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CALS condemns remarks by Minister Motshekga that "an educated man won't rape"

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Though education is an important tool in addressing gender-based violence, asserting "educated" people don't rape is misleading and harmful

Today, a video clip of Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, has surfaced where she asserts that “an educated man won’t rape”. The remark was reportedly made during an address to learners of a secondary school in the context of making an important statement about using education as a tool to address social ills. While education has a critical role to play in addressing gender-based violence, the statement that educated men don’t rape is not only factually incorrect, but extremely harmful to victims and survivors of gender-based violence.

There is no evidence to suggest that the propensity to commit rape or other forms of gender-based violence is linked to formal education in any way. Suggesting that only ‘uneducated’ people commit these kinds of offences is misleading and harmful. Many well-documented cases exist of so-called ‘well-educated’ people abusing their positions as academics, doctors, lawyers, activists and teachers to abuse the people under their command or care. Many more likely exist that have not been reported by the victims and survivors of these crimes. The idea that ‘educated’ people do not commit these crimes denies the experiences and trauma of these victims and survivors. The idea that only ‘uneducated’ people commit these crimes is insulting and discriminatory.

The idea of perpetrators as ‘everyday men’ has also been discussed by our courts, including the Constitutional Court. In a 2019 case before the Constitutional Court in which CALS appeared as a friend of the court, Tshabalala v S, Justice Khampepe notes in her concurring judgment:

“The notion that rape is committed by sexually deviant monsters with no self control is misplaced. Law databases are replete with cases that contradict this notion. Often, those who rape are fathers, brothers, uncles, husbands, lovers, mentors, bosses and colleagues. We commune with them. We share stories and coffee with them. We jog with them. We work with them. They are ordinary people, who lead normal lives. Terming rapists as monsters and degenerates tends to normalise the incidents of rape committed by men we know because they are not “monsters” – they are rational and well-respected men in the community. Yes, the abominable behaviour of these men is abhorrent and grotesque and the recognition that they are human does not seek to evoke sympathy – it serves to signify a switch from characterising rapists as out-of-control monsters, and centres the notion that rapists are humans who choose to abuse their power. The idea that rape is committed by monsters and animals may have adverse effects in that it may lead to the reinforcement of rape myths and stereotypes.”

With this in mind, it is important to acknowledge that those who commit rape are part of our communities. Perpetrators are a product of our society and education is an important tool to try to effect change. But we are not even close to the stage where we could say that those who go through our formal schooling system, who are ‘educated’, do not commit rape. Promoting this idea is harmful to victims and survivors who are unlikely to come forward for fear they will not be believed or met with hostility.

In light of this, we call on the Minister to issue an apology for the misleading statement and clarify her position around the myths and stereotypes related to rape and other forms of gender-based violence. We furthermore reach out to the Minister to engage with organisations like CALS and others working in the area of gender-based violence to learn more about our experiences with victims and survivors, especially regarding sexual violence in schools.

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