The ruling patriarchy is once more at work at the University of Buea (UB).
Recently, the Director of Student Affairs; Dr Ludwig Metuge made a public announcement blaming the prevalence of sexual violence on campus on the ‘indecent’ dressing of women.
A majority of female students have experienced one or two forms of sexual abuse from male academic staff on campus, said Mr Che Eugene, a guidance counselor for the Faculty of Social and Management Sciences, in an interview. These assaults often happen in the office and in lecture halls, when students are requesting make-up tests or extra lectures, submission of overdue assignments, and making other pleas to male academic staff. Mr Che said. .
And as long as these female students continue to dress suggestively, exposing certain body parts like the breast, legs, and shoulder- sexual violence is likely to be prevalent on campus, Mr. Che added.
So, in an effort towards preventing such crime on campus, the university authorities have implemented a stringent dressing code. Campus security men are given the ultimate power to send away so-called ‘indecently’ dressed students. In Dec 2011, this led to over 50 female students bullied out of campus. One of the security guard who sought anonymity said to me.
“Nov 25th, 9 am, on my way to class, I was stopped by the security guards and chase out of campus saying- my dress were indecent. Just because I wore a slim jean and a T-shirt” Mary, a second year student recalled her sad experienced.
UB fails to recognize that sexual violence remains a major security threat to humankind, particularly women. As well as, it is still one of the most widely unreported crimes, according to Amnesty International 2004 Publication on “Making Violence Against Women Counts”.
Even so, the fact is sexual violence can happen at any time-during armed conflicts and riots and even in nations with socio-economic and political stability.
A WHO Multi-Country Survey study on women’s health and domestic violence against women in 2011 stated that 70% of women between the age; 15 to 49 years in Ethiopia and Peru, reported being victims of sexual violence by an intimate partner.
Moreover, UB should understand that each dress has a unique beauty. This makes it sexy. Whether it is a long robe, nightwear, or shorts. These clothes are simply to ensure that their clients derive maximum satisfaction and contentment.
Ironically, University of Buea is conceived in the English-speaking tradition governing the fundamental rights of freedom of speech. Founded on moral and intellectual principles, and within the Central African region, it is accredited for excellence. So, instead of UB to continue wasting time and resources blaming student dressing, the university should focus on creating real solutions to stop this security threat whose actions have implications for the campus’ reputation, both locally and globally.
Contrary to UB, at least one ruling patriarch condemns the university’s claim and describes it as being a “flimsy excuse based on selfish motif”. “UB should respect individual rights, their dignity and choices”, said Mr. Nzume Mathias, chief of service for the Family Wellbeing at MINWEF- South West Region, Cameroon.
So, campus authorities should spend valuable moments thinking on how to address the issue of security, identify perpetrators of sexual violence, and provide justice to victims. This could be accomplished by creating an independent sector on campus that works to prevent sexual violence. The Discrimination and Harassment Office (DISCHO) -University of Cape Town in South Africa is a good model. But if a special committee already exists, UB should make it public to all.
In addition, it demands that UB adopt a sexual harassment policy purposefully addressing issues of sexual violence on campus. The policy should also be made clear in the student guides, public and accessible to all, including heads of academic departments and faculty members, campus clubs and associations, academic staff and student.
The classical ruling patriarchs’ ideologies—in this case, that the victims are to blame for sexual violence--must not prevail. Students’ deserve to have an educational environment where they feel safe and have the freedom to express themselves in what they wear.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future 2012 Assignments: Op-Eds.