Nigeria, Misogyny And Rape
NB: I wrote this article over 6 months ago on another platform, I just forgot to put it on my Medium.
I initially wanted to make this a comment, in response to Fumni O’s article, but it was becoming too long; so I felt an article is in order.
First, I would like to thank Fumni O for that beautiful article and I appreciate her response to the rebuttals of the TNC community on her article. You are indeed a blessed soul.
Your expose on consent reads like something forged on Olympus.
For all those who denounced rape under any circumstance… Blessing to you all.
But first things first, rape is rape. In a culture as patriarchal as Nigeria, rationalizing rape would only lead to victim blaming.
Whether a girl decides to walk around naked, or she takes a stroll at 12 midnight, she should feel safe. If she is raped, it is exactly that, and should be treated as such. Whether it is a crime to walk around naked — as some states have laws against indecent exposure — or it is unsafe to take a stroll in that neighbourhood at 12 midnight is beside the point. In the first case the girl may be reprimanded for breaking the law regarding indecent exposure; while in the second case, it is practically an indictment of the State, who promised to protect its citizens’ life and property.
This does not water down the infernal nature of the injustice done to that girl in any way.
When Jack Ruby, killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who killed J.F. Kennedy, he was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. In the eyes of some, killing the killer of an American president is a pretty heroic thing to do, but that did not stop the American government from issuing him a death sentence. So he may well be a hero, but he is a murderer and must be treated as such.
So maybe the girl was wrong in the law’s eye to walk around naked — and she is only wrong if it is a crime by the constitution of the land to walk around naked — but that doesn’t in any way give anyone the right to rape her, or indemnify the perpetrator of such, from his heinous crime, or reduce the intensity of his crime as killing an American president did not give Ruby the right to kill Oswald, or indemnify him of that crime.
In a country that uses rape as a weapon of oppression and torture, rationalizing it one bit makes the story worthless, in the sight of many Nigerians. The Sugarbelly saga is proof of this.
Many of us do not understand what it means when we say Nigeria has an inherent misogynistic culture of rape and abuse. It is only because we have been so desensitized to it. I mean, when the headlines show: “A 23 year old woman was raped on campus by a group of boys as she was walking to her hostel from class at 2am”, the next thought of a Nigerian — educated or not — is “what was she doing on the road at 2am”. It never comes to the consciousness of these people that this woman was violently abused or is going through serious trauma. No, it never does. The best you get is “I know rape is bad, but she should have known better”.
On 25th of January 2013 , the latest poll results released by NOI Polls Limited, revealed that almost 3 in 10 Nigerians admitted to personally knowing someone who has been a victim of rape; citing stigmatization as the main reason why many rape cases go unreported
Here is how the NOI polls website describes the poll:
The poll conducted on January 22nd 2013… across the six geo-political zones of the country…
In the light of the recent rape case in India, which has sparked widespread series of protests against rape across India and further campaigns for women’s rights in several countries, including Nigeria; NOI Polls has sought the opinion of Nigerians regarding the prevalence, and causes, of rape in the country, as well as solutions on how to curb the incidence of rape.
The respondents to the poll were asked six questions, but I would like to show the analysis of a few questions asked and how they were answered by the respondents.
Respondents were asked: Do you personally know anyone that has been a victim of rape? Curiously, almost 3 in 10 (29%) respondents admitted to personally knowing someone who had been a victim of rape; with the majority (68%) stating that they did not personally know any victim; while 3% refused to answer the question.
Furthermore, in view of the debate that often arises about the cause(s) of rape in the society respondents were asked the following: What do you think is the prevalent cause of rape in the society? From the result, the majority of respondents (34%) were of the opinion that the most prevalent cause of rape in the society is “Indecent dressing”; followed by 18% of respondents that cited “Unemployment”. Also, “Lack of moral values” and the “Inability to control sexual urge” were each cited by 9% of the respondents as the prevalent cause of rape. Other reasons mentioned by respondents include “Faulty upbringing” (7%), “Ungodliness”, “Illiteracy about women rights” and “Bad Company” (all with 5%).
It is worth noting that this question was open-ended, allowing respondents to provide spontaneous responses. It is therefore worrisome that the majority (34%) of respondents attributed the prevalent cause of rape to indecent dressing. This finding throws some light on a recent article by Amaka Okafor-Vanni in the Guardian newspaper UK titled “Nigeria has a rape culture too”. In the article, the author argued that if the India rape incident had taken place in Nigeria, nothing would have been done about it. Stressing that societal values suggest that a lady “… must be told what to wear (or not wear) to limit the exposure to the men and when she doesn’t conform, and is assaulted or arrested, then she is responsible. In other words, if a woman’s body is visible, it ought to be available for sex or punished for this visibility.”
Respondents were also asked: Do you agree that the majority of rape cases in Nigeria go unreported? To this question about 8 in 10 Nigerians (79%) agree that the majority of rape cases in Nigeria go unreported. Only 15% of the respondents do not agree that the majority of rape cases in Nigeria go unreported, while 6% refused to respond.
Consequently, respondents who agreed that the majority of rape cases in Nigeria go unreported (79% of the total) were asked the fifth question: Why do you think the majority of rape cases go unreported? Interestingly, the majority of respondents (36%) said it’s because “Victims do not want to be stigmatised” followed by 29% who think it’s because “Families try to avoid disgrace”. Furthermore, 16% think it’s because “Families believe justice can’t be achieved”, 9% say that “Victims are often blamed” and 5% think that “Victims are mostly traumatised”.
According to this poll, about 46 million Nigerians know a victim of rape; Over 54 million Nigerians think the cause of rape is indecent dressing — the highest, by far on the list; over a 126 million Nigerians agree that majority of the cases go unreported; and some wonder why there have been only 18 convicted cases.
I would like to briefly discuss the “ABSU5 rape case” that many of us know about.
The name ABSU is an acronym for “Abia State University”, and 5, represents the five boys, purported to be students of that university. These boys raped a girl, made a video of the ordeal and uploaded to the internet. They all took turns to rape this girl and all her pleading fell on deaf ears.
Like I said earlier on, Nigerians are very much desensitized to the injustices done to their women. In the aftermath of the infernal act, the University’s student’s body took to the streets to protest, which one would expect, but the reason for the protest could only be defined as uncanny.
It was not for the kind of indignation caused to the girl, but that their university was being libeled, by ‘evil’ rivals. They were angry their school was said to be the location of the diabolical crime. Nobody expressed disdain at the grotesque act committed on the girl. Not even the girls in the school rebuked what happened to the victim or showed repugnance for such an act instead they were bothered about their school’s image.
It gets interesting. The Vice-Chancellor of the University claimed that “the gang-raping of a student did not happen in the institution” (simply because it didn’t happen within the confines of ABSU). So what? One is led to ask. Why did these people not express revulsion about this act for what it was? Apparently if the Chief executive of the school could be so passive, what would one expect from the student body?
The Abia State Police Commissioner said there was no report, thus the “police could not investigate an issue that was hypothetical and unfounded.” I mean there was visual evidence. What more could the police want? He even had the effrontery to say that the rape looked “consensual” and the girl looked like she might be enjoying it. How dare a top Police officer be so flippant about such an infernal crime?
Even the office of the state Governor said that the act was the handwork of a political rival to cause disrepute to their government.
Could everybody just stop talking about their reputations and dignity, and think of this act for one moment? One is forced to ask.
It was also said that the girl perhaps had offended the one of the boys and that boy might have assembled his friends to teach her a lesson of her life. So apparently according to these low lives there might just be a “good” reason to rape someone.
I hope many of us would rethink our stance on the issue of rape, and avoid raising academic arguments about how she should have known better to walk in the street at that time of the night or to have spent the night in the guy’s house, “didn’t she know he would do that”; or how she still went back to him after he raped her the first time.
In conclusion, it is true that some of the comments in response to Fumni O’s article actually carry water, regarding looking at the world how it, not as it ought to be and the issue of false accusations. But the truth is that these are fine details. There have only been 18 convicted rape cases and 3 out of 10 Nigerians know someone who has been raped — quite the non sequitur. It is obvious we have a long way to go. Facts from a rape investigation can be arrived at objectively, without the bias of victim blaming and slut shaming.
At least we are talking about it. Let’s tell boys not to rape, instead of telling girls not to get raped.