The entire world has been dealing with a pandemic for a few months now – a pandemic that has since almost brought everything to a standstill. According to experts, it is a new virus, a new pandemic, and now we have to adjust our lives just so we can deal with it.
We have learnt to put on a mask, wash or sanitise our hands regularly, observe social distancing and even if necessary stay at home.
But we have been condoning and tolerating a more deadly pandemic for ages now. A pandemic that kills, maims, infects and destroys. It is a pandemic that takes the life of its victims – whether physically or psychologically. Unlike the new pandemic currently redefining our lives, this old pandemic does not spare its survivors – it kills their dreams, their aspirations, their essence and self worth.
The epidemic of rape and its murderous and monstrous inclinations is in our homes, on our streets, in our schools, in our offices, in our communities, in our society. But we have refused to declare it as an emergency of deadly albeit unimaginable proportion. Or how else do you describe a monster that preys on a woman every six minutes. One woman, our sister, our daughter, our mother, our Aunty is raped every six minutes in Nigeria every day. How else do you describe an epidemic?
As men, we are deeply troubled about the epidemic of rape. We are concerned about its unending spate. But we are even more disturbed about the silence of our communities and how this silence is empowering rapists in every nook and cranny of our society. The boldness and effrontery of these rapists have made them deadlier than ever, leaving in their trail deaths, anguish and painful indelible scars.
Every incident of rape casts aspersions on all men and challenges our claim to manhood. Every incident of rape questions our definition of masculinity and threatens the very essence of our humanity as men.
The rape of one woman should give every man something to worry about. It is a bereavement that we should all mourn collectively because of what truly dies in the woman.
When rape happens, nothing indicts good men more than silence. There can be no neutral ground when it comes to rape. You are either the rapist, for the rapist or against the rapist. Hence silence in time of rape is an eloquent position statement. The silence of good men may be a convenient stand but it goes a long way to empower the rapist, condemns and dehumanises the victims and further deepens a rape culture.
We call on every good man anywhere in this country to rise up and speak out against rape. We call on every man, anywhere in this country to take responsibility for creating a society that is safe for women and girls. We can no longer live in a society where women and girls cannot move freely not because there are dogs and lions but because there are men and boys.
Not on our watch!
We call on men in our law enforcement and justice systems to rise up to the demands of our times and put an end to the growing menace of rape and sexual assault. But most importantly, we urge all men – if you run a hospital, make it safe for women and girls. If you run a school, make it safe for women and girls. If you are a vice chancellor, make it safe for women and girls. If you run a business, make it safe for women and girls. If you run a hotel, make it safe for women and girls. If you run a church, mall, Chambers, airport, airline, petrol station, restaurant, radio and TV station, record label or a mall, please make them safe for women and girls. Every man has the capacity to create a rape free zone and ultimately end all forms of violence against women and girls.
Let’s do it!
As we take our stand against rape today, we commit to doing the following:
- Acknowledge and understand how sexism, male dominance and male privilege lay the foundation for all forms of violence against women.
- Pledge to examine and challenge our individual sexism and the role that we play in supporting men who are abusive.
- Promise to stop colluding with other men by getting out of our socially defined roles, and take a stance to end violence against women.
- Recognize that our silence is affirming. When we choose not to speak out against men’s violence, we are supporting it.
- Promise to educate and re-educate our sons and other young men about our responsibility in ending men’s violence against women.
- Pledge to challenge traditional images of manhood that stop us from actively taking a stand to end violence against women.
- Accept and own our responsibility that violence against women will not end until men become part of the solution to end it. We will take an active role in creating a cultural and social shift that no longer tolerates violence against women.
- Recognize that violence against women is rooted in the historic oppression of women and the outgrowth of the socialization of men.
- Take responsibility for creating appropriate and effective ways to develop systems to educate and hold men accountable.
- Create systems of accountability to women in our community.
This is our stand as men against rape.