Sunday, 19 July 2015

What do you think of when you hear the word 'rapist?'

For many people, the word invokes a vision similar to the one “vampire” might invoke: violence in dark alleyways - a faceless, hulking figure attacking a screaming young woman. A natural predator. A monster.

In a perfect world, these monsters wouldn’t exist, but this is not a perfect world.

And so in the same way that characters in vampire stories are reminded to carry garlic, young women are reminded not to walk alone at night, not to venture into dangerous areas, not to wear “immodest clothing”, and not to drink too much.

“If you can just follow these rules,” society claims, “The monster won’t attack you.”

Monsters like vampires are conveniently simple to understand. They’re evil for the sake of being evil. It’s in their nature.

When you view rapists this way, campaigns that talk about teaching rapists not to rape rather than teaching victims not to get raped might seem as ludicrous as a campaign teaching vampires not to drink blood.

The thing is, rapists are often not literally cold-blooded, faceless monsters who are proudly and knowingly evil. They’re people.

When Bill Cosby raped his victims, it was not at knifepoint in an alleyway. He was not a masked thug, easily recognizable as a “baddie”. This is Bill Cosby, of the iconic, wholesome, family TV show we all watched. He’s one of the most famous dads of all time.

Can any fan of his be blamed for trusting him? For being willing to spend time alone with him? For accepting when he offered them a drink?

Dozens of women have come forward to accuse him of rape or sexual assault, often after drugging them, but Bill Cosby just doesn’t fit our “faceless monster” mental image of rapist.


Perhaps this is why even now, after released court documents have revealed that Cosby admitted to drugging women for sex, the word “rape” is so often carefully avoided.

According to the New York Post, Cosby’s wife Camille believes his accusers “consented” to drugs and sex. Camille is also reported to have said, “They are making him out to be such a bad guy, a monster”.

I wonder, does Cosby see himself as a rapist? Or consider his actions “that bad”?

In an old comedy routine he describes being a 13 year old boy who hears about “Spanish Fly”, something you can put in a girl’s drink.

“From then on, man, every time you see a girl. ‘Wish I had some Spanish Fly’. Go to a party, see five girls standing along. ‘Boy if I had a whole jug of Spanish Fly, light that corner up over there. Hahahaha’.”

As the routine goes on, he describes being an adult who, with a friend, is excited to go to on a trip to Spain, because in Spain they might be able to get some “Spanish Fly”. He describes this as “our childhood dream come true”.

The joke is that they get to Spain, prepare to ask the Spanish taxi driver about “Spanish Fly”, and he turns around and asks them about “American fly”.

The undertones of this joke? All around the world, men and boys dream for a drug they can just slip into a girl’s drink, and this is charmingly amusing rather than horrifying. Boys will be boys. Ha ha.

This joke is from 1969. The earliest alleged sexual assault, in which Cosby drugged his victim, would have happened in 1965. This means a rapist stood on stage and joked about rape, and his audience laughed along with him. He never had to examine his actions or see how monstrous they were, because “boys will be boys”.

I want to talk about another rapist, one that many have found a lot easier to see as a faceless monster.

Mukesh Singh is one of six men who took part in an infamously vicious gang rape on a bus in India in 2012. They not only raped Jyoti Singh, their 23 year old victim, but they beat and penetrated her with iron rods, causing her to die of internal injuries.

In a recent interview, Mukesh said he had no regrets about the rape, largely because he felt Jyoti brought it upon herself.

As far as he’s concerned, and I quote, “A decent girl won’t roam about at 9 o’clock at night”. He also blames Jyoti for her death, claiming that “if she stayed silent and didn’t put up a fight” she’d “be alive today”.

Mukesh also wondered why people are “making a fuss” about the rape, when “everybody’s doing it”.

Apart from the fact that they’re both rapists, there’s an extremely important similarity between Cosby and Mukesh: Both seem to view their behaviour as normal. According to Cosby, all boys share this dream of one day obtaining some “Spanish Fly”. According to Mukesh, “everybody’s doing it”, and really the only person who he felt did anything bad was his victim.

This is rape culture.

This is why we need to teach boys that drugging girls is not charming and cute. This is why we need to teach men that all women deserve respect, not just so-called “decent” girls.

This is why we need to teach everyone that consent matters, and that having sex with someone without their consent, whether that person is male or female, whether you are male or female, is rape.

Rapists aren’t monsters that can be warded off by staying in at night and never being a woman who is wearing a short skirt. They’re humans, men and women, who often simply haven’t learned the lesson that rape is wrong, or even that what they’re doing is rape.

And this is why, if we genuinely want to stop rape, we need to stop teaching “don’t get raped”, and instead begin to teach “don’t rape”.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Female Genital Mutilation and the Cutting Season

The summer holiday is now here and schools are shut. People will travel abroad and some families will have visitors coming from abroad. Ladies and gentlemen I would like to remind you of the dangers that our young girls and women will be facing. Summer is the Female genital mutilation cutting season and we have to be vigilant. For many families in certain communities  who can afford to travel, this is when they can go abroad, have their girls cut and join the millions of girls who are abused through this procedure throughout the world. These are only innocent girls who happen to have been born into families believing in archaic traditions.  We know what this can mean:

·         Severe loss of blood (haemorrhaging), sometimes leading to death

·         Severe pain or shock

·         Infections

·         Urine retention

·         Extensive damage of the external reproductive system

·         Complications in pregnancy and child birth

·         Problems during sexual intercourse/sexuality

·         Mental health problems/Psychological and psycho-sexual problems

·         A combination of any or all of the above

 Remember, girls can be cut anywhere in the world. They don’t have to leave these shores. It is true people do have family visiting from abroad. Of couse, most of these visits are genuine but others may be from excisors.

So let’s all be vigilant this summer and look out for signs of unusual activities. Female genital mutilation is real and people are still doing it despite all the campaigns and the obvious dangers.

Together we can end this practice.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Thousands of girls in Tanzania still undergoing genital Mutilation

In most cultures, getting your first period signifies the transition from girlhood into womanhood. Other perceptions suggest this happens when a girl loses her virginity.

Others still, will say that a woman only becomes her full self when she gives birth.

But for the girls in Tanzania, they become a woman when they have their genitals mutilated.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not legal on the African continent, so why is it still so rife? It seems that governments cannot control what happens in many tribes, or simply turn a blind eye when this law conflicts with cultural beliefs.

In Tanzania, FGM is not only about FGM. Other factors come into play whenever the ceremonial act of ‘cutting’ is performed. The following are some of the reasons why FGM still persists:

1. Coming of age

Much like 21st birthday celebrations, the Tanzanians perform a ceremony when a girl is of age (between 8 and 15). This annual ritual, complete with feasting and dancing, is where children are chosen, dressed up, anointed, given gifts, paraded and bestowed their final honour: genital cutting.

2. Honour

It’s a rite of passage and one that girls need to pass through to be able to be married, perform certain cultural acts and be seen as a woman or member of their tribe.

3. Child marriage

FGM and child marriage is completely normal for many Tanzanians, and seen as a great honour and duty. As barbaric as it is, arrangements  are made between parents and tribes as commonplace as it is for us to wear diamond engagement rings. Parents don’t view this as a human rights abuse, and offer their children up for the cutting because they want them to be eligible – often at an age most Westerners aren’t even legally allowed to consent to sex.

4. Money

Elders and those who perform the cuttings are getting paid. Many of them have no other skills and will be out of work if FGM was stopped.

5. Oppression

Women are not seen as equals and are not sent to school. They are forced into early child marriage, often uneducated, and many turn to selling their bodies to earn a living and end up contracting HIV and Aids. An uneducated life perpetuates the cycle of oppression, and generation after generation of girls and women are lost. Being no more than tools for breeding and service is what women and girls need.

Risks and Dangers of FGM

Unhygienic cuttings for both girls and boys pose many risks, including the spreading of HIV/Aids, the use of blunt unsterile instruments which cause infection and sepsis, insufficient aftercare, and the possibility of bleeding to death.

How this affects us

Inequality and gender based violence is a global problem. In ending a form of abuse, in this case child abuse, there has to be awareness first. Awareness can lead to empowering more groups to stand against any form of gender based violence in any way that they can.

A ripple effect is moving all around the globe – one where men and women are fighting for gender equality. From the writers trying to shed light on the subject, to the many doctors and volunteers working FGM, we are all part of the same army. An educated woman is a powerful tool and agent for change in this perception worldwide. All forms of gender based violence and oppression need to be exposed, no matter how far removed from our own lives.