Politics

Otiko: Educate yourself, unlearn your misogynistic ways

Dear Otiko!
It was shocking to read portions of the speech you gave to the impressionable girls at the Krobo Girls Secondary School over the weekend. You took my breathe away when I saw you on TV saying girls are responsible for their rape if they wear short clothes with a big smile: “In conclusion, I want to say to you, be bold, be confident, and be respectful. If you wear a short dress, it’s fashionable, but know that it can attract somebody who would want to rape or defile you. You must be responsible for the choices you make.” I cannot believe that Ghana’s Gender, Children and Social Protection would say something so ignorant, something so sexist and abominable.

To begin, Madam, really? Your best advice to a bunch of growing girls already under pressure to minimize themselves was to suggest to them that clothes attract rape? You couldn’t just tell them to study hard and remain “confident, bold and respectful.” You couldn’t tell them to report lecherous teachers, relatives and random men to school authorities. You had to go and give that faux sex education advice. Who was it at the Ministry told you that this was good counsel to give girls growing up in an environment where men feel entitled to their bodies? How can you so shamelessly resort to victim-blaming when Ghanaian newspapers and websites constantly report the rape of women as old as 70 and children as young as two by vile men?

Minister, I want to assume, that was your special uninformed way of telling women and girls to be safe because it is odd for Ghana’s Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection to be on the same side as rapists and other bad men who hide behind that tired excuse to violate women. Rape according to the dictionary and the laws of the land is any form of sexual penetration that occurs without the consent of one party.

It is the violation of women and girls always borne out of entitlement to our bodies. Certainly you can see that no correlation exists between the victim’s clothes and the actions of the rapist. Therefore, they lie, when they insist that women’s clothes move them to rape. Men are not goats incapable of self-control and respect for others that the mere sight of a woman’s skin renders then insane and rapey.

Madam, studies indicate that Ghanaian women between the ages of 10-18 years (the age group of the girls you spoke to) are most at risk of all forms sexual violence. Data from the Gender Centre also indicates that 27 percent of Ghanaian women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. 1 in 3 women had been fondled or touched against their will and 2 in 10 women their first experience of sex was against their will. Not just that, 3 in 10 women are sometimes forced by their male partner to have sex and the first experience of sexual intercourse of 2 in 10 women was by force. And many do not report these violations that leave them with lifelong trauma because of comments like yours.

Often victims are subjected to awful queries like “what were you doing in his room” and “what were you wearing,” suggesting that they’re somehow to blame for the actions of the rapist. Minister, your comment did exactly what rapists want, ignore their actions and place the burden of preventing rape on women. It serves no one than just perpetuates the rape culture, allowing rapists to get away with their crimes.

It is obvious from your response to Kennedy Agyapong’s sex for jobs attack on the Electoral Commissioner, Charlotte Osei and other comments that you’re completely out of step with evolving gender dynamics. Because the notion that women somehow contributes to rape no longer applies in polite society. Only the rapist is responsible for his actions. A Gender Minister who cares would know this. It’s not your fault, you didn’t appoint yourself. They were looking for a woman for the role and I’m sure they thought their National Women’s Organiser would be fitting.

As things stand right now, you’re imperfect for the role. You have no technical knowledge of the area and you have never been an advocate of gender rights. Consider your delayed response to the woman who was beaten, stripped naked and violated in Kumasi. I suspect, you were working with the ‘what if she stole’ theory. We don’t live in a jungle, even if she stole, they built the courts and the prisons for crimes like. Consider again, your reckless comments about your colleagues’ supposed disability. Albinism isn’t a disability and that was an appalling way to speak about disabilities in our society.
Madam, I have been rooting for you, praying you succeed, given the drama that came with your appointment. Nothing would please the Minority Members of the Appointments Committee more than to see you fail. And you will fail if you do not seek help with the sector. Like many of your colleagues, you’ll have to educate yourself, for as a dear Uncle of mine said when he heard your sexist remarks “power is not knowledge.” Find people who have specialized in gender and children’s rights to educate you. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you know what is required to transform the lives of Ghanaian women. You need to unlearn your internalized sexism and misogyny, study the changing ways the world seeks to treat women and get with the plan.

I’m serious about this. Sit down, stop talking, and study. The University of Ghana has a fabulous place where you can go for help, the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy. Go learn how you can help reduce rape using policy, enforcement of laws and other tools. If you do nothing at all, find someone who is aware of the times guide you in writing those speeches. And stop offending us, Ghanaian women each time speak.

Sincerely,
The woman with an agenda

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9 thoughts on “Otiko: Educate yourself, unlearn your misogynistic ways

  1. Pingback: Ghana, Rape Culture, and Sexual Consent: From Otiko Djaba to #LetsTalkConsent and #HowShortWasYourSkirt

  2. Good day, my name is Elliott Sylvester, a producer with CapeTalk Radio in cape Town, South Africa. We would like to interview the author of the above article on our show Weekend Breakfast Show on Saturday morning. If you are available please contact me on the email provided below. Thank.

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  3. This is an amazing piece dear…am rooting for her too and hope she is humble enough to unlearn all she thinks she knows and actually understand the changing times we are in now…women deserve better…our girls deserve bette

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  4. I apologize in advance for some crudity in my comment.

    I’m appalled by her comments but I’m not surprised. I think many Ghanaians really believe that if a woman wears a tight mini-skirt, the only logical thing to do is for any man who sees her to put his penis inside her. It’s comforting that some Ghanaians do see the fallacy in this logic.

    Too many Ghanaian men are brought up as potential rapists because too much energy is spent on admonishing girls to prevent rape by dressing decently while practically no time is spent telling boys and men that if you find a woman arousing, it doesn’t automatically mean you have to penetrate her.

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  5. You all speak against her just for the sake of it but you all know very well what she means. She just wants these young ones to dress decently. So what’s all these unkind words about.

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  6. We have blamed the female for far too long for the actions of these rapist. I have seen and read stories of children as little as five been sexually abused by these men, and I don’t understand why they can alway do that and think they can get away with them… Is really unfortunate, I think these rapist would use any flimsy excuse to justify their actions.
    I think the focus should be protecting these ladies and encouraging them to report their abusers. But if we always blame them, we would give the rapist reasons to continue this and the girls would coil back to their shells because even if they report it a finger is pointed to them for sparking the whole situation

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  7. Very well said.

    It is clear our dear Minster is not abreast with the times. Or like you said, her speech writer is way behind issues. I do not wear short dresses because I look at my body size before I have dresses sewn for me. I don’t have daughters too and would certainly not encourage my growing daughter if had one, to wear short dresses. But if and if she is of age and wants to wear short dresses, why not? I would want to believe that I would have equipped her well enough to make choices and fashion preferences that would suit her, not me.

    This unfortunate thinking that women or girls are responsible for their rapes stems from the cultural fact that our society pampers the male and subordinates the female. Even in marriage a woman is supposed to close her eyes to her man’s philandering. ‘oh,he is a man, you know.’ or ‘men are men’. just ignore the affair. Please.

    Even at church, we are told that we must always satisfy our men anytime and anyhow they want it. To please them on all the way. Excuse me!.

    It’s high time our men take responsibility for their actions, right from the cradle. You just cannot go round raping women and girls just because they are in short dresses. When will men acknowledge that they must reason with the brains and not the penises so that we do not label them rapists? .

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