Sexual abuse and molestation in Nigeria is something we are all used to as females. A guy can boldly and shamelessly share the story of how he forcefully had sex with a number of girls to a mixed audience of male and female, young and old. Instead of the expected outburst from the audience, especially the female ones, don’t be surprised when you get nothing but boisterous laughter and such comments as ‘serves the bitch right’, ‘what was she even doing alone with you?’, ‘if they won’t give you freely, you take by force, after all, you are the man’ and that ends that.
Rape in Nigeria is often the fault of the victim and therefore there is nothing to discuss or fight for, they ask for it. And so the culture of silence continues, we feed it and nurture it, all of us. We nurture it by not speaking up, by not supporting the victims, by shaming the victims, by pretending and accepting it as a norm.
I searched for #MeToo Nigeria on twitter and I came up with mostly lamentations of how it just cannot work in Nigeria – which is probably true, but can’t we just try a bit?
No, I have never been abused by a celebrity of any sort, but yes, I have suffered sexual molestation. In fulfillment of my promise in my last post, here goes…
My first gory experience with rape was after my university when I was looking for a better job than the one I had. He was my school mate in elementary school, I met him again as a course mate and the president of my departmental students’ Union in the university. He became my friend and the brother I didn’t have. This relationship continued even after school and we graduated into family friends.
My crime however, was that I pleaded with him to assist me in getting a better job, nearer home to which he gladly agreed. And when we met to discuss this issue, Buli, my friend felt that if he should help me, then I must have sex with him and when I said NO, he saw no other alternative than to forcefully have his way. He was a married man at the time, still is, with kids he adore, he is a church minister’s son. He was my friend, my brother from another mother, and he raped me and I did nothing about it aside feel sorry for myself and angry at him and myself in addition to dealing with the guilt.
My second experience with rape was just a couple of years back; you would think I would have been smarter by then. Ben used to share a shop with his brother in my cousin’s compound and my cousin’s house happened to be my second home. He was a likeable and trustworthy guy whom my cousin could entrust her shop and home to any time. He asked me out countless times and I politely declined each time. When I moved far away from home, we stopped communicating and I felt he was fed up with me. But when I relocated back home, he became a regular visitor in my mum’s home.
He invited me to his apartment several times and I declined but my cousin told me that since he was a nice person whom we all knew, that there was nothing untoward in going to his apartment. I visited him one afternoon. After the pleasantries, Ben began to list my sins for me, how I had declined his advances for so many years, how he had loved me for ages without my reciprocating. I apologized and explained to him again that I declined because I did not love him and we began to argue back and forth. Then he gave me the verdict that I cannot leave his apartment till I had given him sex. I guess that was my punishment and payment for all my atrocities. He locked his doors and took the keys, telling me that even the shouting spree I wanted to embark on would not help me as no one was around to hear me. After all the drama, Ben succeeded in sexually abusing me.
Maybe this would have helped. I think I need some lessons in taekwando.
Say No to Sexual abuse
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.
In the typical African tradition, there are certain roles assigned to men which are different from the ones assigned to the women. In the past, both men and women were expected to stick to their own roles. These gender roles define the structure and mode of operation of the societies though they differ from society to society, depending on their cultures.
Back home in the South Eastern part of Nigeria, these gender roles were taken rather seriously. The man is the head of the family, that headship covers every aspect of the family and social life. He is the bread winner, provider, ‘protector’, and the major, if not the sole decision maker, in fact his wife(s) address (es) him as ‘our lord/Master (Nna anyi)’ because he has the final say in all things and the wife is not supposed to question him. Which is why, when the husband dies, another man in his family inherits the woman.
The woman on the other hand, is the home maker, child bearer, helpmeet and Obiageli (one who came to enjoy). They take care of the home and the children, see to the day to day smooth running of the homes and generally help the man in any way he demands her assistance, be it on the farm, in the shop, home, anywhere. She must always be available to carry out her conjugal duties to her husband as it pleases him.
And so they lived, happily or unhappily for so many decades until recently when the lines began to disappear and the roles began to merge till we got to this era of role reversal.
In our modern day living, the distinction between the gender roles began to gradually erode till it began to blend. It started with both husband and wife providing for each other and the children. Each takes a responsibility towards providing for the whole family. It ceased to be the sole responsibility of the husband; the woman also contributed her own quota.
However, the role reversal is still metamorphosing, it did not end with both spouses contributing to the family coffers. Now, we are tilting towards a new era, the era of complete role reversal, minus the child bearing aspect. These days, you might have noticed that it is not unusual to find the man lounging in front of the television morning, afternoon and night while the wife is off to work or business. It is now trending and this trend is in fact becoming the order of the day. Everywhere you turn, you find that wife struggling, not just as a home keeper but also as the primary or even the sole bread winner.
We are moving full cycle. Maybe in time the cycle will be complete when the husband will even take on the duties of child bearing, child rearing and home keeping. For now, the men are content to relinquish the sole provider role, to have the wife hustle for money, in addition to her other roles.
There is a local politician who loved to be addressed as a party chieftain. He will lounge in the sitting room all day long except when he wants to visit his barber, which is every three days or days that he has political meetings. The wife, who is my priest’s sister, sells roasted yam and plantain with cooked beans in the market. She is the sole bread winner; she pays the rent and other bills, she is training their children in school with one successfully graduated and working. Early in the morning before she leaves for the market, she makes sure there is enough food in the house for the husband and the children. Then the husband will demand for money to credit his phone so he can call his fellow politicians, demand money to go to the barber’s, or fare to one political program or the other. He contributes zilch to the wellbeing of the family, rather he burdens the wife so much so that he even borrows money that he knows he cannot pay trusting the wife to bail him out when his creditors come calling. Is that one role reversal?
Do you know any family with such an unbalanced ‘role reversal’? I bet you do for it is fast becoming the norm. Maybe there are some husband and wives that prefer living this way, maybe it works for them, who knows?
In my opinion however, if we want gender role reversal, then it should not be partial. If the man wants to be the Obiageli of the house, then he should carry out every duty of the wife. He should cook, scrub, wash, feed, work and maybe try child bearing too then of course give her good sex whenever the mood strikes her. Then the wife as the sole or primary bread winner must see to the general upkeep of the entire family.
Why is this scenario increasingly playing out in Nigerian families? Do you know? Do you understand why some men are becoming feeble and lazy? Did the women do wrong to want to assist their men? I’d like to know what you think because I do not understand it.
He married her, paid her bride price, probably with his own money or not. That makes her his personal property, that gives him all the right, to use her as he pleases, whenever he pleases.
Believe it or not, that is the mindset of some Nigerian male folk, even in this present day and age. It is a very simple logic that requires no argument. I have come across many of them with that point of view. He went to the human market, searched for this particular woman who interested him on some level, then he ‘purchased’ her with a bride price and legalised it with the wedding ceremonies. Then from the market he brought the ‘lucky’ woman to his home. He considers her lucky because there are too many women looking for a man to save them. I am sure you know what happens when supply exceeds demand. He saved her from that horrible situation.
In his home, a little above a purchased slave, she is to provide all his needs whenever they come up and this includes giving her body to him whenever the urge to plough her arises in him. She CANNOT say no, she dare not deny him of his conjugal rights, even when she is not able to perform that duty. If she is stupid or stubborn enough to refuse her dear husband, then she must be forced to submit to her husband’s needs. Why else did he marry her if not to satisfy his needs at all times?
The Nigerian constitution, unlike that of most developed nations, does not regard marital rape as an offence on its own. Section 357 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, CAP 77, LFN 1990 definition of rape:
“Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of false threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false or fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in case of a married woman, by personating her husband is guilty of an offence called rape”.
The Nigerian Penal Code defines rapes thus:
“A man can be held guilty of rape if he has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, or with her consent, if consent was unlawfully obtained”.
The criminal code further describes ‘unlawful carnal knowledge’ as
“carnal connection which takes place otherwise than between husband and wife.”
This lends a different twist to the whole definition. It gives the husband the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife, with or without her consent. The Penal Code on the it’s part further states that
Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape, if she has attained to puberty.
In essence, both Laws inadvertently give the husband the right to rape or love his wife as he pleases so far as he is recognised as the husband.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) however describes rape as
“Physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration – even if slight – of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.”
Due to the fact that the Nigerian Law does not yet recognise marital rape nor consider it a crime, most people, male and female alike, see nothing wrong in the act.
My submission is that RAPE IS RAPE irrespective of who is involved or how it is carried out so far as there is a form of coercion.
Sometimes the woman will not be in the mood, sometimes, she is too tired or ill. I believe that instead of forcibly taking what you consider yours, a little love and care might soften her up. A little understanding and patience would not be such a terrible idea.
It is also possible that the sexual life of the couple is not healthy. These are things that communication can address easily rather than forcibly claiming ownership. In my book, raping your spouse is not just sheer evil, it is cowardice. It can erode trust and love faster than infidelity, if you ask me. I doubt if there can be much pleasure in forcing your wife into sex.
It would do us a world of good if theNigerian Law will criminalise marital rape.