In order to comprehensively understand rape, we must be willing to listen to the voices of victims beyond our comfortable analysis. An analysis that doesn’t demand us to think of rape as a systemic crime that culture, language, operating structures - legal, medical and policing - continue to uphold is exactly what a comfortable analysis means.
A systemic crime cannot, therefore, be holistically dealt with unless there’s a deliberate focus on the culture that provides thriving ground for it. Rape culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent while sexual violence against women is normalised and excused in mainstream conversations.
A good example is the recent responses of the Ministry of Education to the devastating number of teen girls who were raped and impregnated. Blaming parents and pornography instead of rapists is how rape is structurally tolerated, trivialised and reports disputed as false.
And because rape flourishes in silence, all voices, intentions and structures should be committed to condemning rape without shifting responsibility to the victims. We must from the onset examine the language being used to discuss, report or engage in rape conversations.
This language cannot be tone-deaf by blaming parents for the sexual violation of their children when data shows that a majority of the incidents were carried out by male parents, guardians or caregivers living in the same houses as the victims. In this case, we should draw a non-negotiable line at the age of consensual sex, which is 18 years, and legally uphold it.
UN Women states that we should establish policies of zero tolerance for sexual harassment and violence in every space and that leaders must be particularly clear about their commitment to upholding these policies.
Creating gaps to explain why a rape incident occurred is the beginning of tolerance and enhancement of rape culture.
Secondly, we must strategically think of how to change the bias that exists in attitudes and cultures that condone and blur rape, structural biases that hinder progressive handling of rape cases, the consequence of victimisation of victims and the lack of compassion we see being expressed towards the teen girls.
Lastly, understanding rape culture will enable the need to train the media, police, legislatures and policymakers on how to corral and shift this system of sexual violence. We must stop denying rape victims the urgency and care they need by starting to believe them.
Rape victims don’t have the privilege of being believed even when the case involves their own parents and that is the highest level of injustice.
Scheaffer Okore is a policy analysts; [email protected]