The one that got caught
Shaming victims of sexual exploitation and portraying them as accomplices and even as culprits for provoking the man to take advantage of them; societal pressures; pressure from family and in-laws barely 9 months into marriage as to why she has not produced an offspring yet; mounting economic pressures as the Nigerian economy grinds harsher by the day, bringing with it, increasing mental stress on the wife and mother who watches helplessly as her children go hungry; all of these add up and must explain why depression induced mental health issues have become so prevalent amongst women.
Something has to be said also about the psychological scars’ sexual harassment, exploitation, violation and statutory rape, more often than not, leave in the lives of victims. The demeaning nature of such experiences invariably lead victims to question their value and worth, if they could be so recklessly debased, at times by those old enough to be their father or even grandfather! Countless women have tried to take their lives because they just couldn’t live with the shame and many preferred to give up their educational pursuit than to trade their bodies for grades they had already worked hard to earn.
For many, this assault on their sense of self-worth begins while still at school, a place understandably expected to provide safety, only for it to continue in the work place later in life. This is why we would be making a grave mistake, if because of recent happenings, we were to treat this problem as one peculiar to the closed environment of the ivory towers. It’s an endemic national issue which ought to be given the attention it deserves.
Take a good look at the public sector and private sectors, you’ll find it there. Stories of bosses in both sectors who hinge the promotion of female subordinates on what they’re willing to do is commonplace. While we’re at it, let me add that this is not even just a Nigerian problem. It is indeed a global one, evidenced by the “me too” movement initiated in tinsel town, better known as Hollywood, where powerful men demand carnal knowledge of upcoming actresses in exchange for highly sought-after movie roles.
The propensity to oppress others and to use one’s position to extort favours, whether it be of a sexual, financial or other nature is an age long human frailty. There’s a reason why the Bible says the heart of man is desperately wicked; deriving a sick type of pleasure in devaluing others as we lord it over them; stripping them of their dignity just because we feel we can and giving no thought to the long term effects this may have on their psychological make-up. Boniface Igbenegbu, an Associate Professor in University of Lagos, currently in the eye of the “sex for grades” storm certainly doesn’t seem to have dwelled on any such consideration. How he must wish he had.
Thomas Hobbes is noted for his hypothetical State of Nature theory which presents the world as a harsh, savage and unforgiving place where you literally must eat or be eaten to survive. As he famously put it, “life was nasty, brutish and short” because there was no cooperation between men. Every man was for himself and himself only.
The unsustainability of an environment where all men were in perpetual state of war with each other became clear and the very uncertainty of anyone even seeing the next minute became unbearable. This subsequently led to a consensus on the need for men to cooperate and cede some of their freedoms to a central authority mandated to regulate the affairs of men in a structured society. This was the first government.
The stark realities of our society where governance appears so distant and the antenna of the average man is in constant search for the slightest opportunity to “chance” his fellow man of his rights or dignity causes me to wonder if Hobbes’s hypothetical world hasn’t finally manifested here in Nigeria after all.
Our authority figures, represented in this discussion by our university lecturers should assume the role of responsible custodians and not opportunistic predators. As education is a moral enterprise meant to enable and empower us to satisfy the innate human need of self-actualisation, present in all of us, it sickens me to hear stories of lecturers who callously deny female students their university degrees because they’re smart and bold enough to spurn their lecherous advances. The destinies of our young ladies have been toyed with for long enough. It’s about time the relevant authorities took more than a passing interest and instead start to do the right thing by our girls.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.