Students at Rhodes University in South Africa went on strike today (20 April) against rape culture on campus. The police opened fire with rubber bullets and teargas, and arrested several students. The situation is electric, it is national news, and there are rumours the action will spread to other campuses.
Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale report: There has long been discontent over rape culture on campus in South Africa, as in India, the United States, and many other countries. Over the weekend someone published on Facebook a list of eleven convicted or known rapists at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. A demonstration Sunday night moved to confront them.
Here is a video by the university student newspaper of how the protests began, and shows students going into classes and bringing other students out.
By Tuesday evening students met in the university square. The vice-chancellor (the equivalent of a university president) had refused to meet their demands in negotiations. The students called a boycott of all classes. By the next morning there were barricades at the entrances to the university. Here is another video from the student newspaper. (You may want to skip over the interview with the vice-chancellor that starts at 3:00 and go back to the protests at 6:00.)
Here is more video of the confrontations with the police at the barricade.
And here are students confronting a university administrator for calling the police:
This is now becoming world news. Doubtless many media outlets will report it as saying something about a special rape culture in South Africa. Pay no attention. South Africa is special only in the level of resistance. One reason this response was possible was that South African students had been part of Fees Must Fall, a national mass movement against tuition fee increases. That movement won. The students at Rhodes had also been part of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, and are still trying to change the name of their university. (Cecil Rhodes was a British imperialist and mega-businesman.)
But what these students did is also part of a global movement on campuses against sexual violence. It is of a piece with the monts long student strike against management support for rape culture in Kolkota, India, and the demonstrations on many campuses across America and at Oxford, in England. Note also that in all these videos you can see women and men, black and white students together on one side, and university management and police on the other – as in India and the US.
The world is changing, and the silence over sexual violence is breaking.
For an earlier post by us on student protests against rape in other countries see https://annebonnypirate.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/creative-protests/
And for some thoughts on the roots of sexual violence see https://annebonnypirate.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/creative-protests/