I read somewhere about someone saying that sexual abuse is a western thing and it made me wonder if that is also our view in Nigeria. Maybe there are very few or no case of sexual abuse and predatory in Nigeria? It is possible right? Given that we are one of the most religious people of the world.
In case you don’t quite grasp what the Weinstein effect is all about, allow me to fill you in. 2017 was a year of sex abuse scandals which emanated from the USA, though prior to that, there have been other reported cases but of lesser magnitude. The American mega film producer and co-founder of Miramax films, Harvey Weinstein became the scape goat that created what is now popularly known as the tipping point of sexual scandal. According to Wikipedia, ‘the Weinstein effect is a global trend in which people come forward to accuse famous or powerful men of sexual misconduct’. It went on to say that the term came into use to describe a worldwide wave of these allegations as media outlets reported on numerous sexual abuse allegations against Weinstein.
These worldwide waves of allegations seem to exclude Nigeria and I tell you solemnly that it is not for lack of cases of sexual abuse/harassment, No sir! Our country is notorious for bribery and corruption and that includes sexual harassment in high and low places. From schools to offices, to churches, sexual misconduct abound. In fact, it is so pervasive that it seems to have become a norm, describe it as the seam of the Nigerian fabric and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Students in the Nigerian tertiary institutions are beleaguered with sexual abuses from lecturers, and even non-academic staff for grades, hostel accommodation, or even certificates and of course money. The secondary schools are not left out mind you. The political arena is fraught with cases of sexual misconduct left and right, likewise the various offices, public and private alike. You need to play by their rules in order to get the job/position or get promoted. The churches are supposed to be safe haven for its members but the ministers of the churches hide under the cloak of religion to sexually harass their members in order to ‘rid them of infertility, demons, poverty’ and all what-not.
I have no doubt that almost every Nigerian woman, old or young has a personal history of sexual abuse to share. But unlike the western world, the name and shame thing will definitely backfire here because most of the powerful men are part of the rot. As I read about the Weinstein effect and the Weinstein scandal, I could not help but wish that it could be replicated in Nigeria, but who will bell the cat? For one, corruption is so entrenched into the system that the prey might become the predator if she attempts to name her predator especially without evidence and strong backing. Naming names might expose the victim to threats and dangers beyond her scope.
Let us for one minute dream that the Nigerian victim who was sexually abused by a big name in Nigeria is able to tell her story, will she be heard? Who would believe her and not accuse her of seeking for fame? Most importantly, will she get her justice? Or will she be ridiculed, punished and stigmatized? Some will even term her evil for wanting to expose the abuser, that is how religious we can get.
For three decades Mr. Weinstein harassed and abused women, for thirty years, he used his power to victimize young women. But in 2017, his full cup began to overflow. I was filled with awe when I read of the numerous bodies to which he hitherto had dealings with that not only dissociated themselves from the man, but stripped him of his position, power, honour and prestige in short order. I began to wish that Nigeria could become that courageous and transparent. The reverse would bebthe case here with all the high and mighty groups protecting their own and further victimising the victim.
In the wake of the Weinstein scandal came many other cases of sexual abuse accusations leveled against the powers that be in the world of entertainment, journalism, politics, judiciary, and many other sectors especially in the Western world. More victims, male and female found their voices and began to speak out.
The Weinstein effect has no effect in Nigeria, Nigeria is not even talking about it so how will the effect come about? You only hear or see individual snippets of it from private quarters on the social media. Most of us are scared of the repercussions but I believe there is something we can do here in Nigeria even if it means going anonymous. We can borrow a leaf from the Indian law student, Raya Sarkar
even though she is under fire from rapists and molesters and even feminists for her role in exposing abusers in the academia. Nigerian victims can also open this can of worms here not minding how bloody it can get.
In my next write up on this issue, I will share my own sexual assault experiences in solidarity with the #MeToo tag. I pray I find the courage to tell my story even if I am not able to name names… lolz.
I appreciate the fearless journalists and victims that gave life to the Weinstein effect. They have written their names in the sands of time and in the hearts of men and women of the world and posterity will not find them wanting.