Dear Otiko Djaba,
Rape is NOT an STD. We Cannot Prevent Rape by Covering our bodies!
It is not often that I take the time to write to persons in positions of authority, as for the most part, I believe that authorities know what they are doing and do not need my input. However, on the odd occasion, I have been known to speak up. Ms Zita Okaikoi heard from me regarding her inaction, during her tenure as Ambassador to the Czech Republic, when a Ghanaian male was treated like “garbage” in that country.
Your predecessor, the Honourable Oye Lithur also heard from me, though I did not share my strong words for her here but kept to facebook, when she chose to sign the petition for the release of the Montie 3. Today, my attention is on you, and only you.
When you spoke up for yourself during your vetting and stood your ground when compelled to apologise to former President Mahama, I applauded from my home. I posted on social media about how it was high time we had a headstrong woman in the role of gender minister, who would not kowtow to the whimsy of our patriarchal society.
Imagine my joy when you turned up for your swearing-in looking radiant in your traditional garb and with your “interesting hairstyle” and hit back at your detractors when they accused you of setting a poor example for girls. Your defense for your hairstyle warmed my heart. Surely you would defend human rights as you defended your hair, no? Soon after, however, the bombs began to drop.
When videos began to circulate, in which a suspected female thief was sexually abused by a group of traders, you took days to speak regarding the issue, and even then, only to say that the police must be allowed to follow due process, and that the lady in question did not want to be found. My jaw dropped. With actual evidence in hand, the State wanted the victim to press charges before locking up those men? Even if she was proven to be a thief, did she deserve to be treated in such a manner?
The whole thing reminded me of an incident in Legon Uni where another alleged thief was stripped naked and manhandled by the males in one of the Mensah Sarbah Hall Annexes. Video footage circulated from this incident as well and some rather vile minded persons implied that she got what she deserved. I wonder why it took so long for action to be taken in the February 2017 event, when there was video evidence clearly showing the faces of her attackers.
You disappointed me, Otiko. You disappointed me so much but I had hope. I, and other women I hold dear to my heart, hoped you would “show us levels” but alas, just as Maya Angelou said, when someone shows you their character, believe them the first time.
I have actually left my sick bed to write to you tonight. I am supposed to be on bed rest while my back heals up but noooo, I needed to sit upright and take the time to let you know how disappointed I am, that you, a Minister for Gender should stand before a group of adolescent girls and declare that they should avoid wearing short skirts in order to prevent rape.
I must thank you for warning male teachers not to coerce and abuse their charges. Warning them to desist from impregnating the girls, was a step in the right direction considering the society we live in but sadly, even this one good deed of yours stood on rocky ground. It gives the impression that the only thing wrong with male teachers sleeping with students, is the possibility of pregnancy.
You were absolutely right, in that it is an abuse of their rights but I put to you that pregnancy should be the least of their worries, but rather the emotional and physical trauma they inflict on their victims. Focusing on the risk of pregnancy ignores the fact that STDs could be transmitted and that female teachers could also be taking advantage of their charges, be they male or female students.
You mentioned something else that caught my attention, “We want to initiate a mentoring program; a girls-girls leadership program in all the schools, from basic to tertiary and as well as within the communities to ensure that we know our rights and we understand what it is to be a woman who is an equal partner in society, no longer women behind but side by side with our men as equal partners”.
Great initiative but I wonder, can we have a mentoring program for boys as well? One which teaches them that older women sleeping with them is a form of abuse and not something they should be “proud of”? One that teaches them that they do not deserve sex whenever and wherever they want it, and that they should not be afraid to speak up when they are being forced into situations they are uncomfortable with? Our society has taught men for far too long, that their “manhood” and brains lay in their penises, and that women exist solely to provide them with pleasure.
In the next breath, you are alleged to have stated, that the girls should “…be bold, be confident, be respectful. If you wear a short dress, it’s fashionable but know that it can attract somebody who would want to rape or defile you. You must be responsible for the choices you make”.
Here is where I screamed in fury before being reduced to a weeping mess. My dear woman, that was a terrible gaffe. You revealed in those words, the fact that you are as much embroiled in the patriarchal BS that we are fed daily, as women. As the defender of human rights, you managed, in one fell swoop, to lay the blame for rape at the feet of the victims (fine, fine, potential victims). Please be informed, if you have not read my header above, “Rape is not an STD and we cannot prevent it by covering up“.
Your statement ignores the following:
- Rape is not about sex. People do not rape because they are horny and want to get off. No, rape is about control, about power, about abusing a vulnerability, be it mental or physical. It is this “power thirst” that has warriors raping while they pillage villages. You think they simply miss their wives? No no it is about humiliation of the enemy and proving their weakness. “Haha you call yourselves warriors? Watch us violate your women and children”. Sex has been used as a weapon for years and so I am appalled when I meet people who miss the purpose of rape.
- Rape involves more than a penis and a vagina. I do not believe in the Ghanaian legal definition for rape, as it assumes just as you have, that rape only involves a man placing his penis inside of a woman’s vagina. The term defilement annoys me also, as it implies a sullying of the victim. The victim is not dirty, in the case of “defilement” so why use such a disgusting term? Newsflash, Madam Minister, men can be raped too. They can be raped by men, and by women. Once upon a time, I thought it was impossible to rape a man but then I learned that rape is about consent, and consent can be denied, even in the presence of a physical response.Research has shown that in fight or flight situations, men can have erections. The same happens with women, who often are ashamed to report rape because their bodies responded during the struggle. Most often, their attackers even point out to them the fact that their bodies are prepped and ready.I ask you, as a woman who seems to think that short skirts are the reason for rape, what would you say to a woman who told you she said no to a man but he forced himself on her and that, to her shame, she had an orgasm or two? Would you as gender Minister then decide her orgasm was proof of consent? I think you need some gender sensitivity training.
- Rapists have self control. Yes they do! They have so much self control in fact, that they actively search for persons they can overpower physically and mentally. A rapist who is 5’4″ and weighs 50kg will not attempt to physically overpower a person who is 6’2″ and weighs 90kg, certainly not without a weapon, or with prior knowledge that the potential victim is not mentally sound and thus can be coerced into the act.All those house helps seducing their young charges, call it statutory rape or no, there is a clear indication that these persons have had their bodies and rights violated.The idea that showing a little bare skin is enough to drive men into a sexual frenzy is absurd and should not be perpetrated any further. If a woman should choose to walk through the streets naked, it is not an excuse for anyone, male or female to touch them inappropriately, let alone insert objects into any orifices. You liken men to animals with no self control, when we have seen dogs back off from food because they were told “NO”. Are men honestly reduced below the level of dogs when they get turned on?
- Rapists do not always beat their victims into submission. Most children who are assaulted will tell you their attackers did not beat them. They may have threatened violence either on their person or that of a loved one in order to get them to keep quiet, but overall, child molesters (rapists) simply prey on innocence and naivete to get what they want. Drugging an adult victim is a sure way of overpowering them without physical force. Or perhaps you, like the Ghana Police, want every victim to turn up with rope burns, swollen eyes, busted lips and vaginal tears to prove they did not consent to sex?
- Women in full clothing get raped too. The high incidence of rape in countries like India and Bangladesh are proof enough that no matter what a person wears, they can still be attacked by predators. Long skirt, short skirt, tights or jeans trousers, none will prevent a narcissist from taking what they want.
Pardon me for the long rant but I feel very passionately about this because this argument allows a lot of rapists to get away scott free. It allows boyfriends, dates, husbands (yes and girlfriends and wives) to simply refuse to take no for an answer, force a physical response from their victim and take from them, that which they do not wish to give.
Patriarchy has done this to us. Women are taught they are to blame if they are raped, that they are at fault if they get pregnant and men are taught that they are men when they have a high body count. They refuse to consider that they could be sexually assaulted because they cannot fathom ever having a woman or another man managing to overpower them physically or mentally.
Let’s please get this right and stop victim shaming. Giving predators excuses will never do, and teaching our young women that their clothing will drive men into a frenzy is beyond irresponsible.
The next time you talk about sexual abuse in any form, please remember to discuss consent. Let it be known that a man or woman has no right to demand oral, vaginal or anal sex from another person. Let them know even hand jobs are not to be demanded.
I and other Ghanaians want to hear you telling men and women that even if a person consented to sex, and is in the middle of the act, they still have a choice to say no and walk away. Let it also be known that if a man or woman says no to sex, that it is not alright to convince them to say yes, by stroking their bodies into submission.
This is one thing I have noticed in some Ghanaian relationships, where people assume the person saying no is playing hard to get. Disrespecting the person’s wants and choices, forcing a physical response from them, and carrying on is reprehensible. Sex is supposed to be between two willing individuals. The fact that one person has to be coerced should surely kill any vim, no?
Oh by the way, I went out drinking on Friday night wearing a short dress and heels. The older male I was with, despite my near intoxication, thin frame and sexy clothing (the dress even had cut outs to show some flesh above my boobs) did not rape me. He had several chances, as we were in a dark and quiet section of the bar we visited and the streets on our drive back to my home were dark, to overpower and rape me, but he did not. In fact, he did not even touch my arm or leg, simply because I had already told him prior, that I was not interested in sex with him, or anyone, and that I was only interested in making a new friend. I know this must be a shock to you, and to others who hold your views that men are uncontrollable beings led by their penises but this man is a prime example of what we nurture when we, as a society teach men and women to respect each other, and make them understand that they are not entitled to anything from another person.
Oh by the by, I apologise for calling your hairstyle a chicken style on twitter. I was overcome by anger yet still, I owe you an apology. Your hairstyle should have no impact on your duty, unless the weave is sewn in too tight and making it impossible for you to concentrate.
Be the woman we expect you to be, Otiko. Show us that you’re here to protect all genders and that you are capable of doing your job.
PS I have so much more to say but I am emotionally and physically exhausted. Should you wish to debate further, my twitter handle is @D41XY. I loooove to debate online, but only when I do not have deadlines to meet.