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Remembering Grace

It’s not enough to sit and pray for comfort and healing. It’s not enough to hope that it will get better.

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It was about this time last year. Groups of women activists, youth corpers and students gathered at the sandy field of Agidingbi Grammar School – Iheoma Obibi of Alliances for Africa, Aisha from the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, Amy Oyebode from KIND (Kudirat Abiola Initiative for Democracy), representatives from the Nigeria Feminist Forum and even myself included. We took to the stage one after another to say a few words. Some of us were clad in black polo shirts and others in tee shirts. Encrusted on the front of our shirts was the image of a beautiful young girl named Grace Ushang proudly spotting her Youth Service cap. On the back in thick bold white screen print read “STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN”.

I recall Amy walking to the stage and opening her speech as well as ending it with the words “I am tired of being a woman who is afraid in her own home”. We all marched; hundreds of us women and even men to Alausa, Ikeja. We marched to drop a petition that would advocate a federal bill that protects women against any form of violence. Lagos State already had one in existence, but we had no federal law to protect us. So, like Grace who had been raped to death in Borno state and buried on Independence Day of 2009, there would be many more to come; perpetrators of violent crimes, battery, domestic violence and sexual predators walking the streets free, ready to pounce on mothers, wives, daughters, you and even me.

A few weeks ago, I lost my cool on air. I’m sure my outburst has gathered me many more foes as it has friends. Our topic of discussion was the same that wiped out Grace’s life. A man called in, insinuating that most of the rape cases in the south of Nigeria are aggravated by the way that women dress. That was where I lost it. In a nutshell, I did let him know that even if a woman is walking the streets naked, no man has a right to take her by force. In countries where prostitution is legal, they provide panic buttons. (Just to stress the severity of his comments.) I was sent all sorts of messages. From how my station would lose rating because of my outburst to the caller, to how I should not even be at this job. The strange thing is that I have no regrets.

In a country with very little legislative protection, after a certain period, rape becomes difficult to prove because, as you know, it is your word against theirs. The corruption of the system also means that authorities are very easily paid off and a lot of cases slip down the drain. With cases of children and babies getting raped, it’s left to advocacy groups and NGOs to take them on as they tend to be defenceless. The psychological damage attached to rape is such that victims still blame themselves. Almost all of the time, they are left to pick up the pieces alone.

In a recent discussion with a friend, I was made to understand that quite a lot of rape crimes are perpetrated by people close to the victim. Apparently it is one of the reasons why a large percentage of Nigerians do not view rape as a predatory activity. It is also the reason why it becomes difficult to prove in those cases.

When I trace my mind back to the march, I reckon the distance wasn’t that long and there is so much more that still needs to be done. The proposed “Violence Against Women” bill has passed through a first reading in the Senate and we await a second reading and public hearing.

It’s not enough to sit and pray for comfort and healing. It’s not enough to hope that it will get better. It’s not enough for a man that impregnates his daughter to go to jail for only five years. It is not enough that even with the inadequate laws that exist, no one is prosecuting. It’s not enough to sit and wallow in self pity, while your uncle that raped you is doing the same to your little sister at home because you never said anything. There is always a snowball effect and we are all a part of the bigger picture.

While we were celebrating the Nigerian jubilee, the Ushangs and many of us were remembering Grace just a year after. My polo shirt hangs immaculately in my wardrobe with Grace’s eyes gleaming at me. And I am remembering Amy’s words “I am tired of being a woman who is afraid in my own home”.

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Fifteen days of activism started on the 25th of November 2010 and ends on the 10th of December. 2010 This fifteen-day campaign takes place every year with different awareness activities to end violence against women. Keep checking out www.guerillabasement.blogspot.com to find out about activities during the season.

28 Comments

  1. F

    November 26, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Your outburst was well placed… I have had that argument before and it infuriates me that people in this day and age still justify animalistic acts with random external factors like dressing. The very act of rape is barbaric and it is robbery. You are violently invading another human being’s body against their wish- how low is that? Yet, somehow this inhumane behaviour can be justified, and of all things in the world, with some flimsy sanctimonious argument about dressing… It’s like saying it is ok to rob a store because its wares are on display. We live in a society and it has rules. If you want something in a store, you pay for it. If you want to have sex with a woman, you approach her. None of these situations make taking anything by force justifiable in the least. The dressing argument just does not work, especially because of the false morality that is attached to it. So they criticise a moral evil as they see it by justifying an even more heinous one??? People like that are, at best, hypocritical and, at worst, STUPID.

    • the chikooo

      November 28, 2010 at 3:37 pm

      U have said it all dear

    • lizzy

      January 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

      Thanks F, i really liked the store/ware example.

  2. CHIKKY

    November 26, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Nice write up Wana. What you told that caller was a mere fact, nothing gives anyone the right to rape a lady no matter how scantily clad she is because we all have the right to express ourselves however we feel, dressing inclusive. It’s a shame that randy men use the excuse of indecent dressing to mask the gravity of their action. my only wish (to echo amy’s words) is for us to be left to live our lives in our own home without fear because really i fear for my life and that of every girl child because the rate at which rape, abuse and molestation is happening is so alarming and something immediate should be done about it. Those in the senate shouldn’t sit pretty because it could be their daughter (s) next?

  3. Glory Edozien

    Glory Edozien

    November 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    OMG! I didnt even finish reading this Wana! My blood froze after reading the comments of your caller and those that sent in negative comments afterwards!

    I say this with every fiber of my body! IT is a huge shame to be in country where men place no value on the protection of women! For any man on earth to think that he has the authority to defile a woman based on the way she dresses is a reflection of the moral decay and paternalistic society we live in and to even have women who condone such views is mortifying in itself!
    It is time our men are taught to value women! Mothers teach your sons that the value of a woman is more than what lies between her legs and that it is his responsibility to safegaurd any woman in his care. May God save us!

  4. mariaah

    November 26, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    I am a young beautiful women with nice legs so if I decide to wear a mini does that mean a “man” has the right to rape me?!! NO NO NO!!!WOE BETIDE ANY MAN BORN BY A WOMAN TO TOUCH ME OR ANYONE I KNOW.. One way or the other I will revenge!! IDBC!!!

  5. mariaah

    November 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    BTW, That male caller is a pervy idiot…

  6. Koko

    November 26, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I hate to disappoint you lot, but men are physical beings. They are moved by what they see. I know I’ll get a lot of baiting but It’s the truth. Indecent dressing is no excuse for him to rape you, but some men cannot discipline themselves like other’s can. I would advise you sweethearts to cover up when you’re out alone in dark hours to prevent rape.

    • Cyndi

      November 26, 2010 at 6:12 pm

      I suggest women start carrying spray like its done here in the west or a pocket knife. That way, the perpetrator will be taught a lesson. A man who cannot control himself by the mere sight of a woman scantily dressed could be likened to a beast. I doubt if animals even behave that way. Any man who cannot control himself to the extent that he has to take another human being’s body by force does not deserve to live among humans. Let him leave amongst animals. No wonder AIDS is rampant in Africa. Because some of you African males hump anything you see. Disgusting!

    • beezy

      November 26, 2010 at 6:15 pm

      @Koko….most of the victims of rape in Nigeria are helpless minors…even babies as little as 3yrs old are being defiled daily *its all over the news*….
      So tell me, if rape is incited by “indecent dressing” pls tell me how a minor’s dressing (especially those ones who havent even hit puberty and of cos the 3yr old babies) will excite a full grown man to commit rape?
      Do they have breasts? Do they have hips? wat is “indecent” about wateva they wear?
      Pls stop with the nonsense talk….
      If a man cannot be “human” , let him not blame it on anyone else…
      PS: the hottest part of hell awaits rapists…

    • beezy

      November 26, 2010 at 6:21 pm

      @Koko….Also most rape incidents in Nigeria do not occur when girls are “out alone at dark hours” as u put it….It happens at home, in their neighbourhoods with people they could have easily trusted…If a grown girl puts herself in risky situations and gets raped, it hardly ever makes news,,… The ones being discussed in this article are definately not in that category….
      There’s no justification to such atrocities…. so just stop trying pls….

    • bcgeorge

      November 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

      Good point beezy….msot of rapists do it for spiritual cleasing in order to renew whatever sort of super power they must have had diabolically and some even do it in order to get rich quick…it has nothing to do with indecent dressing( even tho im not an advocate of it).

    • Koko

      November 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm

      My bad. I didn’t talk on the exceptional cases. Again, there’s absolutely no justification for rape, all I’m saying is protect yourself in the best way possible.

  7. Ib

    November 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Men still view women as the lower sex in Nigeria….WOMEN ARE NOT THE LOWER SEX.i cant believe that caller was justifying rape…like every evil that befalls a woman is her fault.Seriously,a friend once told me of an incident in Nigeria about a man who raped his daughter,got her pregnant,and still continued to rape her even then.When he was caught,he had the gall to say she dressed seductively…Ur own daughter!!(her mom is late)…SMH!
    we need the law to put people like that in jail.For me, i think sexual abuse of any kind is worse than murder.So if the perpetrators of this act cant get more jail time than murderers ,they should get the same….LIFE!!Sexual molestation of any kind destroys the victims for life…Oh my motherland….we need change

  8. Ewa

    November 27, 2010 at 2:32 am

    There is absolutely NO justification for rape, NONE whatsoever.
    Please keep us updated on whether a new legislation is passed to support this, thanks

  9. sylvia

    November 27, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Thank you very much.pls keep on the good work so that we can see this bill passed ao that at least woman will knw they can get justice

  10. grace n glory

    November 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I just want to commend the remarkable efforts of the Nigerian Feminist Forum. You are definitely a voice of change to a socially tolerated evil behaviour. We are witnessing history just like four decades ago in the United Kingdom; the feminist movement raised the issue of domestic violence and made it a public issue to be addressed by the government. 1976 saw the 1st Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act giving those who are victim rights to civil protection order against their perpetrators. I think there’s more to be done in raising awareness and challenging the mindsets of the nation of Nigeria perhaps on the notion of gender relations that appears to be oppressive residing in family structures in Nigeria today. Institutions like the media, churches, mosques, schools all have active roles to play in shifting some prevalent ideologies and greater responsibility on Federal governments to expediently make violence against women a crime, this must also include honour based violence, forced marriages, and female genital mutilations still occurring in certain regions of Nigeria. GRACE USHANG death will not be in vain.

  11. Faith

    November 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Oh God Bless you Wana. May God truly bless you. I have had the so-called argument a thousand times. I hate to sound harsh but if someone sees you in a nice car and beats you to the point of death and steals your car, how infuriated would you be if someone says well, next time don’t flaunt your car. So because you have a nice car and decide to flaunt and flash it in people’s eyes, they are justified to steal it. Is it not something that in western countries, where people wear next to nothing in the streets. the rape statistics are so much lower than in Africa? Putting it into perspective that more Western crimes are reported than African ones because of shame, is it not even scarier? Nothing can condone violence. You don’t kill someone on the streets no matter what the person does. You don’t castrate someone because you are jealous that he is more “endowed”. If someone verbally taunts you and you kill the person no one focuses on the provocative element! It’s a shame people still think like this.

  12. engymarc

    November 29, 2010 at 8:35 am

    This is oh so serious.Women should be modest,true.But what is it in men that says you must have it your way?If a woman dresses in an indecent way,look the other way.That’s the least you can do for yourself. Why would you force her?There’s practically no respect for the womenfolk around here,anything they do tends towards the negative while the irresponsible actions of men are justifiable and can be freely blamed on the woman. In all,we need to protect ourselves the much we can as women,guard your daughters against close family friends and the likes.Teach them the power of resistance and to speak out in the face of any unbecoming act against them…The spray can part very much applies too..

  13. NneSomebody

    November 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Wana, your outburst was more than justified. I, also am tired of being afraid in my own home. I am tired of checking on my girl child constantly to be sure she hasn’t been violated. I am tired of being afraid to show my legs on hot, sunny days. I am tired of being afraid to go past a mechanics’ workshop. In case you didn’t hear, a school girl was violated for daring to walk past a mechanics’ workshop. The perverted males who perpetrate this insanity might jump to their own defence and say her school uniform was too short. I am tired.

    Rape is bestial and it is cruel. It is taking from someone, something that you cannot ever dream of replacing. Any man who attempts to justify rape does it because he sees women as nothing more than objects for his lust and places little value on his own life.

    Yes, the rapist demeans himself too by the act. Sex, when not consensual, makes animals of all of us. Any kind of violence against women makes the man less than what God intended him to be.

    Wana, even me, I am tired.

  14. Nneka

    November 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    I can’t quite think of a unique word to describe that caller. His display of ignorance is beyond description. Typical of senseless men to rid themselves of all responsibility for their equally senseless actions.

    RIP Grace Ushang.

  15. Aibee

    November 30, 2010 at 8:05 am

    I think we need to stop making this excuse of “men are moved by what they see”. We blame the woman who is raped by saying she brought it in herself by her dressing. How about men taking responsibilities for their actions?

  16. chygus

    November 30, 2010 at 8:46 am

    wana ur outburst was justifiable, there is no factors to credit rape as a act, its inhuman but they are men out there who act on 1, impulse of sight, 2, cronies to sex, spiritually not stable, 4,vendetta to ladies ego/past ruffles. these are few of fellas/ reasons rapes are purported, i repeat nothing in the wide world can bring men like me to this act because 1, I’m a strong christian,2 I’m principled 3,i have my personality to protect. so ladies should be careful of who she relates with, her clothing lines, her environs esp. at late hours, ladies creates expressions when they talk, walk and look. decent is the watch word.

  17. Umo .a

    November 30, 2010 at 10:03 am

    i doubt if that expression of your opinion should be termed an outburst.well,since you av decided to agree to d fact that it was an outburst,then….But the truth remains that men that claim that a woman that is scantily clad is good enough reason for them to loose every scintilla of self control they ever worked hard to imbibe should be thouroughly ashamed of themselves.if that be the case, they can further help populate naija by raping evry naked/scantily dressed mad woman in Lagos and even other parts of Naija!!!!!!!!!!!We will most def give them an award for it……

  18. Chioma I

    December 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Something is wrong with a society where the men are brought up with a pernicious mentality of superiority. There is a sense in which most young men tend to feel they have a right over every woman. Is this erroneous belief so widespread because of a faulty upbringing? If the answer is a yes, then women should learn to instill basic values of respect for the female folks in their male children. If a man grew up in a home where his father treated his mother like shit, and his mother on the otherhand gave the impression that it’s a woman’s lot to suffer, invariably the boy grows up with this notion that woman are toilet paper, and brainless things to be treated however.

    Wana, i love your eloquence. It gives me hope when i find that there are young women like you who are audacious enough to speak out about these societal ills which had been -until now – become norms. We need to fight these ills. Desperate situations require desperate measures. No woman deserves to be violated. Violence to women is unjustifiable; it’s unpardonable.

  19. lizzy

    January 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I was listening to you and Chaz B on th eday of this incident and to say i was furious, is to put it mildly. All i can say is Ladies, this is our fight. Lets sheath our swords and come together and fight this extinction of our feminine gender.
    Men: Enough of these lousy excuses and shabby treatment of women. It doesn’t make your gender any better, Live and Let Live.
    Perverts and Paedohiles: Your day of reckoning is coming fast.
    SENATE: PASS THAT BILL ASAP.
    RIP Grace Ushang.

  20. lizzy

    January 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    paedophiles** sorry.

  21. sprinkle

    August 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Only shallow thinking men who forget that they also came out from a woman open their ‘gutter’ to tell others that women who get rape deserve it or better still asked for it. we have a set of legislators who would rather sit down to talk of tenure elongation and resource allocation rather than address issues of dire importance. A bill of this nature should not even be dragged for so long, people have been advocating for it for a while now, and i am yet to hear ant thing from the Federal level. Also considering the way our leaders lack a sense of urgency on this issue , you can be rest assured that the implementation of the so called bill will be another issue due to the ‘business as usual’ in this country. There hardly is any scape goat to make a lesson off, thus the reluctance of young women to come out openly. Until we have leaders who are sincere and truly have the welfare of the people at heart , we will continue to face such heart wrenching issues . May Grace’ soul rest in peace.and may the souls of the rapist never find peace until their 20th generation. It hurts even more knowing those fools will never be caught.

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