Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School

Study of Sexual Violence Against Girls in South African Schools

On May 9, 2014, Cornell Law School and the University of the Witwatersrand released a report on gaps in accountability for sexual violence in South African schools. The report, Sexual Violence by Educators in South African Schools: Gaps in Accountability, is based on interviews conducted in Gauteng Province, South Africa with government officials, nongovernmental organizations, teachers, school administrators, magistrates, police officers, representatives of civil society organizations, and others in August 2013.

In many South African schools, educators have sexually harassed and abused the learners in their care. Over the past decade, South Africa has adopted important laws and policies to address this grave human rights problem, yet sexual violence persists in South African schools with disquieting regularity. This report examines the problems that have contributed to the government's inability to hold abusive educators responsible for their actions and to protect and provide access to justice for the learners they have abused.

"Sexual violence by educators against learners is a devastating human rights problem in South Africa and throughout the world. When governments fail to hold perpetrators accountable, impunity results – and this enables the abuse to continue unchecked," says Elizabeth Brundige, Executive Director of Cornell's Avon Global Center.

The report calls upon the South African government to strengthen its prevention and response efforts. According to Meetali Jain, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, "From duplicative disciplinary processes to insufficient training of justice system actors, inadequate responses at every level have re-victimized learners and enabled the cycle of abuse to continue.The South African government must act without delay to address these gaps and put an end to educator-learner sexual abuse.We hope that our report and the recommendations it offers will contribute to these efforts."

The report was launched on May 9, 2014 at a joint event at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York and and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa