THE RAPE CHRONICLES – The Reality
Friday, August 31st, 2012
Before evidential issues are even raised, insuperable as they are, there still exist greater social challenges to attaining justice for women who suffer this crime. According to a 2006 Amnesty International report on rape in Nigeria that cited several national civil society organizations, the greatest challenges is getting victims to report the crime and getting the police to investigate and prosecute rape. The AI report also says social stigma is a major reason rape is under-reported. I personally think that we did not need the research to realize how badly rape victims are conceived by our society. Added to social stigma is the insensitive and traumatic treatment victims can expect to experience with the untrained police and the criminal justice system in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, the same Amensty International report, states that state actors especially the police are the major perpetrators of rape and violence against women. With this information, why would anyone want to engage the police in their situation? How can the police be expected to impartially investigate reports of rape? How do we expect them to be sympathetic to victims brought to them for justice and protection? It is unfathomable that the very people who ought to be the protectors and harbingers of our security are the chief perpetuators. Indeed, among those who do not subscribe to the act are those who hold all manner of chauvinistic and insensitive attitudes towards women, especially victims who seek to enforce their rights to justice.
The subject of Rape is such a delicate topic that its discussion reveals the chauvinistic and bigoted attitudes in our society. Social attitudes affect objective discussions on the topic even among non-state actors and in social situations. I’ve heard people say that women merely pretend to not want or like sex when deep down they want nothing more because they enjoy brutal or forced sex. One person in particular commented that where a woman has been date-raped by a man, she should consider marrying him so they could laugh about it later in their marriage. People also feel that women say no when they mean yes; that they are sometimes unable to express their true desire for sex. Nigerians are not alone in this prejudice. Consider the comments of a Judge in the U.K (Wild J.) in 1982
Women who say no do not always mean no. It is not just a question of saying No, it is a question of how she says it, how she shows and makes it clear. If she doesn’t want it, she only has to keep her legs shut and she would not get it without force and there would be marks of force being used.
Also, a South African ex-rape convict commented on CNN while discussing the social and cultural aspects of rape mentioned that a zulu man is not expected to leave any woman in her aroused state and that might be the paramount justification for acts of rape.
A blogger on Nigerian Village Square (name withheld) once suggested that where a woman does not engage in a fight and shout out for help, such woman should also be subject to the same punishment as the rapist in accordance with the Biblical suggestion in Deuteronomy 22:23-24. And my reply to such misogynistic idea is should a woman risk serious injury to her life to show that she was not consenting? Should she fight with her life with a man five times her size with ten times her strength? Most people view violent situations with objectivity. For example, you don’t struggle with an armed robber trying to steal your laptop, your car and your diamond ring. You don’t attempt to fight with him, except you have a gun. And now that I think of it, who really wants people to come around to see them being raped knowing that for years on, it will remain the topic of discussion in the neighbourhood? Then again, if everyone’s thought process was like the blogger’s, who knows what they will say when she calls out for help. That perhaps she even invited it? That she seduced him?
It is also a widely held belief that women invite rape by their dressing, that by dressing provocatively, women have invited the rape and should not cry foul when it happens. As a matter of fact, a Florida jury in 1989 acquitted a man accused of rape because the victim’s clothes were too enticing. The woman had been abducted at knife point, kidnapped and raped three times. This man had a previous record and several other charges of rape with other women. The defense attorney characterized the victim as a prostitute and convinced the jury that by wearing a white lace mini-skirt, she had asked for the rape. Apart from the fact that ours is an exceedingly hot country, it is also a free country. The liberties of the ‘provocatively dressed’ are by law protected. The attitude that to dress in a manner that some people don’t like is to call out to be raped is revolting. The crime can simply not be justified or excused on any level as though, somehow, women by walking around put criminal ideas into men’s heads. It is my opinion that such men already had criminal intentions even before any woman came their way. As the crime of rape dates back to Bible days where women were covered from head to toe, and rape still occurs in Muslim communities where women are also covered from head to toe, that argument is trumped. Just recently we heard of the story where old widows were raped by some evil men. Did these women attract the rape too? We must begin to re-orient ourselves and recognize that when a woman is free to make her sexual decisions regardless of what she wears. In fact, even a prostitute has rights and may give or withhold her consent as she thinks fit. Her character or dressing or occupation is not in any way a perpetual indication of consent to sex.
A woman’s consent should be only construed where she agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
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