Former UK Prime Ministers wife Cherie Blair disturbed a hornest nest by saying what we all know but few will admit to that in Africa, many women’s first sexual experience is through rape.
The barrister and women’s rights campaigner made the comment during a talk about women and leadership at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London, attended by about 100 people.
I remember I treated this very topic on my radio show a few years back and several women called in to confirm this statement. Some even took the risk of recounting their own experiences.
And these instances are more often with familiar acquaintances than with strangers.
Many African teenage girls’ first sexual encounter (forget about perverse uncles, relatives etc) is when they visit their (new) boyfriends or someone they consider a “toaster” (someone who has asked them out and they are considering if they want to enter into a relationship with them) who forcefully have sex with them èven though they are not ready to or simply do not want to have sex with them.
How many young girls weakly gave in to their boyfriend’s “You will do it if you love me” emotional blackmail?
Many boys who are now men – fathers, grandfathers are guilty of this & know this to be true. Many of them also take this practice into their marriages and practice it on their wives. A woman will be overpowered, pinned down or rolled onto by her husband whenever the feeling comes upon him with her “Not now”, “I’m tired”, “please stop”or “I don’t want it” objections simply ignored.
There is an age long belief among men – African/Nigerian men that when a lady says “NO” what she actually means is “YES”.
Few men believe that it is a woman’s prerogative to decide when or if she wants to have sex. It is also believed that a woman who visits a man or finds herself alone in a man’s company must be after sex, and it is a man’s right to have sex with such woman. And if she says NO, you should coerce her – that is persuade her forcefully until she gives in against her own will, or aggressively, physically overpower her and have your way with her.
Sadly, many of our men even well into their middle age still hold this belief and fail to see it for what it is – RAPE. Not long ago, I had a rather unsettling conversation with a 50-something church going Nigerian grandfather living in the UK, who smugly and arrogantly, expressed exactly the same opinion.
This rather distasteful opinion is held widely among the African community that a woman cannot take personal responsibility for when to have sex in a relationship or decide if or when she wants to. The decision must be made for her – and that sometimes takes the form of aggressive coercion (rape). Ironically enough, a woman who initiates sex is also unfavorably looked upon – even in this day and age.
Unfortunately, the African moral system is shamefully biased against women that whether a woman is raped, abused by her father, uncle or step-day, the blame is more often laid on her. And even more shameful is the fact that many women also take this stand and will join in in blaming a fellow woman who is unfortunate enough to get raped – or will cover up for a man who has committed the crime of rape. Stories abound of mothers who will chose to take the word of their husbands when their daughter reports she has been abused by her own father or stepfather.
Many women are also on the forefront of blatantly denying the existence of the “rape culture” in Africa.
Many rape victims will never speak out about their ordeal no matter how brutal. And a typical Nigerian women who has been raped or sexually abused will keep her experience a secret forever.
This is in order to avoid the humiliation and shameful stigma that comes with being raped. Not to talk of the fear of being blamed for bringing the attack upon herself.
In countries such as the US or the UK, the identity of a rape victim is kept hidden but the opposite is the case in Africa, The name and images of a woman who alleges rape is splattered all over the newspapers and she is paraded as an immoral woman rather than a victim.
The jury is still out as to whether Cherie Blair was right in making the speech about African women and rape. But the fact remains that many of us know her statement carries more truth than we will care to admit.
Even the guilty ones..
Especially the victims.