“Just Because You’re a Victim Doesn’t Mean You’re Innocent”
For majority of the crimes that plague our societies -murder, kidnap and armed robbery-it seems our culture boldly denounces them and blames the murderers, kidnappers and robbers, and never the victims. Well, unless it’s a politician stealing huge amounts of money from the people or internet fraudsters scamming white people. In these situations, we hear all kinds of justifications for the criminals; you’d be amazed.
But there are certain crimes that society surprisingly ignores or blames the victims. If your husband beats you, just because you’re a victim doesn’t mean you’re innocent. The reasons are many. If you talked too much, nagged, or as they say, ran your mouth; you’re not innocent. If you failed to perform your wifely duties like cleaning, cooking, providing sex, and submitting; you’re not innocent. What if you did all these but he still hit you? Society says: “We’re sure you’re not perfect. There must be a reason for his action. You are not completely innocent.” If your wife beats you, you’re not really a man, you’re a weakling. And she’s a demon.
What if you were raped? Just because you’re a victim doesn’t make you innocent. If you wore clothing that revealed your thighs and/or cleavage, you caused it; because thou shall not tempt and men cannot control their sexual urges. If it was at night, you’re to blame because good girls stay home at night. If it was a robber who came into your home and robbed you, you wore a flimsy nightie! Please dress up when you’re going to bed, just in case. If you were fully dressed, you tempted him with your eyes; your voice was too soft. If you were drunk, it’s your fault. If he was drunk, he couldn’t have known what he was doing. If you were a child, you played with him too much. If he were your father, you wore short clothes around the house, you tempted him. If you were in diapers, it was your mother’s fault that she left you in the care of your father or uncle.
A suppressive and patriarchal culture will teach anything to prove that women are good for nothing but servitude and as men’s property. It has provided the most ridiculous contradictions and we have bought them and taught them to our children, generation after generation. We must remove the film covering our eyes to see, for instance, that drunkenness cannot excuse a person’s action while at the same time condemn another’s. The only difference is their gender and there lies the problem.
Click here to view Monalisa Chinda, a United Nations Ambassador and Nigerian actress, opine that women are to blame for suffering domestic violence.
Why do men rape women? Because we teach our sons entitlement to women’s bodies. Because we promote the idea that women’s bodies are not their own; meant for sex to pleasure a man and meant for birthing and nurturing babies. So when a woman says no to sex, the rapist is, ‘Your No doesn’t matter. I’ll take what’s mine anyway. Under this bias system, by virtue of marriage, the woman belongs to the man to do as he pleases. Therefore, he can take sex at any time, can discipline her to put her in place, because she is mere property. For this reason, that a man can rape his wife or a woman rape her husband is not even recognised in almost all parts of Africa.
Why do men rape women? Because we feed the rape culture. We teach girls that getting raped was the result of something they did or didn’t do. Essentially, when we tell our daughter/sister/friend not to wear a certain outfit, or go to certain places, so she doesn’t get raped, we are providing rapists with the licence to rape others. Oh, you can rape girls wearing miniskirts or light blue shorts, you can rape girls at the mall on Tuesdays, oh, rape curfew begins at 2pm, absolutely no rape before then. The most potent result of a rape culture that blames the victim is the increase in rape incidences. Another contradiction: if you are a boy who a woman raped, you’re not even a victim. “You should be happy and enjoy it because it’s free sex.” The nerve of patriarchy.
Crimes of violence against women and domestic/intimate partner violence are about the most widespread with little or no legal or cultural protection. According to statistics, 51 percent of African women have been victims of violence and 11 percent suffer violence during pregnancy. Only 21 African countries have laws against wife-beating (it has an established name and all that!) because of a culture that swims with patriarchy. WHO’s researches show that 35 percent of women (1 in 3 women) have experienced violence from their partners, 38 percent of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner. These statistics are depressing and scary but how much is our society willing to do to create safety for women?
In Africa, we have promoted the culture of asking a woman to ‘manage’ when she her husband abuses her, because a long marriage is better than a ‘broken home’. We promote domestic violence by teaching women that marriages are built on their backs and the sacrifices they make; on the number of sufferings they are able to endure; and by teaching them that their highest aspirations should be to get married.
The most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman are India, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Nigeria and the United States of America, in that order. This is a result of the extremely high rates of rape and other forms of sexual violence committed against women in these places. Apart from the US, these countries are in Africa or Asia. South Africa has one the highest incidences of child and baby rape in the world. About 25 percent of South African men have admitted to raping women, sometimes more than one woman, especially as teenagers, in a survey conducted by the Medical Research Council.
India is Number 4 on the list of countries with the highest number of rape incidences in the world; a new case of rape is reported every 22 minutes in India. India also has a terrible legacy of female infanticide. All these countries have something in common: a deeply ingrained patriarchal order.
Under patriarchy, we have cultures that make a woman marry her rapist, because nobody else is going to marry someone whose honour is lost. So we force a rape victim remain a victim all her life; force her to share a bed with her rapist; share a family with her rapist; because: culture. In 1966 (Italy), Franca Viola became the first woman to refuse to marry her rapist and she succeeded in a court action. But the culture exists in countries like Libya, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea where rapists can avoid punishment by marrying their victims. Only very few countries like Tunisia and Morocco have repealed this law.
What we have achieved is to feed the life of patriarchy on the blood of female victims. Men can control sexual urges; it is only that we offer excuses for them when they don’t. Women are not objects, whether for sex or domestic usage. Women’s bodies are not the property of men. We have taught girls for years and years precautions against rape. How about we start teaching people not to rape, rather that telling them how not to get raped? We need to unlearn the rape culture and understand that there are absolutely no excuses for rape or sexual harassment/abuse/violence. There are no excuses for rape.