a draft policy to the government.
Manana said in the interim those at HEAIDS would guide institutions on how to deal with the rape culture.