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South African textbook asks pupils how victim's behaviour led to rape

Thursday 8 September 2016 15.58 BST


Publisher Pearson says it will amend book aimed at children aged 15 to 16 that has been in circulation for five years


South Africa textbook
Pearson has submitted corrections to the textbook to South Africa’s department of basic education. Photograph: Yonela Palesa Moopelwa/Facebook


The publishing group Pearson has come under fire in South Africa after one of its school textbooks suggested a rape victim was at fault for the crime.

The textbook – aimed at children aged 15 and 16 – includes a question based on a girl’s account of being raped at a party.

In the example, a girl named Angie explains that she went to the party without her parents’ permission, got drunk and was locked in a room with a boy, who raped her.

Pupils are then asked to answer three questions, the first of which reads: “List two ways in which Angie’s behaviour led to sexual intercourse.”

South Africa has the highest rates of rape in the world, according to the UN, with police statistics recording 147 sexual offences a day.

Ben Phillips, the director of policy at ActionAid International, called on Pearson to apologise.

— Ben Phillips (@benphillips76) September 8, 2016

In this South African text book, school kids *have to* blame rape survivors to pass the test

“It’s appalling that in a Pearson school textbook schoolchildren have to blame rape survivors to pass the test,” he said.

“This raises serious questions about their quality control. Governments need to scrutinise private providers much more closely.

“Pearson must apologise unreservedly for their actions, which have further stigmatised rape survivors and made combating rape even harder.”

Lisa Vetten, a research associate at Witwatersrand University in South Africa, highlighted the question’s use of the phrase “sexual intercourse”.

“To use ‘rape’ and ‘sexual intercourse’ interchangeably is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature and effects of rape,” she said.

The textbook has been in circulation since 2011 but the offending section came to light after it was posted on Facebook by the South African Yonela Palesa Moopelwa.

She wrote: “How can this be allowed, in a country that already has horrifying rape statistics?”

Her post has since inspired a petition on the South African campaigns website Amandla Awethu, a reference to the popular anti-apartheid chant meaning “Power to the people”.

The petition calls for the South African education department to remove the textbook, review its process for approving educational material and take steps to explain to teachers and students why the premise of the question is wrong.

The text accompanying the petition reads: “The textbook has been used for the last five years, meaning there is an entire generation that has been taught to blame rape victims.

“Teachers should not be put in a position where they are expected to stigmatise and victim blame rape victims.”

A spokesperson for Pearson said: “We have been made aware of the wording in the publication. We do not believe this sentence is an accurate reflection of how the topic of responsible development is taught and we have immediately amended the language.”

The textbook – titled Focus Life Orientation Grade 10 Learner’s Book – was published by Pearson’s South African subsidiary, Maskew Miller Longman.

The company has submitted corrections to South Africa’s department of basic education and said the edition of the textbook would be reprinted.

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Posted in: News on September 8, 2016 @ 8:38 PM

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