Osun State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Mrs. Adetoun Adegboyega, recently denied advocating castration for rapists. She said she was merely “joking”. Hopefully, that doesn’t typify her attitude towards rape.
But was she truly joking? To my mind, she might have retracted an honest opinion because of public outcry.
I thought so because Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, retracted when the public pounced on his mooted legalisation of prostitution. In the era when men were men, he would have stood his ground and made his point even if it meant enduring verbal lynching; he would have used the opportunity to argue that countries where prostitution is legalised do not love sex more than Nigeria. They are simply realistic; no society has ever done away with commercial sex. Rather, they regulate it for effective monitoring, unlike a wannabe-megacity-Lagos that routinely chases prostitutes up and down; even Dubai that is largely Islamic looks away when it comes to prostitution. But this is a digression.
It is gladdening that Osun State’s taking legal steps about rape. Personally, I am concerned about the increasing incidence. Frequently, there is report of a man who raped a child; a father who raped his daughter; a teacher who raped a minor pupil; young men who rape grandmothers; religious leaders who rape their flock; minors who rape minors; paederasty; and in that same Osun State, a traditional ruler was accused of rape! A recent study says it has gone up to 84 per cent. Given the stigma attached to sexual crimes, it is most likely it is still under-reported.
There is something about Mrs. Adegboyega’s volte-face, however, that shows that like many, she thinks rape is about sex. This is a contentious issue among rape scholars, actually. Some argue it is about sex; if it weren’t, it would not involve sex. Others say since statistics show that in many recorded cases, the rapists neither achieve erection or ejaculation, it is pseudosexual; more about control, power and performative violence.
Most times when people discuss about rape and its prevalence, some annoying men jump in with the Jacob Zuma-esque myth of men’s uncontrollable arousal saying yes-but-rape-has-to-do-with-what-women-wear-these-days; an argument that is frankly demeaning of real men out there whose brains do not reside below their beltline.
Apart from the fact that men with this line of reasoning do not proffer any data to show correlation between how many women get raped for their so-called provocative dressing, they pretend they do not know that even women who wear Burqa get raped. There is sufficient logic to prove that a man who would rape a woman for what she doesn’t wear, would rape her for what she wears.
I have argued with those men that, if a woman dresses “provocatively” (“provocative” depends on individual interpretation) chances are, she’s communicating something, right? So why not draw close, be nice and if she gets to like you, pose the time-honoured question, “My house or your house?” If she is not interested, move on; it doesn’t have to be her. The moment the man decides he would rather take it by force, it goes beyond being attracted.
There are other reasons they adduce for rape but none justifies the reprehensibility of rape. Most often, the rapist is well-known to the victim; relatives, friends, bosses, husbands, boyfriends, neighbours and people the victim couldn’t have avoided.
In some interviews with rapists I read, most of them do not see themselves as rapists, just men of “the violent taketh it by force” tribe. They have the impression that rapists are men who are sick, sadist, misogynistic, virile but highly undersexed, and some kind of social deviants who creep under Ojota bridge at night seeking whom to devour; they would be offended if you branded them rapists. To them, talks about rape are another “women lib” problem and not something that concerns them.
And this is why I think castrating the rapist is important, not in the act of mutilation this time but cutting off the rape act where it begins: the mind. We should therefore begin by campaigning about what rape is and defining its broadest parameters beyond any kind of ambiguity that can help rapists hide, legally or otherwise. You could be a decent family man who runs a community charity and still be a rapist if you go beyond certain boundaries. And it would be very helpful if our society mystifies sex less. The hush hush we weave around sex helps violators get away with serious offences. For instance, it could be very humiliating to report rape in a Nigerian Police station because untrained Police officers, and the structure of our Police stations itself, make you want to just leave the case to God to judge.
But then, the law is always there for people who cannot tame the beast in them; who still see rape as some kind of machismo. However, many activists have argued that Nigerian law needs to slacken the definition of rape to include a broad range of sexual activities that are non-consensual. Also, that the law needs to make it less hard to prove rape. I agree with them. I also agree with those who say marital rape should be categorised as sexual violence. In short, Nigeria needs to rewrite her rape laws to match contemporary realities; there are many documented and undocumented cases of victims who fall out of constitutional provisions.
And this brings me to one last point: men as rape victims. Sometime ago, I read the news of a female black belter in Russia who apprehended a burglar, tied him up, force-fed him food and Viagra while she had sex with him continuously. After three days, she let him go. Ironically, almost everybody who commented online thought the story funny, and the man, lucky. Only very few commented that if the case were inverted gender-wise, we would endlessly scream blue-murder.
While the cases of male rape are few and far between, it happens.
Recently, in Benue State, a man was reportedly raped to death by his wives. Nigeria needs to be responsive to marginal cases like these too. And female-on-male rape is another reason castration as a punitive measure is silly. If, because of men’s anatomy, we can castrate them, what corresponding violence can we wreak on women if they rape men?