Accepted paper:

#RUreferenceList: Uncovering the drivers of rape culture in South African universities

Authors:

Ruwadzano Nhamoinesu (University of Oxford )

Paper short abstract:

Using the #RUreferenceList student protest as a case study, this paper aims to uncover the drivers of rape culture in universities, with a particular focus on the distinct South African context, in order to inform sexual assault policy reform.

Paper long abstract:

This paper uses the #RUreferenceList student-led protests in South Africa as a case study to understand how students, faculty and administration perceive, contest and address 'rape culture' on South African campuses. 'Rape culture' refers to the normalisation of sexual violence and the way in which these abuses are then addressed. The #RUreferenceList protests called for the transformation of university policy concerning sexual assault. An important feminist aspect of the movement was the use of the body as a 'site' of resistance through the utilisation of nakedness as a form of protest. The protest itself was situated against the back drop of overlapping student movements, in particular #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall, which were responses to the slow pace of transformation in higher education and reflected broader societal concerns of South Africa's democracy post-Apartheid. Rape culture in South African universities is a particularly challenging issue; in addition to universities being spaces that foster rape culture, South African universities are situated in a country that has one of the highest global rape statistics for a country that is not at war. Extensive research has been done on rape culture in universities worldwide, however little has given focus to the distinct South African context. This often means that our understanding of the problem is not sufficiently contextually grounded to the unique South African setting. My research thus aims to uncover the drivers of rape culture in universities with a particular focus on the distinct South African context, in order to inform sexual assault policy reform.

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