By Kelvin Ayodele
The whole of Nigerian Social media space has been engulfed by what I describe as a social media revolution against rapists and rape apologists. However, there has been little or no efforts engineered towards the transfer of that energy and revolution to the actual streets. People seem comfortable typing behind key pads to express their frustration at what I must say is a culture that has been among us from time immemorial. The joy however in this period, is that more and more victims of rape are beginning to summon the courage to speak up, which is a departure from the past where victims do not come forward for the fear of victimization suffered by the few who dared to do so. Despite the recent culture of speaking out, victims have not recorded the desired successes as not only has justice not being duly served, but many women still find it difficult to come out and speak.
In order to comprehend the severity of the issue at hand, a United Nations statistics will be relied upon to juxtapose the above stated position. “It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Evidence shows that women who have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence report higher rates of depression, having an abortion and acquiring HIV, compared to women who have not”. More instructive is the fact that “Approximately 15 million adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) worldwide have experienced forced sex (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts) at some point in their life. In the vast majority of countries, adolescent girls are most at risk of forced sex by a current/former husband, partner or boyfriend. Based on data from 30 countries, only one per cent ever sought professional help” This is tellingly at a global level, so in localizing to the Nigerian context, A 2015 UNICEF study stated thus “one in four girls and one in ten boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. According to a survey by Positive Action for Treatment Access, over 31.4 percent of girls there said that their first sexual encounter had been rape or forced sex of some kind”
One can begin to understand the enormity of the problem more, when you consider that these are randomly sampled surveys. There are probably double the recorded figures. The conclusion here, is that we have a situation that we mostly agree is a problem, however, we all do not understand how deep rooted the problem is and without a full grasp of the situation at hand, we have proffered surface solutions that are either not effective or non compliant to the realities.
First, has the matter of wrong plea advocacy approaches adopted in tackling the issue. Its like asking criminals to stop being criminals just because we have asked them to. Have we ever said “Say no to armed robbery”, “Say no to ritual killings” and the rest despite the notoriously pervasive nature of these crimes? Have we? So why do we appeal to criminals to stop a criminal act? Is it because we still subtly normalize abuse and hence we feel that perpetrators of this dastardly act of violence must gain our sympathy. Is that a reason for? Or because the perpetrators of this sinful and shameful act are persons known to us most of the time, so we must protect them while pleading that they stop reigning terror on the girl child, the boy child, teenage boys and girls, women and men? Are we now in negotiation with criminals? Rape must be stopped, a tall order if you ask me to be sincere, but yes it can be greatly reduced but not by this method. Perhaps, a part of the problem itself is the shameful commercialization of the fight against rape. Year in, year out, moneys are released by international agencies to NGOs who sometimes conduct a half baked battle against what has negatively defined the lives of so many of our fellow co passengers in the vehicle of life. Maybe that as well is the problem.
Then as a civilization, we are way less conscious of indicators that point towards rape, maybe we are conscious but actually deny it, try to make it okay and good in our brains and normalizing it. Artistic creativity does not gain the desired level of attention needed. From, the lyrics that glorify (albeit subtly) sexual and physical violence, abuse and objectifying gender, the silence and non-acknowledgment of these are pointers to the fact that we are generally a society subtle or undercover rape apologists. Creative contents in the movie industry too have been another factor that may be fuelling the increasing nature of violence against us. Women and children are the worst hit as per the realities and statistics shown. But, how well have we held our creative content entrepreneurs responsible? I wonder if there is any regulatory agency for pornography in Nigeria, the contents, tittles and manners exhibited by actors in some of the these videos are things that fill up fantasies within the sub consciousness of a consumer of these products. In most cases fantasies are meant to be experienced. Tittles like, “I xxxed my house help, my step sister, my neighbors wife and co while sleeping” “I got her to visit me and made her drunk” the latter is a clear tutorial on how to get sex without formal consent. How about porn that actually depict violence? “Slay queen xxxed by cultists” “mama overpowered by two BBC’s as they teach her a lesson” Most consumers of pornographic contents are there to learn and to build up fantasies that becomes cravings, these cravings become empty voids that must be filled up. Have we ever protested against these songs, these movies, these pornographic contents? No we haven’t, yet we claim to be fighting rape.
Then, must we always be reactive? We are less proactive on telling issues that undermine the essence of our humanity and civility. We wait until one terrible thing has happened before raising our voices against it. A close friend opines that most of us are conditioned and seasonal activists chasing clout. Some are more interested in using the #trendingtopic to gain a following and cult hero status on social media as against getting actual solutions. Hence, when someone makes a rational statement as regards the issue by asking questions from a diverse point of view, because that view is not a populist one and does not serve the agenda on ground, such persons are either vilified or ignored despite the quality of arguments raised by that person, but yet we want a solution. If we desire to end something that makes everyone of us live in fear, we shouldn’t leave it up to the victims, but understand that every one of us is a potential victim of rape either as direct victims, relatives of victims or future partners or associates of victims.
The Law enforcement agencies, themselves are sometimes perpetrators. Tales abound of numerous night clubbers, commercial sex workers frequently arrested by these law-enforcers, who are often subjected to varying degrees of sexual abuse by men who were supposed to be their ‘friend’. Have we ever asked for a reform of the police? Have we looked at our legislation against abusers? Have we truly asked genuine questions as regards all this? The truth is that we haven’t been sincere in our stance.
Finally, our only idea as regards justice for victims and against rapists is punishment, why must we always wait for someone to be punished when we can as well prevent things. I saw a survey online asking people if as part of parental training they were ever told what rape was. A meager 10% votes were in the affirmative, of training from their first teachers; the parents. A society that still forbids sexual education from home to schools is no where ready to start talking about workable solutions. As part of prevention, women most especially, must be self protective, this is an unpopular view, as much as it remains controversial, but part of your protection is in knowing what to wear and say, whom you call friend, etc. Yes, rape is a problem of the rapist, but with the scourge of robbery attacks all over, no one withdraws money and puts it out their doors or gates when they want to sleep. The role of close relatives and friends cannot be overemphasized on the topic of rape. Some parents, who do not trust family members to keep moneys for them, often have no qualms about leaving their children with such individuals, often leaving room for undesirable acts.
Also worthy of note is that, a lot of rapist do not engage in it for the mere reason of sex. There are serious issues of a psychological nature attached to the heinous act. Kehinde Bankole was willing to have sex with the embattled prince, in her words “do not take forcefully from me that which i will willingly give you” but that alone would not satiate him, to him he was getting back at the society for neglecting and abandoning him as a child? Was he? There are many persons like that roaming our streets today, looking for victims, to them these are scores that will make them get even with the society for whatever it is they have gone through. We must as a solution to all this violence and abuse in general, look to seek and demand a correction of the structural imbalance rocking our societies. All institutions that define our society are enmeshed in serious structural dilapidation. The things we choose to develop apathy for, always find a way back to haunt us collectively.
For those who use false rape allegations as a way of getting back at persons they have scores to settle with, you are part of the problem, you are one of the reasons why genuine rape victims do not get as much empathy and support when the decide to speak out. You must understand that such allegations clouded in falsehood are as devilish as rape itself. This is because you have set out to alter the course of another person’s life because of your bitterness. Is that not what some rapists do? Should the same punishment given to rapists be meted out to you?
If indeed, we are serious about the current issue and not just following our new found characteristics of being trendy, these and many more must be considered as points to look into. Rape is a crime, it kills the victim, we must be preventive rather than reactive if we are to win the battle.
Kevin Ayodele Oluwasina is a freelance writer whose interests are in peace and development, social and political constructs. Tweets: @kevinayodele1