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Contesting sexual violence policies in higher education: the case of Rhodes University

Catriona Ida Macleod (Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)
Werner Böhmke (Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)
Jabulile Mavuso (Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)
Kim Barker (Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)
Malvern Chiweshe (Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 14 November 2017

Issue publication date: 20 March 2018




In April 2016, students at Rhodes University brought the institution to a standstill as they protested the University’s sexual violence policies and procedures, as well as the “rape culture” that pervades social structures. In response, a Sexual Violence Task Team (SVTT) was formed in an open, participatory, and transparent process. Members of the University community were invited to comment on drafts of the SVTT document. The purpose of this paper is to outline the contestations – arising from both the establishment of the task team and the inputs from University members to drafts of the document – that surfaced concerning managing sexual violence on campuses and sexual offences policies.


These contestations are outlined in the form of a case study of Rhodes University.


The case study of Rhodes University draws attention to two rifts: fissures between student and management; and the role of universities in prosecuting alleged rapists.


In light of increased concern about sexual violence on campuses, the rifts highlighted require careful attention in considering sexual violence on university campuses. In addition, the process engaged in by the SVTT may provide a road map for participatory processes for other such task teams.



The authors are aware that the contents of this paper reflect the view of the members of the Sexual Violence Task Team. The authors have tried to reflect the views of others as fairly as possible. However, if any members of the University feel that the authors have misrepresented their views, the authors take full responsibility for this. The name of the University is currently under review, following the #RhodesMustFall protests of 2015. In the interim, many use the term the University Currently Known as Rhodes (UCKAR). The authors have, for the purposes of this paper, retained the legal name of the University, despite the fact that all of the authors agree that the name should have been changed many years ago as part of the decolonisation process. Written with input from members of the SVTT task team.


Macleod, C.I., Böhmke, W., Mavuso, J., Barker, K. and Chiweshe, M. (2018), "Contesting sexual violence policies in higher education: the case of Rhodes University", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 83-92.



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