By Abimbola Adelakun
When some 200 schoolgirls in Chibok were abducted last year, one of the fears that accompanied the outrage their abduction generated is the likelihood of their being subjected to sexual violence. Most likely, they were targeted on account of their gender in the first place and with them being held in an unknown location, they would be at the mercy of their captors. That is partly why Nigerians – minus the people who were in denial about the probability of such an abduction – and the rest of the world urged for immediate rescue of those girls from Boko Haram.
It has been a year since that abduction happened but they are still not back, no thanks to the foot-dragging that marked the official response. Other victims have been abducted since then and we have also learnt that before Chibok, abduction had been near routine. Time has passed since Chibok and it is almost too much to hope that those girls have not been abused.
In the past few weeks, the Nigerian Army –thankfully – has been freeing abductees from the clutches of Boko Haram in the Sambisa Forest. It is bittersweet news – the country has finally triumphed but wait a minute, the women are returning home differently from how they left. Out of the recent batches of returnees, some 214, according to the UNFPA, were “visibly pregnant.” We have always known they were not abducted because Boko Haram needed cooks and home keepers.
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State in whose territory most of those abductions have taken place adds a dimension to it: That Boko Haram is not primarily driven by primal sexual urges nor is their impregnating of their captives a perk of their nefarious activities. What Boko Haram is engaged in is actually “phallo-terrorism” – the kind of terrorism that seeks to expand itself beyond the acquisition of spatial territory by acquiring bodies of women as well. Through the agency of the phallus, this terrorism builds an army to elongate its existence. Shettima says Boko Haram’s impregnating the women is a conscious effort that is buttressed by a maniacal fundamentalism. That what we are dealing with is a calculated attempt by a murderous sect such as Boko Haram to be fruitful and multiply.
To achieve this, they acquire vulnerable women who would be used as tools to propagate their radical and nihilistic ideology. Shettima adds, “I was told they even pray before mating, offering supplications for God to make the products of what they are about doing (sic) become children that will inherit their ideology. After getting their captives pregnant, they keep them to allow the pregnancy mature to an extent of say four or more months to make abortion difficult or impossible for the women due to life threats in carrying out abortions at that level.”
There you have it. Against better judgment, one pictures terrorists holding weapons in both hands. On one hand, their phalluses and on the other hand, AK47s. One weapon to end multiple lives, the other to create multiple beginnings of life that will ultimately be ended. This is not a desire for fatherhood but using nature against its own purposes: To breed a human army that will destroy a world they are helping to expand.
It is messy. It is complicated. It is not for nothing that rape was labelled as a weapon of war, a war crime. The women of Bosnia, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Congo DR, and Japan who went through genocidal rape are instances of “phallo-terrorism” in modern history. More shuddering cases of opportunistic rape go as far back as biblical times where misogyny was part of the culture and allowed men to treat women as second class citizens.
When the women become pregnant, enemy lines are forcibly redrawn. This murk in analysis of moral issues is one of those times one wishes nature were not so brutally neutral. If nature were discerning, it would censor its own processes. Women who were raped by their own fathers, for instance, ought not to get pregnant. We will never have to tangle with certain difficult questions. If nature were a little more discriminating of seed sown in love and consent and the ones planted as a permanent stamp of triumphalism on conquered subjects, it would be selective of what it germinates. Boko Haram’s “phallo-terrorism” gives the phrase “unwanted child” a fresh nuance that whatever your morals and beliefs, you would think at least twice on the pro-life question. What does one do with Boko Haram’s child?
Before people begin the familiar peroration about the sanctity of life and the favourite Nigerian pro-lifer argument –God has a plan for every child – we should consider the emotional state of the women involved who have passed through such difficult circumstances. What do you do with what is of you, came from you but is still not yours? Who can blame a woman who barely feels any emotion towards a child conceived in such aberrant circumstances? Those who think that women are natural nurturers and a mother’s love is an essence that happens regardless of circumstances only need to chew on this to see the fallacy in their assumption. Tell the woman carrying the child of her violator she ought to love her child and she will ask if you are on cocaine high. Whatever choices the women in this circumstance make must be respected and protected. It behoves the rest of the society to support in any way possible.
We have seen Hollywood movies where mass armies of fighters are produced by Computer Generated Images to fight the ultimate war between Good and Evil. But here is real life where humans are spawned by the evil speed of their nameless and faceless fathers who terrorised their mothers through a physical and symbolic weaponisation of the phallus. Unlike the CGI, for instance, actual human bodies never go away that easily. They materialise and memorialise pain, violation, degradation and dehumanisation; a legacy of lost personhood. When these children are born however, they become persons to whom our claims to humanity must be extended. We cannot wish away a child –whatever the circumstances of birth – without first darkening our souls.
The terrorism of the phallus is an unsolicited evil gift that reproduces, ironically, a child who is the very epitome of innocence. The image of a newborn evokes sinlessness, a newness pure and innocent, merely unfortunate to be born into a world of sin. In the absence of the father to pay for his own sins, the child becomes the sin eater, the stigmatised one whose existence is akin to a long arduous walk to Golgotha saddled with the cross of the father’s sins. I pondered about the whole affair and I just cannot find answers that reconcile the odds sufficiently. What I am left with are contradictions. Sometimes, I wonder if God/nature set us up for confusion to have a laugh at our expense.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Abimbola Adelakun/Punch