Endorsing Rape Culture.


One thing that we all need to get clear, even though it has been explained over and over again through all platforms, is the fact that rape has never and will never be about sex. Rape is an act of violence centred on power and control. There is always an uproar when a case of rape comes up but I’ve been questioning a lot about our society and the fight against sexual gender violence. I’m realizing that our African society more often than not endorses rape culture and will only speak up against one type of rape; rape of physically chaotic and violent nature; a bloody and gruesome scenario type of rape. This is the only kind that we as Africans have decided to acknowledge as sexual gender based violence. My problem with this is that rape occurs in very many forms and by endorsing these others, women will never accept that they may have suffered sexual abuse and men will never acknowledge that they are indeed attackers. And if this continues its merely a pointless fight for all of us feminists and activists against gender based violence.

When I say some types of rape are endorsed, I am speaking of the following case scenarios;

  1. Marital rape:  It is our African belief that once you accept to be married and you give yourself to a man you are sexually obligated to satisfy at all times. There is a difference between conjugal rights and forcing sexual intercourse when your spouse is not for it. Unfortunately, marital rape is not even provided for as an offense in many of our legislations.
  2. Drunk/ Intoxicated rape: We have this dangerous belief that if a girl is drunk or inebriated then she is okay with having sex. The issue of understanding concept is in my opinion our greatest flaw in our African society. Consent should never be assumed.
  3. The assumption that promiscuous girls can never not want sexual intercourse or that consent is not necessary with them. I have seen so many cases where prosecutors discourage a victim from carrying forth with a case just because her reputation is questionable and tainted. This applies to the rights of sex workers as well especially with their being violated and abused and failure of our judiciary system to protect them. (I am working on a detailed post on sexual abuse of sexual workers.)
  4. Intimate partner violence: this is where the victim an attacker are in a relationship and where sexual intercourse may have previously occurred. We have made it so difficult such that women will never admit the abuse they have experience or seek any form of redress. The stigma and the shame such that it is impossible to acknowledge that a woman can be raped by her boyfriend. I have even had arguments from men such as “well they’ve had sex before so its not like there’s anything different.”

Well, there actually is!

Rape is violence and it severely affects and damages the mental and emotional well being of a person, regardless of the physical impact and force used. Manipulation is a violent weapon too. The fact that an abuser’s actions can be swept under the rug and ignored because of his influence or service to society is also how we endorse rape culture. We are passing on the message that its okay as long as you pay back through an act of good service.

We all ought to think of how we endorse and allow rape culture to carry on and how we can put an end to it.

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  1. These are great points, thanks for this post. Would love to hear your thoughts on the role of (local and/or international) NGOs in combatting SGBV in the African context. In your opinion, is there a place for organized resistance to rape culture, or does a shift need to happen organically? Is there a place for outsiders (either diaspora or non-Africans) in the conversation, or is external influence inappropriate/ineffective/destructive? Thanks again, best wishes!

    1. Sorry for the late response, I was trying to figure out the right way to word this. I strongly feel that the shift necessary to fight SGBV in Africa needs to come from within. It needs to be we as African realizing our perception and mindset towards this is what promotes all of it and that we need to unlearn some of our culture because of how harmful it is. In as much as this is necessary from within, it is obvious that international intervention in the form of I/NGOs and like organizations is needed in order to educate. Currently these organizations are faced with resistance and tension as most perceive this as an attack of our culture and an unwelcome (and possibly imposed) views. In the same its taken a lot of years to get the African woman to trust that FGM is in fact a violation of our bodies and a form of abuse rather than an important respectful practice, international aid must not give up in standing by us as we create more awareness on SGBV and fight against. Luckily, with the new and quite charged wave of feminism and activism we will continue to try and change the mindsets ingrained in our subconscious and unlearn harmful norms.
      I hope my response was sufficient

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