Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

Apology for the sexual assault of Jordao College learners not enough

It is Child Protection Week this week in South Africa. Last week a bloodied condom was found in the girls’ bathroom at Jordao College, a private school, in Gauteng. Instead of using this as an opportunity to encourage positive and healthy discussions around sexuality, the principal instructed teachers to conduct “tests for sexual activity” on all female learners between grades 10 and 12 (average age at starting grade 10 — 15 years old). The way they chose to do this was to force female learners to remove their underwear so it could be inspected. Girls were not given a choice.

In South Africa we have clear legislation around virginity testing. A guide by the Children’s Institute at UCT on the Children’s Act makes it quite clear that virginity testing can only be conducted in South Africa under very strict circumstances and by qualified healthcare professionals.

The guide states:

“The Children’s Act, Section 12(4) prohibits virginity testing of children under the age of 16 years. Anyone who contravenes the prohibition is guilty of an offence and can be fined or imprisoned for 10 years or be given both a fine and a term of imprisonment (section 305(1)(a) and (6)). Virginity testing of children older than 16 may be performed but only under strict conditions that are specified in the Act and the Regulations:

• the child must consent to the test – i.e. it must be the child’s choice

(the child must sign Form 1);

• the test may only be performed after the child has been counselled properly;

• the child’s age must be verified;

• each child should be tested individually and in private;

• the test must be done in a hygienic manner (in particular, a separate pair of sterile surgical gloves must be used for each child);

• only a female can test a girl child and only a male can test a boy child;

• the results of the test may not be disclosed without the child’s consent; and

• after the test, the child’s body may not be marked in anyway (i.e. the outcome of the test must be kept confidential).

It is an offence not to comply with these requirements and a person is liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for up to two years in some cases, or even up to 10 years in other cases, or to both a fine and imprisonment.”

Instead of taking decisive action against all those involved in this violation of girls’ dignity, and stigmatisation of female sexuality, the Gauteng MEC for education, Panyaza Lesufi, has simply asked the teachers to write an apology, to the parents of the learners, not even to the girls.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act 32 of 2007 also describes the offence of “compelled self-sexual assault”, which applies to this situation. It states as Section 7:

“A person (‘A’) who unlawfully and intentionally compels a complainant (‘B’), without the consent of B, to: (b) engage in any act which has or may have the effect of sexually arousing or sexually degrading B, is guilty of the offence of compelled self-sexual assault.”

The Act defines consent as follows:

“Consent’ means voluntary or unforced agreement.”

It is alleged that the girls were not given any choice, and in fact were threatened by teachers. If this is the case then these teachers have committed a crime in terms of the Sexual Offences Act and should be removed from their positions with immediate effect, and charged for the failure to do their duty to protect learners from harm.

Nowhere in the article does it make mention of inspecting the boys and thus this is a clear instance of gender-based violence. Gender-based violence cannot be something that is let off with an apology. That is what we have the law for. It’s not acceptable that we continue to allow the violation of children’s rights, especially not in such a critical period as children’s week. The MEC has an opportunity to show South Africa that the government takes children’s rights seriously.

An apology is not enough. I encourage you to email the MEC and the Gauteng department of education ([email protected]) and ask Lesufi to follow the law in terms of removing the principal, removing those teachers involved in this abuse, and holding all responsible parties accountable. Girls should not face fear when they go to school, and should not wonder about whether their dignity will be violated.

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  • 12 Responses to “Apology for the sexual assault of Jordao College learners not enough”

    1. Sarah Mitchell #

      Here is what I wrote to the MEC:

      Dear MEC,

      I was outraged to hear about the manner in which the recent incident at Jordao College was handled. I think this highlights many problematic attitudes we have about sex, sexuality, children and females.

      As a woman and concerned citizen of this country, I urge you to follow the law in terms of removing the principal of Jordao College, to remove those teachers involved in this abuse, and to hold all responsible parties accountable.

      I also encourage you to take this opportunity to educate teachers on the rights of children, as well as to educate the children on the importance of safe sex.

      We cannot afford to be ignorant about sexuality. Whether we like it or not, children are sexual beings. Let’s rather teach them how to have safe sex, rather than that sex is something only naughty girls do.

      Yours Sincerely,

      Sarah Mitchell

      June 3, 2014 at 3:40 pm
    2. Madeleine Wright #

      If I were a parent of a girl at that school, I would not only take legal action. I would vote with my feet (and my pocket) and remove my child from that school.

      June 4, 2014 at 9:44 am
    3. anusha #

      Good Morning,

      I have read and listened to the various thoughts on the actions of the Principal of Jordao College and I would like to make my opinion heard.

      I have a daughter who is 15 years old and she attends Jordao college, I understand as a parent our kids’ lives are placed in the hands of teachers and principals every day they attend school.
      In the light of the circumstances that transpired at Jordao on May 28th, there was not much the principal could have done accept what she opted to do.
      Articles on the internet are wrong, they were not testing for virginity, not at all and so the act “A person (‘A’) who unlawfully and intentionally compels a complainant (‘B’), without the consent of B, to: (b) engage in any act which has or may have the effect of sexually arousing or sexually degrading B, is guilty of the offence of compelled self-sexual assault,” does not apply.
      I want to focus on the fact that if a student was indeed raped at the school and the condom was found and the principal did nothing to find out who this innocent child could be, because she was too afraid to come forward and report the matter, after asking the children to please come forward with any information, and this child was later so traumatized by the rape that she eventually brakes down and then only tells her parents what happened at the school, don’t you think those parents would then want to know what the principal did to find the culprit and then we would have a reverse scenario on our…

      June 4, 2014 at 10:26 am
    4. Shocked member of society #

      For all we know the condom could have been placed in the rest room by one of the teachers. Sick society we live!!
      I am disgusted.

      June 4, 2014 at 11:46 am
    5. Possible text of your email:

      Dear Honourable Provincial Minister of Education,

      I am outraged to read about the violation of the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act as well as the Children’s Act by the Jordao School, which have been tacitly condoned by your department.

      I urge you to follow the law in terms of removing the principal, removing those teachers involved in this abuse, and holding all responsible parties accountable for the virginity testing that was illegally enforced on female learners. Girls should not face fear when they go to school, and should not wonder about whether their dignity will be violated.

      The school could have used this as an opportunity to hold a discussion on the importance of the use of contraception, or as an opportunity to ensure that all learners were aware of their rights to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to sex in terms of the Sexual Offences Act. What they chose to do was sexually assault learners, and this cannot be ignored. If this was in fact an instance of rape, their actions will have further contributed to the trauma the learner was experiencing.

      Please address this issue urgently in the appropriate manner, by removing all teachers involved, as well as the principal of the school.

      June 4, 2014 at 1:35 pm
    6. bewilderbeast #

      I wrote to them. Thanks for keeping it alive.

      June 4, 2014 at 2:18 pm
    7. Willie Schultz #

      I am absolutely appalled that this kind of abuse of power and abuse of human rights can still occur in our day and age.

      Even more appalling is the solution the MEC brings to the table, with it being crystal clear that he/she has no clue in even beginning to understand the veracity of the situation, and the transgression(s) that took place. The mentality “say you’re sorry” and its all ok, is a mindset that belongs in the middle ages.

      The government is duty bound to uphold its own laws, with the headmaster and the teachers involved to be criminally charged. If guilty in an internal hearing, on the balance of probabilities, they all have to be unfortunately dismissed, due to the seriousness of the charges levelled at them.

      We need to protect all our children, and stamp out this kind of sexual abuse, once and for all !

      June 4, 2014 at 2:28 pm
    8. Reality check #

      Is it not possible that a bloodied condom might indicate rape – either by an adult or a fellow pupil ? Has this possibility been invesitagted at all? This whole issue has been dealt with in an appalling manner.

      June 5, 2014 at 8:05 am
    9. Nicolette #

      I have just looked at the schools website, they have the following quotes on their site:

      “Never take a persons dignity:it is worth everything to them and nothing to you” – Frank Barron

      “The foundation of lasting self confidence and self esteem, mastery of your work” – Brian Tracy

      And others… oh and lets not forget the schools tagline:

      “Excellence, Pride and Respect” …..

      In my opinion this is totally hypocritical, and surely if the person that is responsible for the governing of this institution, IE The Principal, is not upholding the constitution and motto of the school, and basic human rights of children, they shouldn’t be there. Those girls are at such a sensitive age regarding themselves, sexuality, individuality, and by doing such a draconian and ignorant act as that should be punishable by law! In this time and age, young girls should be well educated about sex and safe sex and abstinence for that matter, but not handled in such a way that it may cause a serious negative connotation and association to anything that relates to their own sexuality, intimacy, sex, relationships.

      Seriously, can the justice system just prevail on this matter and remove the principal already?

      June 5, 2014 at 9:30 am
    10. Sarah McLaughlin #

      This is unfathomable to me; how such an undignified action was carried out as if the girls had no say or right to their own bodies. That the mass sexual abuse of students was not only actively instructed but later dismissed with a mere apology (to the parents) is beyond outrageous. Even more bizarre coming from an institution with an obligation to protect the best interests of children.

      June 5, 2014 at 9:48 am
    11. Momma Cyndi #

      I don’t think the school handled the matter very well at all …. BUT, they could not just sit back and do nothing at all. You can’t have kids going around having sex in the bathrooms during school time and you can’t abdicate your responsibility, as an adult, to try and prevent kids from doing themselves harm. Anyone who has ever had a teenage child knows just how illogical they can be.

      Can you just imagine the uproar if it turned out that the school found the condom and did nothing and the next day a sex tape was on Youtube? Could you imagine what would happen if the girl fell pregnant and the school had to admit that they knew all along that underage girls were having sex in the bathrooms? Worst of all, can you imagine if it turned out that it was a male teacher involved and it was actually rape?

      The MEC is perfectly correct in asking for an apology. The Department of Basic Education does not give any guidelines (to my knowledge) on how to deal with this type of situation so the Department cannot now make a retrospective rule with retrospective consequences. We want teachers to act as substitute parents, whilst our kids are at school, but we don’t give them the necessary parameters in which to do so. That is why a lot of teachers just step away and let chaos reign. Rather than demanding that the MEC takes disciplinary action, maybe we should be asking her to do her job?

      June 5, 2014 at 6:37 pm
    12. Natalie #

      I was a parent at that school, and just to advise you that it was not only Grade 10-12 that had an inspection done but in actual fact Grade 8-9! My 13 year old daughter has been removed from the school! Funny enough if it was not for her telling me on the day I would only have found out 24 hours later!!!! Also so remarkable is the fact that on the same day the school could send out sms’s to all parents reminding them about school fees due at the end of the month and even followed up with a call about 20 mins after the sms! But they could not inform the parents on the day via the same method!!!! The scarey thing is that there is alot more going on that parents do not know and if your child is not open with you, you would never know!!!!!

      June 11, 2014 at 12:16 pm

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