Two Rhodes University female students in Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa have been expelled for life for over a protest against rape culture on campus, causing outcry on social media.
The anti-rape demonstrations at the Grahamstown campus were set to go on until the 11 alleged rapists mentioned in a reference list, which was also posted on social media, were taken off campus.
Students took to Twitter to protest the ban using the hashtag #RhodesWar. The hashtag also provided the platform for rape survivors in the University to tell their stories.
The discussion also highlighted questions on rape culture and the sexual rights of young women in universities and in the country in general as it coincided with the end of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.
The anger also stems from the fact the University had earlier in the year excluded a final-year Bachelor of Commerce student after being found guilty of rape by the university but banned the female students for life for the protests.
However, the university has come out raise concerns over the “gross misrepresentation of facts and attempts at manipulating public opinion” by the two students.
According to the University, the students were expelled for their “conduct beyond lawful boundaries” following protests against rape culture at the University in 2016.
“While the two recently expelled students did indeed take part in the protest, their participation in the protest had nothing to do with the charges against them and/or their exclusion from the university,” the University said in a statement.
It added that the students were found guilty by an independent panel of committing common law crimes against their fellow students, kidnapping and assault.
The university further clarified that it had banned two former students accused of rape permanently and denied reports that students found guilty of rape have been allowed to remain on campus.
It reiterated the support for protests exercised lawfully.
“Protest action is constitutionally entrenched right, which is respected and indeed supported by the University, so long as it is exercised lawfully,” it said.
The two students will head to court to challenge the verdict.