Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) urges the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to take prompt action to curb harassment in schools and put an end to an institutionalised rape culture.
They must ensure that schools remain safe spaces for all students, and reports of harassment or sexual violence of any kind must be addressed.
The Ministry of Education’s request for evidence despite the many accounts from girls on period checks conducted by teachers, the response to the police reports made by a 17-year-old student against her male teacher who “joked” about rape and her fellow schoolmate who sent rape threats is proof of how the system consistently protects perpetrators. It is distressing that there is clear, institutional disregard for the safety of the children and a disempowering practice of disbelieving survivors.
Authorities officially alluding to the rape threats as a joke is symptomatic of normalised rape culture. These threats are also a form of sexual harassment, which is a product of rape culture. This acceptance at the highest levels perpetuates practices of violence against women and diminishes the effectiveness of reporting mechanisms.
In light of this, we urgently call on the relevant ministries and authorities to stop the normalisation of rape culture and harassment in schools and address the practice of disbelieving survivors. Additionally, safe reporting practices for survivors of violence or harassment who come forward must be established, and investigations must be conducted in a transparent and survivor-centric manner.
We must hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, rather than absolving them from responsibility and placing blame on survivors.
Teachers, as figures of authority and role models in school, carry ethical responsibilities to protect students and ensure responsible messaging. Teacher training programmes must take seriously sexual harassment guidelines and rectify gaps to make school a safer place for our children.