I keenly followed the stories of Royal Fathers publicly beating their wives. Stories of State Governors using the instruments of state to oppress women. Senators indulging in under-age marriages and Fathers raping their daughters.
I listened to the ongoing social media chatter about rape and read a comment that generated one of the greatest internal expressions of rage I’ve ever experienced. I was so incensed that for the first time ever, I felt like physically slapping someone – the writer. I wanted to form a line of slappers – I would give the first slap, then push him on to the next slapper and then the next. What did this unfortunate individual say about rape? He had the audacity, the gall, the effrontery and the sheer temerity to say that a 12-year old girl was probably dressed provocatively and that was why she was raped. He cautioned ladies to stop dressing in a manner that seduces men!!! Exactly how does a 12-year old dress to cause her father to continually rape her till she gets pregnant? On what basis does a father entertain amorous thoughts towards his daughter, even if she were to run around stark naked in the safety of her home? God…please give that man to me to slap!
It reminded me of Lagos State a few years back, when the kite of regulating “indecent dressing” began flying around. The move was championed by the First Lady. For a brief spell, young women were afraid to wear what they liked. The Senate also proposed an Indecent Dressing Bill. I saw stickers that read, “Only Prostitutes Dress Like Prostitutes.” Interestingly, none of the policy actions seemed to be about protecting the rights of women. They were about controlling and legislating behaviour. If our law makers cared about ennobling women, there would be stronger Child Marriage Laws, more stringent rape legislation and swifter trials for fathers who rape their kids! During that season in Lagos, women were bundled into Police trucks and raped because they were dressed “indecently”. Young ladies on a night out were stripped in public. Legislating female behaviour is akin to stitching a woman’s labia or enforcing a Chastity Belt so she can remain virginal.
The abuse of women in Nigeria has been going on for a long time; the instances have just not been well documented or publicised until now. The Walk Against Rape (WAR) had a following because women were getting raped. The V-Monologues hit a nerve all over the world because we knew the stories actually happen in real life. Acts of violence against women have been happening for decades and we must take action to put an end to them. No more sweeping things under the rug. Social media has ensured that it too late for that.
The so-called issue of “indecent dressing” must be contextualised. In Rio, Brazil where everyone dresses like they are going to the beach, we don’t see the Police randomly grabbing and raping women. In Dubai, an Arab State, the authorities recognise that the state is a melting pot of different cultures. While I can wear my shorts and spaghetti straps boldly and without fear, I am respectful enough to ensure my shorts are of modest length. It wasn’t legislated; but it is a choice I make out of respect for the prevalent culture. However, if I flouted the rules, I would be politely advised, never stripped!
In my Alma Mata – Unilorin, there’s a big sign at the bus stop, with pictures of what not to wear. In a tertiary institution? What arrant prejudicial nonsense. In Nigerian villages where the women go about topless, I don’t see the men losing control and raping them left, right and centre.
Dressing is largely dynamic and evolutionary in nature. If you have a problem with the way people dress, you shouldn’t forcefully legislate behaviour. Instead, you should constructively engage the underlying culture while respecting free will. If Beyoncé were to start wearing turtlenecks and baggy trousers, many women would follow suit even in hot weather! Once upon a time, Kid Cudi made huge goggles cool!
Everyone is free to promote their cultural perspective in a pluralistic society. And people then choose which viewpoint they align with. Just think, what would kid’s television programming be without The Disney Channel? The station promotes a specific set of values and parents decide whether or not to give their kids access. Even in music, some artistes channel their worldview via “tits and ass” music videos or something more conceptual & creative. I don’t see us flogging those who put out raunchy videos. We can choose to watch or not.
What we need in this world are people who provide alternatives. If you are not satisfied with popular culture, start your own trend. But stop giving excuses to perpetrate and support rape. And, stop insisting people must accept your views on modesty. You are crossing the line and have no right.Stop giving excuses to perpetrate and support rape. And, stop insisting people must accept your views on modesty. You are crossing the line. Click To Tweet