by Wobia Akani
In the course of the past week, I have come to learn from a piece written on an online site that a man must rape something (I still find it hard to believe that an educated young man put pen to paper to state that). Even the follow up publication to clarify what he meant still has not helped me understand that statement beyond what it states on the face of it.
Dear menfolk, is it true that you must rape something? In other words, you must have forceful, non-consensual sexual intercourse with a person or thing? Is it also true that men have no self control and can do nothing about rape? A man must rape something including his wife whom he vowed to protect, and his daughter, or every passing little child? If that isn’t depravity or insanity, then I do not know what else it could be. I would hate to think that all men suffer from a form of depravity that prevents them from exercising restraint. Emotions were made for man, and not man for emotions.
Nothing justifies rape. Chapter 30 of the Criminal Code Act defines the offence of rape and out rightly criminalises it, also prescribing prison sentences for such acts. And this is one law I am almost certain everyone has an idea of whether in a cultural context or in a legal context. Why then do people go ahead to break the law?
More often than not, rape is not about sexual intercourse; after all, sex sells and comes cheap in every street corner. It is about power, force and control, it is about one trying to subjugate another, it is about the rapist saying I can take what I want whether or not you agree to it, it is about not respecting the other person’s personal space and right to say no. I am tired of hearing the excuses people try to proffer for why a person has fallen victim of rape while seemingly being sympathetic, the most common of which is indecent dressing (when the victim is a female). To my mind, indecency is a relative term and varies from one individual to the next, one culture to another. If indecent dressing or even nudity is the major trigger factor for rape, how come in the so called rural and uncivilised communities where people still go nude, incidences of rape are almost non-existent? And yet a fully clothed person in a supposedly civilised society where rights, manners and decorum ought to be respected is raped. If indecent dressing is the major trigger, why do men get raped too? (Yes, they do get raped by other men and even women). How indecent can a man’s dressing possibly be so as to provoke rape?
Truth be told, for those of us who believe in the creation story, clothes were never part of God’s original design for humanity- and yet the Holy Bible does not tell us that Adam raped Eve or vice versa. One may argue that they did not understand the concept of being naked and were therefore not susceptible to being provoked or tempted. But shouldn’t we be asking ourselves whether our civilised society juxtaposed with the uncivilised society is not lacking in the sense of morality? Is it a case of the more enlightened we are, the more morally bereft we become? Or in our usual style and fashion, we pretend it didn’t happen while stigmatising the victim so rape incidences are on the increase as the rapist roams free and continues to perpetuate the act?
It’s a rather confusing situation in the sense that in the days when women were seen as chattel to be owned and objectified, rape was not even as rife as it is in an era where we speak of gender equity. Perhaps the prescribed sentence is not stringent enough to deter the offenders. The ancient Roman style of crushing the testicles of first time rapists quite appeals to me. It simply means that the offender does not get a chance to commit the offence again. But in a society where we cover up the rapist because he is a relation, how can the seemingly lenient punishment even be meted out?
Dealing with incidences of rape is everybody’s business as it affects all and sundry. There are no more gender lines when we speak of sexual offences and offenders. The next victim could be your underaged child molested by his/her adult nanny who lacks understanding of what has transpired; or even the girl who says no to sexual advances and yet her wishes are not respected. The circumstances and situations under which rape occurs vary and to deal with it, there must be attitudinal change.
Parents, teach your sons to respect women. Men, respect the women in your lives. If you treat a woman like garbage in the presence of your son, he is bound to emulate you. Teach your children the right names of their body parts. Sexuality should not be a forbidden subject. If we teach our children about their sexuality, they will know when the situation is not right and complain before things escalate. Teach them to say no, and to respect the other person’s no. Teach them self control, above all things. Even the holy book urges us to gain mastery of ourselves first before we attempt to control others. Females need to garner defensive skills. If we cannot teach old dogs new tricks, we can teach them to the puppies.
There is also the need to stop stigmatising victims of rape. They already are going through psychological and emotional anguish. Victims of rape need a support system as it would take them time to get over the experience, if they ever will. Only when the stigma is done away with would victims begin to have courage to speak out, report and identify the offenders.
The most important role however lies with the policy makers. It would appear that the two to twenty one year sentence is not a stringent enough punishment to deter a rapist from perpetuating the act. The law makers need to prescribe stiffer punishments for rapists which should be backed by the will power to implement it. The element of proving beyond reasonable doubt that a victim actually suffered rape needs to be done away with, as well as the need for corroboration. Rape is an offence that is hardly ever committed in the full glare of the public where any one would witness it. How then does the victim get someone to corroborate his or her testimony? This is where forensic evidence comes into play. It should be enough that a qualified medical examiner has examined the victim and can ascertain that the victim has been sexually assaulted, albeit with the aid of DNA testing. It is for purposes such as this that the law enforcement agencies have forensic units.
If every Nigerian takes a stand to fight the scourge of rape, and to reduce it to the barest minimum by taking the policy makers, law enforcement agents, and the offenders to task, the need to rape something would die a natural death.