Although rape is a crime punishable under Nigerian laws and condemned by major religions and the society, it occurs almost every day in Nigeria. While the perpetrators of the heinous criminality get away with their evil acts, the victims suffer in silence. But in Nigeria, the rape discourse is changing. The female victims can no longer be muted. The lid placed on rape discourse is now open and many victims are coming up with their rape narratives. And nobody can stop them.
Therefore, this phase in the nation’s life can be described as the era of rupture time for rape victims. It can also be described as the time the rape victims can no longer be caged or silenced forever. They want the world to hear the stories of their sexual abuse and exploitation by randy men and men from the pit of hell. This is the time of rage of rape victims. They could no longer suffer in silence. They are no longer afraid to bare the evil acts that depraved men do to them.
They have raised the issue of rape to the front burner of national discourse. It appears the ‘Me Too movement’, which rocked America’s Hollywood some time ago, is the trending issue in Nigeria now. With celebrated cases of rape victims speaking out against their abuses by deranged men, more of the rape victims are likely to open up and reveal those behind their sexual abuses.
The ‘Me Too movement’ activists are speaking up against rape and flagrant abuse of the female body. They are invariably saying that ‘enough is indeed enough.’ They are pushing the feminist agenda with protests and anger. They are angry that some men do not respect the female body. They are angry that the society is macho and too patriarchal for change. They want their voice to be heard.
They are passing a strong message. Rape is evil and against the female gender. They want the society to care for all sexes. They want gender equality and fair treatment for all. They hate the privileging of boys over girls or the denigration of women simply because of their sex and gender. Their cause is just. Men should help women to condemn rape and all unfair treatment to women in all spheres of life. Men of God should condemn rape by their colleagues and members. The men’s sexist attitudes against women must change.
The myth of female inferiority to men has been shattered. The myth of the weaker sex is no longer in vogue. The myth of female docility and voicelessness is no longer fashionable in a 21st century world. The myth of a woman is nothing has been replaced with the reality of a woman is something. Women are now seen and heard. They can even do those things society believes only men can do and even excel more than men.
The worthy cause, which is a sort of opening up, is cathartic and liberating. It is also much helped by the ubiquitous social media which is not encumbered by editorial restrictions of the traditional media. The social media is infectious and pulsating. It is equally furious and moves with the speed of light. Its reach is penetrative and invasive.
When I read some of the novels of notable Nigerian female writers and their representations of rape victims and the attendant physical and psychological traumas, I knew instantly that a day like this would arrive. While not many Nigerians read these novels, those who read them may not have the patience to critically interpret or grasp their philosophical visions or hidden messages.
Some read these novels for entertainment purposes only. While the messages of the novels may be implied and not so obvious, the messages of the social media are too direct, brief and raw. They also come with visuals. They are hot and salacious. In the social media, there is indeed no place to hide. The participants in the social media news are exposed with every detail and melodrama.
The story is more eye-catching and salacious if the victim is a celebrity as in the case of the glamorous pastor and founder of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) church, Biodun Fatoyinbo, who was recently accused of rape. Before the current rage of rape victims, many Nigerian women and girls have been at the receiving end of the rape discourse. Apart from those reported in the print media, most rape cases are unreported.
The victims are afraid of double victimization. The police and the courts do not help matters. Police officers taunt rape victims by making silly remarks about the ugly experience. It is indeed very difficult for a woman to prove that she was raped in Nigerian courts. It is not easy to get witnesses. Getting the medical report to actually prove that one is raped is psychologically tasking. Not many women would like to pass through such demeaning experience.
Most times the perpetrators of the crime threaten their victims with death should they reveal what happened. Some victims are killed by the crime perpetrators so that they don’t live to narrate the ordeal. Many rape victims, especially the unmarried ones, believe that talking about it will attract societal anger and prejudices and may even prevent them from getting married. Not many men would like to marry a rape victim. The society frowns at it.
The rage of rape victims shows that the feminist movement is alive and kicking in the country. It shows that the labours of the vocal and committed feminists, whether as writers or critics, are not in vain. This is a veritable sign that feminism is no longer a term for conferences and academic papers. It is no longer for research purposes alone or purely an academic exercise. It is now privileging a lived experience.
The rape discourse poignantly interrogated in Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra, Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, Akachi Ezeigbo’s Roses and Bullets and the works of other feminist writers, is now being highlighted by the media, especially the social media with immediacy and alacrity. In this connection, literature and the media mirror and reflect life in diverse forms and temperaments for education, information and entertainment purposes.
The didactic nature of most literary works is not lost as well. In these days of films, the internet and the social media, literature and news can effect change in the society in so many ways. It can change the way people react to an issue. The trending social media hysteria on rape is a signal that time is up for rapists and would-be rapists. It should no longer be business as usual for rapists. No matter the time lapse, such cases can be unearthed and the perpetrators apprehended and prosecuted.
They will first be subjected to social media trial, the trial in the people’s court before the trial in the regular courts. And woe betides them if the three courts found them guilty. Although the sexual abuse of men and boys by women is not so common in Nigeria but it happens. The media, especially the social media, should beam its searchlight on it. Such sexual abuses must be uncovered.