Following the court’s dismissal of Busola Dakolo’s case against Biodun Fatoyinbo on November 14, opinions have been formed, shared and subsequently interrogated. On both physical and virtual spaces, where this topical issue has been driven forward in the form of support for Busola and antagonism towards her bravery and chutzpah for speaking out about a most traumatic experience, news of this dismissal hasn’t gone down well with many. As it shouldn’t.
This dismissal is fundamentally wonky in its framing while sending a discouraging message to victims of sexual assault as to where the law stands in giving them the justice they deserve. The case which was dismissed on the grounds of being an “injustice”, an “abuse of judicial process”, “empty” and “purely sentimental” raises a lot of question about how much weight our judiciary system gives to cases of sexual assault as a violation of one’s bodily autonomy, which tramples on one’s right to privacy.
Sharing his thoughts on the matter through a tweet that was perhaps meant to be a declaration of hope served on the often wonky comical palate familiar with many Nigerian comedians while refusing to seriously address the issue, Comedian Bovi tweeted “Cosby took time, R. Kelly took time. Is it not penis? It will rise again”. Deep. Tone-deaf. And in light of the latest developments, sadly true.
True as the other rape and assault cases that have been swept under the carpet for the flimsiest reasons, true as our country’s firm dedication to discrediting the trauma that rape victims (read women) suffer, and true as the immunity and support the people who have caused this trauma continue to enjoy. This piece would be incomplete if it focuses only on Bovi’s tweet, if it only weighs in on the insinuation that a woman would have to suffer again for the alleged to be brought to book. Yet what this comment doesn’t acknowledge is that while there is the likelihood that more women might have to suffer, there is also the chance that their cases might also not be taken seriously.
We need to be able to trust that people who have caused us harm will be properly punished without other people having to go through what we have suffered.
In considering the basis of Bovi’s tweet, it all rambles back to our social structures; from the slowly growing encouragement for victims to speak out, to the reprimand they receive when they don’t speak out early enough or eloquently enough or when their testimonies lack a certain convincing touch. From the vicious silent culture in religious institutions to the stifling setup of other parts of our everyday lives that afford the space for everything else but the pain of women, who have been recorded over the years to most likely be victims of sexual assault.
The court dismissing Busola’s case is devastating, to say the least, but the real win, one with the most staying power and impact is the fact that a woman looked past the disapproving tenets of shame lumped on women who dare to be vulnerable and shared her story, a story that has empowered and inspired many others. If we are going to talk about the alleged getting away, we need to talk about why that is the case and how the judicial systems stays rigged against women.