Recently, social media has been heated with debates about rape and sexual misconduct. While some people feel that these discussions are happening too frequently, I believe that rape is a topic that cannot be exhausted. Constant engagement will help to create awareness and hopefully reduce the occurrence of such incidents. So, let’s start at the beginning:
What is rape?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Rape is: unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will. Or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent because of mental illness, mental deficiency, intoxication, unconsciousness, or deception.
According to Nigerian law:
Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.
The person who commits the offence of rape is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without caning.
Any person who attempts to commit the offence of rape is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years, with or without caning.
This law was written many years ago and could do with some review to include male rape. However, it does exist and is quite clear even if it doesn’t cover all aspects of sexual misconduct.
Now to the issue of Consent.
Consent means YES. Preferably, a verbal YES. This is the bare minimum that should be expressed by two people engaging in any form of sexual activity. Ideally, enthusiasm is expected. This means that both parties should be excited at the prospect of engaging in any sexual activity. If either party is unsure then that should be the end of that encounter. However, many people seem not to understand these concepts and how they apply so I’ll give some examples.
Boy meets girl and they have probably gone on a few dates and now are at the stage where both are comfortable with kissing and maybe even fondling. While this kissing is going on, the boy attempts to take off the girl’s clothes. She freezes or shows some other sign of reluctance. Now the boy at this time is excited and maybe has an erection and is eager to move on to possible penetrative sex. However, if the girl has indicated reluctance and is not willing to continue for whatever reason, the right thing to do at this point is to stop.
Anything beyond this point is a form of sexual misconduct. So, if for example, the guy starts to complain about how she’s a tease for getting him excited in the first place. Or if he accuses her of giving him “blue balls”, or even try to forcefully continue, then this amounts to rape. If the girl goes ahead to have sex with the boy following his coercive efforts, it is still wrong and according to the law segment quoted above can be considered rape. The issue is that consent was not given in both cases.
Some people argue that women sometimes need to be “convinced” to agree to sex. So much so that this persuasion is now considered a form of foreplay for some people. This seems to be fed by the notion that (good) women are not supposed to like or want sex. Again, this is incorrect. Any woman who feels this way is most likely not ready to deal with the consequences of having sex anyway and should be left alone till she is ready to be sexually active.
Boy and girl have been dating for a while. They have had sex before or maybe they have never had sex. They have consumed copious amounts of alcohol and the girl is drunk. Boy would like to have sex but girl is too drunk to cooperate. She can neither say yes or say no in that state. The proper thing to do is to suspend any sexual activity. Any sexual act carried out when a person is incapacitated is rape.
While there may not be any provision in the law for some of these situations, it still doesn’t change the fact that these acts can be very traumatising for the victims. And yes, anyone who has gone through any situation as described above is a victim. Male or female.
Always remember that the absence of a NO is still not a YES.
Make the habit of checking with your partner that they are comfortable. Ask questions like: “Is this okay?” “Am I hurting you?” “Would you like me to stop?” If the response is anything outside of a YES, please suspend all further activities till a time when both parties are in agreement.
The issue of consent should never be dismissed. Many women today still suffer from the effects of past traumatic sexual encounters. A sexual violation can strip a human of their personhood and the effects can be far-reaching and permanent. We must do better and be more responsible with our fellow humans.