At this point, there is no question of whether or not Ghanaian society is rigidly patriarchal. If you google patriarchy, the first definition that pops up (via Wikipedia) states:
Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary power, predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. In the domain of the family, fathers or father-figures hold authority over women and children.
Essentially, in any scope one can think of, the final word on any issue will invariably be spoken by a man.
There are inevitable by-products of such a social structure, which can be summarized thusly: women are neither regarded, nor treated as, true EQUALS to their male counterparts.
It could be at your workplace, where it is assumed that any woman in a position of note slept with a man to get there, regardless of what her C.V. looks like. Woe betide her if she is especially attractive.
It could be on tv, where Bukom Banku ( a boxer) confessing to beating his wife elicited first a fit of giggles, then mild chiding, from Yaw Ampofo Ankrah.
It could be online, where Hammamat Montia has been vilified and branded “immoral” for her fashion choice.
It could be in traffic, where people immediately assume an accident was the woman’s fault because “women don’t know how to drive”.
However, i can think of no single more insidious manifestation of patriarchy than our attitude towards sexual violence against women. I’m sure you already guessed with the post title was referencing: Rape.
Recent headlines both home and abroad have been dedicated to accusations of rape leveled against media personalities.
While the nature of the alleged crimes is troubling to put it lightly, it is in the comment section ie the public response, where another form of evil resides. Rape Apologism.
As far as we are concerned, anything that does not involve an unknown aggressor forcing a woman into a dark corner and leaving her bloodied and battered isn’t really rape. (Never-mind that statistically speaking most sexual assaults are committed by known assailants)
Victims are immediately labeled schemers, liars, prostitutes, dirty girls, attention seekers etc, and then in the next breath asked why they chose to remain anonymous.
Like clockwork, the questioning begins, always framed in a manner that places the blame squarely at their feet.
I can’t think of any other crime for which this is always the case.
“Guys, i was walking around 37 last night and someone snatched my bag and ran away with it”
– Oh please, you are lying. No one stole your bag. You lost it yourself.
You careless women go and lose your bags and them come and disturb us that your bags have been stolen.
-Did you chase the thief? No? Then you must have wanted him to steal your bag, otherwise you’d have chased him.
-Why were you carrying a bag at 37 if you didn’t want someone to steal it?
-What were you wearing when they stole the bag? Maybe if you hadn’t dressed like that, no one would have been tempted to steal your bag.
-A group of women say the same thing has happened to them? I don’t care, there is no thief at 37 stealing bags.
-Why are you talking about your stolen bag here? And why now?
You didn’t report to the police, and the bag was stolen a month ago. You are an attention seeker.
Seriously, we need to STOP and THINK about this. Really think about this.
The most curious aspect of all is that many of us interact with victims of some form of sexual violence on a daily basis. People we do not categorize as ‘wayward girls’. Ask them. Right now.
Ask your close friend. Ask your sister. Ask your cousin. Ask them, and listen to them.
I was in JSS 1 the first time i overheard the boys talking about situation that had taken place during midterms. Someone had slipped spanish fly into a girl’s drink and he and his friends had taken turns having sex with her. I was astounded. I never forgot that story, and always wondered how that girl moved on from such a horrible thing.
At age 15, I narrowly escaped being raped myself… by someone i’d known for many years. I told my boyfriend at the time, and my close confidants. Not the police, not my pastor, not my parents. But it very much happened, and i knew then as i do now that i did not ‘ask for it’.
I don’t proclaim to have all the answers. I am not saying every accusation is based in truth ( though i believe most of them are). All i am asking today is that we apply A LOT more sensitivity and nuance to the discussion of a topic that is affecting people you care about, whether you realize it or not.
And in closing, a word to the stubborn..to the hard of hearing.. to you men way up there in the cheap seats. I hope you can hear me loud and clear, lest you find yourself in a dank jail cell:
You are NOT a mind reader.
NO doesn’t ‘really mean yes, just that she is shy’. And even if it did for Girl A, how do you know it means the same for Girl B? Halt all action immediately. If she really wants you, she will say so.
If a woman agrees to come to your house, it is not tacit consent to have sex, unless she has communicated this to you. No, she doesn’t ‘know what’s up’ or ‘what time it is’. You do NOT know this for a fact.
If you invite her over to ‘netflix and chill’, be prepared to sit through a 2 and half hour movie and that is IT.
If she is wearing a short/tight dress/skirt etc when she gets there, NO, that is not a non verbal signal that she wants sex from you.
If a woman accepts alcohol, weed, whatever from you, she has not indirectly agreed to sex, unless she says so. You go to your friends’ houses, get pass-out drunk, and manage to go home unsodomized, so why can’t she? And don’t say “because she is a woman”. That makes no sense.
You are NOT a rabid dog who cannot control his impulses around women. And if you are, raise your hand so we prepare a cage and chain for you.