Man Or Woman, Boy Or Girl, Don’t Rape
The Ijeja community in Abeokuta's metropolis is one of the most popular communities in Ogun state’s capital. It holds prime as a semi-ghetto community with a large illiteracy index spiced with a little poverty, crime, a penchant for mass procreation and a fair amount of police bust-ups; your normal indigenous Nigerian neighbourhood. It is pretty hard to raise a child to great moral standards in this environment. Most of the children refuse to further their education after the primary tier with little or no dissuasion from parents. The few who press on to secondary schools barely have any will to continue on. I have seen just a handful of Ijeja indigenes who went on to finish up with secondary education and bother to continue on to higher education. In these cases, the parents were strict disciplinarians. Ijeja was/is tough. Raising a child to fruition in it is tougher.
About one and a half years ago, a melee ensued just in front of my mom’s shop at night in this community. Two young boys (they couldn’t have been more than 11 and 9 years old at the time) were groping a nine-year-old girl, who had gone to buy stuff for her mom. I rushed at them but they fled. Some adults quipped “Leave them be. They are just being kids”. I can remember only Iya Olorunwa (your typical Nigerian “PRO adugbo”) shouting expletives somewhere in the region of “eyin olori****** omo, bo shey man bayin dagba noni yen. Awon obi yin o de ni ko yin” meaning “You unfortunate kids! That is how you grow up with such sad manners and your parents will not call you to order”.
Some things struck me after giving thoughts to the whole brouhaha and I knew it would probably go on for long.
1. A sex culture must have influenced 11 and 9-year-olds to want to get their genitals to work.
2. They must have seen their elderly men grope or harass women or seen their women harass boys (people downplay how often this happens a lot) . They must have also heard the “rape” word thrown around so carelessly.
3. They obviously do not see anything wrong at all in what they’d done. It was “normal”.
4. The parents obviously had not done a good job of instilling values and making some things clear. They also had done a shoddy job of living as examples.
5. The primary place where these kids spend a lot of their time, schools, were obviously not teaching these things. That went for me also. Schools generally shy away from discussing/teaching sex education in the formative years and even up to adolescence.
Each of the classes in my senior secondary school years dedicated at least 2 weeks to teaching the male and female reproductive systems in Biology. That was the most fun time to be in school, especially as adolescents. Oh, how can you not ever love Biology class when Mr Oni teaches the reproductive system. It was always the most exhilarating time for boys and girls alike in an environment with peak levels of testosterone and progesterone. We were taught the structure of both genitals, caring for them, diseases that can be contracted from sex, pregnancy and how to use condoms. You’d see glee, smiles and laughter flying around. It felt as though we were being prepared for and now had the license for romance and sex when most of us were either close to 18 years old or had already clocked 18. No one ever made mention the legal side of sex, consensual or forced, at this point. Worse, I do not even have recollections of the age of consent is discussed. We did not have a Civic Education class anyway. Who cares about that? The primary focus was always on passing the big five (Math, English, Physics, Chemistry and Biology) needed to gain entry into University
I like to think where you spend your time the most is where you should get the most of your education. I also strongly believe that the environment strongly influences your thinking. Lastly, your chance to curb any crime from developing amongst your populace is by nipping it in the bud from the onset. Where do you get to do that? Schools. The next places would be in your individual homes.
The term “rape” was most probably mentioned sparingly once as part of the list of social ills in the society in Social Studies class in my Junior Secondary School class 2. It was just part of the things we had to cram to pass exams. In my senior years in secondary school, we never had civic education classes. I implore any public secondary school student in Ogun state, circa 2008-2014 to come out and refute these if they are wrong. You cannot and will not have deterrence in a society that does not extensively teach self-control or the legal implications of certain actions if taken.
I am in my early twenties and as widely read as I like to think of myself, I only grew to know the meat of the legal matters regarding the age of consent around two and a half years ago. Since then, I do not even want to be friends with the opposite sex below 18. In fact, I made it a point to only have deep relationships with people in my age bracket or people older than I am. The only legal education on sexual matters that school taught me was the one I cropped up and adhered to in the list of social ills in social studies class; DON’T RAPE, SEEK CONSENT. I took to it strongly and I have got to say, family and environment also had a strong influence on the kind of things you wanted to be caught doing.
The whole purpose of this write-up is to highlight the first approach to curbing rape culture in the Nigerian society. Start from the schools. Rape is not gendered specific although it tilts way more to the female gender than males. Nevertheless, a civil war going on in Lagos does not mean the rioting in Ibadan is inconsequential. Riots become civil wars. The world’s landscape has changed and not introducing sex education classes will only enable these terrible atrocities further. There are very many cases of fathers and uncles molesting girls, aunties and housemaids molesting boys. Children must be taught that certain acts are bad and they should be encouraged and empowered to speak up about these matters in school. A strong child services ministry should also be created that sees to the investigations of these matters when called upon by the schools and subsequent referrals to court for justice. When you have up to 20 child molesters and rapists sentenced to life imprisonment or death and the media making a big spectacle of them, I assure that everybody will sit up and in Nigerian parlance, ‘have sense’.
Furthermore, the need to overhaul teaching practices in secondary schools is long overdue. Every society needs to be educated about laws, rights and privileges. Civic education must be made COMPULSORY to pass WAEC. You should not have a system that teaches sexual diseases and the usage of condoms but won’t teach about ages of consent, consent, rape or the legal implications of flouting those laws. The time it takes to learn reproductive systems in biology should be the same time or even more, to learn about the legal sides of sexual practices. When people are made to know that when something is wrong, made to understand the severity of committing it and the cold embrace of the law that greets them if they do, most will surely adhere to warnings.
These points might not necessarily totally eradicate this sick menace of the society but I am positive they will go a long way. When you snuff out a social disease early in the beginning stages of a generation, that generation will build to completely obliterate that disease so the next generation does not have to go around finding a vaccine to that virus.
We are the generation with a multitude of rape culture. Are we going to do something logical and constructive about finding a vaccine to this virus or are we going to keep fighting twitter battles that fizzle out after a week? Will we sensitize the children? Will parents be good examples to their wards? Will laws and rights be taught? Will justice be served?
When this is addressed, then we can also explore other avenues to find other solutions.
Lastly, man or woman, boy or girl, DON’T RAPE.