According to a report released by two human rights group on Wednesday, three women levelled allegations of rape and sexual assault against the ex-president of Gambia Yahya Jammeh while he was in office. The identities of these women are anonymous except one – 23-year-old former beauty queen Fatou “Toufah” Jallow, who recently told the BBC on Wednesday that she was sharing her story now in the hope it will help create a conversation about rape and sexual assault in her country.
Rape and sexual assault are global issues predominantly wrought by men, and it’s encouraging to see Jallow speaking out as a victim. That said, the report released by the human rights groups alleges that Jallow won a state-sponsored beauty pageant in 2014, and over the next several months, Jammeh lavished her with gifts and asked her to marry him. But she refused. In addition, the report alleged that Jallow was raped by Jammeh in the presidential palace in 2015. She said the ex-president locked her in a room and said: “There’s no woman that I want that I cannot have.”
This is beyond disgusting, and speaks to the toxic dominance and control that comes installed with patriarchy which men wield. In a world where the president of America Donald Trump gloats about sexual impropriety (grab ’em by the pussy), and flippantly denies the allegations of rape that he has been publicly accused of, the Jammeh rape accusation simply shows how men, regardless of their proximity to power, subjugate women.
It’s worth mentioning that Jammeh’s administration was notorious for its brutality and corruption, but this is the first time that sexual abuse of women would be extensively and publicly documented. Following these revelations about Jammeh, the Gambian government has called on women to report sexual crimes by the ex-president. At least, this shows the country is serious in addressing the allegations and we await the outcome.