College of Human Sciences

Interrogating issues that students face on sexual diversity

The Department of Sociology’s Tirisano Collaborative and Community Engagement projects in the College of Human Sciences hosted a Student Dialogue on Sexual Diversity and Curriculum Integration, which was a built-on from previous dialogues hosted in 2016. The dialogue is intended to create a platform for crucial conversations which will produce concrete and practical suggestions to address issues of sexual diversity.

Leon Roets from the Department of Sociology said the purpose of the dialogue is to create common understanding. He feels that Unisa as a university needs to step in and address some of the issues in society such as stigma, discrimination, stereotypes, xenophobia, and all violent acts related to diversity. “Through the curriculum we can raise issues and sensitise society about issues,” he said.

Roets believes that how we express ourselves sexually is different from one person to the other because at the end of the day if you look at the historical context of Africa, sexuality was not categorised, it was just a matter of people having different sexual preferences. He posed the question: “Why do we categorise people? Because by doing so we are controlling how they should live and who they should be.”

He continued: “We isolate people and people are conformed to act in a particular way and if they do not act in that way they are sanctioned to some form of punishment.” He highlighted that students must not only be equipped academically but with additional skills that they can use to navigate and have a good quality life. “There is a distance between academics and students and we hope to create a space of acceptance because sometimes we need to hear all those uncomfortable things in order to see change”.

Chairperson of the Gays and Lesbians of the University of South Africa (GLOUSA) student movement, Vutivi Mbiza, said: “I am openly lesbian but unfortunately not everyone has the same confidence as me to openly state it because of stigma and discrimination.”  She presented on her experience on campus as a lesbian which opened her eyes to the challenges that Unisa LGBTIQ students face. She said the movement, which started in 2014, addresses social issues of sexual and gender diversity. She added that we need to address these inequalities on campus, because people already come from backgrounds which do not support the idea of sexual diversity. “The African culture needs to accept diversity.”

Students voiced out that a curriculum that speaks on diversity should be introduced at primary school level in order to see transformation at tertiary level and a module on sexual diversity should be included in tertiary curriculum for all qualifications. The dialogue left students with new insight on the diversity challenges on Unisa campuses. It also armed them with information and the encouragement to share the knowledge they gained further with their peers.

Roets acknowledged Dr Britta Zawada, Deputy executive Dean in the College of Human Sciences and Professor Gugu Moche, Vice-Principal: Teaching, Learning, Community Engagement and Student Support, for supporting the project from the beginning. The project continues to grow in momentum as it reaches various Unisa centres and communities in different provinces.

Pictured are some of the staff and students who attended the student dialogue.

* By Nomshado Lubisi (CHS communications and marketing)

Publish date: 2017-10-19 00:00:00.0