Why The Anti-Sexual Assault Bill in Nigeria is Useless

Moya Bailey, coined the term ‘misogynoir’ that describes where racism and sexism intersect. Rape culture and misogynoir are upsetting me and my homegirls in Nigeria, my home. Experiences of rape culture exist in other places too. Yet, I want to place a specific emphasis on how Nigerian cultures perpetuate rape culture.

Note, I say Nigerian cultures because Nigerian culture does not exist as a whole. We exist as over 250 ethnic groups with different cultures.

“Why did she wear that?” “Her skirt is too short.”

These statements are often said without malice – patriarchy and rape culture is just deeply ingrained in Nigerian cultures. Yet, Nigerian women are advocating and speaking out against the practices and the rape culture that persists.

The view that a woman can ’cause’ herself to be raped because of how she looks needs to die. And never resurrect itself.

I am so proud to see my Nigerian sisters protesting for our basic human rights and demanding a change. Thankfully, the work of Nigerian women who have been doing this work for years is now gaining more exposure. I am so proud to see my Arewa sisters in the Northern region. They use their voices to tackle patriarchy one step at a time.

According to statistics, 717 sexual assault cases have been reported in Nigeria from the beginning of January until May 2020.

However, I truly believe these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. We are talking about a country whose population figure is unknown. Little to no data exists on the entire country’s demographics based on the vast number of ethnic groups.

As Nigerians, religion is deeply ingrained in our respective cultures. However, it is an utter disgust to see how certain demographics see their religious leaders as more than a human. As if we don’t all bleed red?

Rape culture is so rooted in Nigerian societies to the extent that it is even reflected in our laws.

The Penal Code, section 55, condones domestic violence and permits husbands to ‘discipline’ their wives. However, this is mainly applicable in the Northern regions of Nigeria:

‘Nothing is an offence which does not amount to the infliction of grievous harm upon a person and which is done by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife…’

In this context, grievous harm counts as ’emasculation’. It is incredible to see how misogynistic Nigerian cultures can be that laws against women are enforceable today.

The atrocities Nigerian women endure in their educational institutions are sickening.

For the sake of attaining a certain grade women have been requested to sleep with their professors. Watching the Sex For Grades BBC documentary uncovered the disgusting abuse of power that Nigerian professors have and it’s detrimental effect on the wellbeing of their students. Following the release of this documentary, the Senate introduced a bill in order to ‘protect’ students from abuse in education.

Yet, it seems as though our excellent senators are forgetting something. Rape culture exists in the home, the workplace and other sectors of society too. They forget about the police officers raping and abusing women in their custody or demanding sexual favours for freedom.

Recent protests in Nigeria demand justice for women, girls AND babies who have been raped and/or murdered. Social media has taken its toll. Influential celebrities such as Adesua Etomi-Wellington and Temi Otedola have used their platforms to broadcast the obscene acts of injustice being committed against our girls, our women and our babies.

When writing this, I conducted brief research on the proposed bills and legislation in relation to sexual assault in Nigeria.

It appears that another bill was passed back in 2016 but was criticised, rightfully so.

Charity starts at home. How can a piece of actively unenforceable legislation influence change in the country? How scalable is the legislation? Will the Senate be looking at all 36 states – from Ogun State to Yobe State – to ensure rape and sexual harassment is no longer occurring? The anti sexual harassment bill focuses exclusively on the education system, similar to the preceding bill in 2016. It begs the question – does the government truly care about Nigerian women unless it’s their rich daughters and wives?

I highly doubt that a bill will all of sudden outlaw the disgusting patriarchy that is deeply rooted in our Nigerian cultures and systems.

Why is there no general bill against sexual assault in Nigeria?

Whether Nigeria’s bill is enforced in our society, misogynoir is planted in Nigerian societies. Until we overcome misogynoir, there is nothing a bill can do for us.