AYOBAMI RUTH OLUFEMI-WHITE
There is little doubt that Nigeria is an impressive force of cultural, economical and political development in Africa. The nation, the continent’s largest emerging market, is often referred to as the Giant of Africa. However, it maintains a patriarchal social system, where Nigerian women and young girls are victims of high incidence of rape, sexual assault and human trafficking. A non-governmental organisation, Women At Risk International Foundation (WARIF), reported in late 2017 that 10,000 women a day are victims of one of these crimes.
Raising awareness of sexual crimes through increasing use of social media means the topic has become less ‘taboo.’ But rape is still often justified as a “crime of passion” in Nigeria. Rapists are condemned, not by the law, but by a growing number of frustrated Nigerian youths who are desperate for justice to be served.
In the UK, rape is mostly seen for what it is: an abominable and unjustifiable crime. In Nigeria, many rape cases still go unreported. Often the victim is seen as being at fault. Men dictate the social norms and rules, therefore rape is justified as a man satisfying his uncontrollable sexual desires. In order to help men control their sexual urges, a woman must be careful when she goes out with a man, and she must take care to dress and behave modestly.
Nigeria has used modesty culture to combat rape, whilst failing to understand that rape is about power. It is a method of punishing and controlling women. When a woman refuses a man’s sexual advance, it is a form of emasculation. Their refusal is a contradiction of everything Nigerian men have been raised to believe about masculinity. In order to regain their toxic masculinity, they rape. Rape within marriage, therefore, is not recognised as a crime; a man should be able to access his wife whenever he pleases.
This culture is dangerous for two reasons, it has taught Nigerians to sympathise with the rapist (who are criminals) and to ridicule the victim. When a woman is raped, she is often criticised: “What could you have done to combat this?”. Instead of receiving justice the victim is socially condemned resulting in further emotional and physiological trauma.
This must change.