Statement from the Johannesburg People’s Pride movement working group in solidarity with the #RUReferenceList protest.
The Johannesburg People’s Pride movement was founded on the principle of disobedience towards the status quo of privileged myopia within the pride movement around issues of violence against the Black body across the full spectrum and scope of our South African society. We move from the premise that unless our bodies are liberated from the social, economic and political conditions engineered by the confluence of white-supremacy, capitalism, heteropatriarchy and ableism, not one of us can claim to be free.
In this regard we stand in solidarity with the #RUReferenceList protest that is unfolding on campus at the university currently known as Rhodes in Grahamstown, South Africa, a movement that exposes the lack of due representation, process, and protection of rape victims and survivors in our higher education institutions and legal system, particularly as it pertains to the Black body.
As we see it, the #RUReferenceList protest openly and publicly challenges the status quo of complicity in the face of endemic rape culture on campus. It also challenges the hostility of the institutional response against victims and survivors who attempt to seek justice and protection against the crimes of rape, sexual harassment, and abuse.
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of victims and survivors will not even attempt to seek justice because the criminal justice system at a societal level, in general, and in our higher education institutions, in particular, do not exist to believe, centre and support them. Instead, at the very most, they exist to protect the reputational interests of the state, the institution and the perpetrators of violence against our bodies.
The aftermath of the release of the #RUReferenceList exposed for all to see this institution and our society’s patriarchal commitment to perpetrators of violence over those of us, their victims. It exposed, for all to see, the duplicity of this Home for All which punishes those of us who stand up against sexual violence on our campuses, on our streets and in our communities.
This is not the first time the demands for a robust and zero-tolerance institutional response to handling sexual harassment and rape that centres victims and survivors have been put before university administrators, nor will it be the last.
If our institutional systems fail to protect rape victims from repeated acts of violence through dissuasion, negligence, indifference, ignorance and re-victimisation, then those systems are to be disobeyed and challenged in a manner that calls attention to their failure. As long as rape victims are being asked to be patient with, and obedient to an institution and process that recreates their experience of violence and abuse, they have a right and are duty-bound to stand up and say NO MORE!
We stand with the community of activists, students and staff, in their demands for the university’s administration team to stand down on its criminalisation of student activists through the invocation of disciplinary proceedings against them, the invitation of police presence on campus and through court interdicts.
We stand with the community of activists in their demands for investigation into those named in the #RUReferenceList, and all further reports of rape and sexual harassment.
We call on the Minister of Education, Council of Higher Education (CHE) and Higher Education South Africa (HESA) to engage Institutions of Higher Learning across the country on the implementation of sexual harassment policy.
In particular, we demand an independent inquiry to review the scope and magnitude of sexual violence and harrassment on campuses across South Africa. We demand that this inquiry investigate the incidence of sexual harrassment, assault and rape on campuses, the frequency with which these are reported, and whether investigations are fair, effective and are sensitive to the needs of complainants and survivors. We demand that this begin with the university currently known as Rhodes.
The Johannesburg People’s Pride Movement recognises the #RUReferenceList project as a central thread in the movement towards the decolonisation of our institutions of higher learning and society as a whole.
We are ever-mindful of the fact that white-supremacy, capitalism, heteropatriarchy and ableism are all mutually reinforcing systems of power, and that their collective demise, is the sole condition for our collective liberation from struggle and oppression. Their collective and total demise is, and must continue to be the singular project of this generation and those still to come.
We strive for the freedom to be, and the freedom to be free from harm. We strive for all freedoms for all people now!
Aluta Must End!
The JHB Peoples Pride organising committee
Tuesday 26 April 2016,
Johannesburg, South Africa