It is no secret that Nigerian society is deeply entrenched in patriarchy. Sexism and outright misogyny permeates all levels of society, be it the public or private sphere.
Rape culture, which emanates from the deep patriarchal roots of Nigerian society, has reared its ugly head once again, in a Twitter spat.
A little while ago, Twitter was set ablaze by a woman known as Sugarbelly who came forward with claims of rape by a former Governor’s son and his friends. Both women and men took to Twitter to denounce her, blame her for her rape and pretty much sought to negate her claims. Move forward a couple of months later to October 2016, a woman known as Queen Cleo, on behalf of multiple women, decided to expose their numerous claims of sexual abuse by a man known as Izien Aigbodion. As is the case with rape claims, Twitter was divided, one side being the rape apologists – the ‘rape is wrong but…’ and the ‘well she shouldn’t have put herself in that position by sending him nudes’ squad – and the other side, denouncing rape culture and asserting that there is no justification for rape.
Here is a tweet by tweet of the different angles of discussion with regards to the news of Izien Aigbodion’s alleged sexual violations and rape in general:
There were those that offered us with a picture of the realities of rape in Nigeria and the challenges women in Nigeria face
Those that were vocal skeptics of rape claims
Those who attributed blame on everything/everyone else but rapists
Those who show a lack of understanding of the societal, systemic and institutional barriers women face when reporting sexual violations
Those that are unknowingly sitting on the fence between advocating against rape and victim blaming
Those taking a stand against rape and rape culture
As we can see from the above, rape culture is alive and well in Nigeria. Some people don’t even realize that they are proponents of rape culture, as it is intertwined with patriarchal structures that have been deeply embedded in daily life and societal perceptions.
It is important that Nigerian society unlearns what has been taught about rape, victim blaming and consent. The onus is on rapists and sexual violators to not rape, and not on victims to act in ways that would allegedly prevent rape. There is absolutely no justification for rape. This is absolute and there are no exceptions to that. A woman’s outfit, her sending a man nudes, her being drunk or whatever it may be, does not justify rape, and is totally immaterial when discussing rape and sexual assault. What is relevant is that the woman did not consent and she was violated sexually. Lack of consent is the main and most important premise of rape. Women and men alike must understand that sex is not an entitlement. It does not matter whether a woman has sent a man nudes. Nudes do not affirm consent. If she decides at the point of a sexual or normal encounter to withdraw her consent, that is her right and a man should respect that.
The unlearning process is a difficult one, but it must be done. Respect for women and their rights, must be reinstated.