Student’s suicide puts spotlight on rape culture

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photo credit:flickr@Richard Potts CC BY 2.0

Students and Rhodes university staff are partaking in today’s memorial programme to honour Khensani Maseko, the student who took her own life last Friday. The Bachelor of Arts student was battling depression after being raped in May and was due to meet the university’s support and investigation team yesterday after reporting the rape on July 30.

Last night, the university issued a statement wherein spokesperson Veliswa Mhlope said: “A notice to suspend the alleged perpetrator was issued this morning, on the day when Khensani was due to meet with the support and an investigation team. The tragic passing of Khensani will not mark an end to the investigation into the circumstances leading up to her passing.” She added that the university was working with police and the National Prosecuting Authority for an inquest into the student’s death.

The South African Union of Students issued their own statement and called for the focus to shift from victim blaming to addressing rape culture in South Africa. “It is vitally important for us to highlight that the direction that society needs to go toward, is one that identifies that we need to stop teaching our daughters, sisters, girlfriends, wives, aunts, nieces how to not get raped. Rather we need to teach our sons, brothers, boyfriends, husbands, uncles, nephews NOT to rape. The problem here is the perpetrator, not the victim.”

Khensani Maseko’s death came 2 days after the #TotalShutDown protest saw women of all walks of life come together to march against violence, rape and murder of women and children, at the start of Woman’s Month.