How slut-shaming, patriarchy and victim-blaming enables rape in Nigeria

Last week, a video of a man ‘correcting’ a woman’s attire circulated through twitter. In the video, we do not see the man’s face, however, we hear him as he follows the woman, criticising her, threatening to release the video to social media, even going as far as threatening to beat her in an attempt to correct her.

He obviously made good on his threats to release the video and his purpose is clear, to shame the woman for daring to dress in a way that society deems inappropriate and to send a message to other women, ‘Conform to patriarchy or be publicly shamed’.

As far as appalling goes, the video gave misogynists hyper-zeal to talk about the things women should or not do; blatantly slut-shaming the woman.

While we respect the concepts – religion and culture – it is pertinent we point out how Nigerians upturn the sub-ideas from these concepts and use self-satisfying interpretations against women.  So, men are praised for their sexual prowess, but culture and religion continue to reinforce the ‘chaste virgin’ as the standard for women. Any woman who dares to toe the line outside this standard is not only seen as promiscuous and undeserving of respect but in many cases, is also seen as deserving of punishment.

This is why the man in the video would feel completely justified in his actions and threats. This is also why the individuals who responded to the video supported his actions.

It goes without saying that slut-shaming has a myriad of impacts for women, including mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. But arguably the worst impact of slut-shaming is the perpetuation of rape.

Take this reply to the above video for example:

This twitter user’s implication is clear. He’s saying that if she is raped, she should be blamed for it. Sadly, this is only an echo of the minds of many Nigerians. Instead of holding perpetrators accountable, we charge the victims with the responsibility of keeping the predators away. And if she cannot, then we blame her for ‘provoking’ or ‘inviting’ assault or harassment. In some cases, we even go as far as saying that she deserved it.

By reinforcing this idea, we validate the actions of the perpetrators. We also leave little or no room for victims to speak out. And almost nothing for justice to prevail.

There is a need for us to reassess the way we consider women. We need to realise that the fact that a woman does not fall in line with societal dictates does not mean that she is ‘fair game’ for predators. We need to re-direct our energies from trying to control women to holding perpetrators accountable. This is one other way to combat rape in our society.

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