Pearson has been forced to issue a public apology after one of its textbooks asked students to list reasons why a victim is responsible for their own rape.
The "victim-blaming" textbook, Focus Life Orientation Grade 10, is published by Pearson’s South African subsidiary, Maskew Miller Longman, and contains a fictional scenario in which a girl named Angie goes to a party without permission, gets drunk, and is then locked in a room with a boy who rapes her.
"List two ways in which Angie’s behaviour led to sexual intercourse," the question asks, as reported by the Guardian.
The section, brought to light by a Facebook post last month reading “How can this be allowed, in a country that already has horrifying rape statistics?”, inspired a petition ("Undo the damage of rape culture promoting textbook") that has since been signed by over 1,800 people.
Branding the question "disgusting" and "completely wrong", it called on the South African education department to "immediately" remove the section from the textbook and to review its curriculum approval process.
"The scenario and the first question are clear and unacceptable examples of victim blaming," reads the petition.
Ben Phillips, the director of policy at ActionAid International, further called on Pearson to "apologise unreservedly for their actions, which have further stigmatised rape survivors and made combating rape even harder”.
He added in a tweet yesterday (8th September): "In this South African text book, school kids *have to* blame rape survivors to pass the test", with a screen shot of the offending passage and link to the petition.
A Pearson spokesperson responded: "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 edition will be reprinted, with corrections now submitted to the South Africa’s department of basic education, according to the Guardian.
The textbook has been in circulation since 2011, however, causing concern the damage has already been done. The petition notes: “The textbook has been used for the last five years, meaning there is an entire generation that has been taught to blame rape victims."