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12.12.2019 Africa

Now that the 16 days of Activism is over, what’s next?

By Tawakalit Kareem
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Just in case you are wondering, the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence is an annual campaign that begins on the 25th of November – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – and ends on the 10th of December – Human Rights Day.

Fitting, isn’t it?
The purpose of this annual campaign is to raise awareness of the numerous ways that women are exposed to violence simply by virtue of being women, share information on how we all as the larger society can be better allies to women, and fuel existing conversations around women safety.

The theme for this year is Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!”

And here is where I will take a minute and ask YOU if the above statement is true for you. Do you really stand against rape, or do you stand against it as long as certain conditions have been met? Do you really stand against rape, or is your standing one that takes the form of, “I agree that rape is wrong, but…”?

During a conversation with a group of people this past week, we discussed the varying reactions to situations that involve a child being raped and others where the abused is an adult. Most people will agree that anyone who rapes a child is a despicable human and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

But you’ll find that the tide shifts when the victim in this case is a young woman aged 25 and above. The questions take on a different hue; what was she wearing? Are we sure they are not dating? Do we know if they had an arrangement? Not to mention the category of humans who actually think that if a young, beautiful woman is assaulted sexually, she must have done something to deserve it.

Do you see it? The misplaced sense of control you have that makes you even consider that this young woman deserves to be raped because you think her skirt is short. This false sense of ownership that makes you imagine it’s okay because “oh, they are in a relationship”.

It’s ‘Day 17’ today. Soon, it will be ‘Day 30’, and then ‘Day 300’. How do we ensure our activism continues? Here are a few options;

  • Get knowledgeable

Perhaps it is that we were never taught. Or maybe the root lies in not only what we were taught, but how. Whatever it is, it appears quite a number of people do not know what constitutes rape or other forms of sexual abuse.

Please get educated about rape. Ask questions AND listen to the answers with a mindset that is committed to progressive growth. Your understanding of what does not constitute rape is hurting real people. These are not just statistics; they are humans.

  • Rape is not fodder for jokes

Have you ever spoken to a survivor? Have you looked at them when they have to relive this experience they wish never happened?

It’s torture.
But somehow, it’s okay to joke about it? No, it’s not. There is nothing remotely funny about rape. It will never be funny that survivors are violated in what has to be one of the worst ways possible.

Comedians take the stage at shows and make jokes about rape that the audience laughs heartily to. You sit down with your friends and faff around about “that girl that was raped”. Do you realize what you’re doing? Taking away from the seriousness of this crime and normalizing it.

Stop it. And just as importantly, stop your friends who do the same.

  • Stop blaming survivors

For the love of God, stop it.
Why does it matter what she was wearing? Whether he was drunk? Why she went to his house? Babies get raped too, you know? Do the same rules still apply?

Was consent given? No? Well then, it’s a crime.

Covertly and overtly, we place the burden of blame and shame on survivors. Then we turn around and wonder why the thousands of other hurting souls never tell their story. When you blame survivors, you bury them deeper in the desert they already know so well and contribute dangerously to the pervasive rape culture that already besieges our society.

  • Respect boundaries

If someone asks you not to touch her hands, please don’t touch it.

If he says he’d rather not hug you, please respect that.

What really is the problem with any of the above? It’s simple; don’t touch people who don’t want to be touched. And no, they most certainly do not owe you an explanation.

It also doesn’t matter if you see her holding hands with someone else or you witnessed him hugging another person; respect the boundaries they have so clearly set in their relationship with you.

Sorry, but really, not sorry.

  • Take action against rape culture

We can all do something about this.
How can you say you don’t support rape, but you have friends who consistently twist consent into untenable shapes that have nothing to do with the word, and everything to do with their selfish interests?

How can you be against rape, but you don’t see anything wrong in your friend hitting a passing stranger’s butt for fun?

There is no middle ground here. If you’re against it, let it be known by the people in your life and call them out when they exhibit harmful behaviors that perpetuate rape culture.

Whether it’s Day 17 or Day 170, there will never be a time when rape is acceptable. Let’s raise our voices together against this menace and collectively pass this message across, “Not on my watch!”

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