A college student killed herself last week only days after she reported that she was raped by a fellow student.
Khensani Maseko, 23, was a third-year student at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. She was a vocal protestor against rape culture.
Maseko was an extremely involved student at Rhodes. She was elected to the university’s Student Representative Council (SRF) in 2016. She was a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party student group. Maseko was also crowned “Miss Varsity Shield” last year, which is a pageant that supports university rugby.
Rhodes University in South Africa is notorious for both its rape culture and its lack of administrative response to said culture.
Awareness about the school’s reputation began with a poster campaign called “Chapter 212.” The campaign’s premise was to engage students in discussions regarding the toxic rape culture on campus. The campaign hoped to dismantle the culture by spreading awareness.
The posters claim that Rhodes has an inadequate staff to process sexual assault claims.
“Members of the movement state that management is accountable for perpetuating rape culture at Rhodes, and these discriminatory and victim-shaming policies must change,” Rhodes’ student news publication Activate wrote at the time.
Days after the campaign flyers were posted, eleven alleged campus rapes were reported on social media. As a result, student protests broke out which were met with police force.
According to South African law, suspects of sex crimes cannot be named prior to a court appearance or plea.
Campus Rape Culture
Campus anger stems from the lack of action taken by Rhodes to both penalize assailants and prevent more crimes from occurring. Students have demanded that those accused of rape face immediate suspension upon the allegation.
The school also needs to remove the burden of proof from victims.
The hashtag #RuReferencelist began trending in South Africa while students and sympathetic faculty clashed with police firing rubber bullets.
Due to anti-rape protests, Rhodes’ campus closed for a week. By the end of the week, a team commissioned by the school investigated the students’ complaints.
After analyzing the complaints, the investigative team came up with 90 recommendations for the school. According to the students, none of those recommendations were met by Rhodes.
Rhodes University commented on Maseko, stating:
“The university immediately made contact with her family [after the alleged rape was reported] and they travelled the next day from Johannesburg to Grahamstown for a meeting where they elected to take Khensani home for a while.”
The alleged perpetrator was suspended three days after Maseko’s death.
A memorial service was held for Maseko on Tuesday. During the service, Rhodes’ vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela confirmed that he believes that there is a problem on campus.
“We always tell young women how they should conduct themselves, yet we fail to tell young men they have no right to interfere with the bodily integrity of another person.”
Following the news of Maseko’s death, student representatives called for a “campus shutdown” as a way to honor her. This led to a suspension of school academic activities for two days.
Maseko committed suicide after posting “No-one deserves to be raped!” on Instagram.
Gender-Based Violence in South Africa
- 1 in 5 women are assaulted by their partner
- Over 40,000 cases of rape are reported each year, mostly by women
- Femicide is 5 times higher than the global average
- Thousands of women across the country protested last week against the increase in gender-based violence.
Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons