Author: Victor Sawyerr, April 22 2014 In most of Africa, rape is simply regarded as forcing sexual intercourse. I believe the definition of what constitutes an act of rape and the laws against rape in Africa are hardly, if ever, derived from our cultures and approaches to tackling this rising anti-social phenomenon - are developed invariably without recourse to our own ethnologies.
In most of Africa, as boys come of age and young girls transit into womanhood, they are exposed to a subliminal non-formal suggestion that, when a woman says "NO," she's only playing hard to get and more or less is asking to be dominated. In a subtle way these non-formal subliminal suggestions evolve into an entity that becomes part of the African man’s consciousness or even character, a character which, more often than not, defines the directions our actions will take.
I believe that, whereas the majority of Europeans and Americans who commit rape are by and large sociopaths, the born and bred African man who commits rape may indeed feel deep within that he has done something wrong, but he may actually 'believe' also deep within that he has really done nothing wrong but simply exercise a domination which he believes the female companion really needs. In essence I believe that most of the rape incidents occurring in Africa are (except for a very limited few) due to the African male mindset. The implication of this is that Government and the Media can indeed make giant strides in curtailing the explosive rise of this antisocial phenomenon called rape in Africa, by embarking on concentrated 'mindset change' media campaign with specific recourse to the various ethnologies within the African continent.
Indeed this approach (Concentrated media mindset change campaign) has been successfully used in the various Family planning campaigns, and also in the campaigns against discrimination of AIDS victims and in the campaign to encourage African men to use condoms for protection and also as a means for family planning.
The average African is a very social animal like, or may be even more so than, the average European or American. The average African loves the spoken word. He loves and is highly susceptible to the impact of drama, and it is indeed common knowledge that attitudinal change arising from media impact is very high within the African context. If we can talk about ' it' and laugh about 'it', the sense in 'it' remains with us.
If content providers for the media are aware of this and commissioned by Government or International donor agencies to create dramas and jingles that focus on the African "Social Identity and Self Esteem" especially with a running, underlying theme that "Real men don't Rape," it will not be long before the impact is felt in terms if real attitudinal change.
Why do I believe this approach will work?
Simple. If governments and media critics can blame media agencies and producers for deteriorating morals in their societies, it means they recognize the power of the impact that media has on people.
The media on their part respond to these criticisms saying: "they merely cater to the interests of their audiences - they give people what they want" [Soliya - Media and Intergroup Relations - Research on Media and Social Change - 2009]
Drawing from this response as well, it is evident that media producers and content developers for the media are themselves fully aware of the impact that their works have on different segments of society as a whole.
It makes sense to reason, therefore, that if given the necessary financial support from government and donor agencies to creatively produce works that examine the mindset of the African male with regards to his perceived 'spiritually endowed dominance' over the African female, and to also creatively address the issue of sexual consent and highlighting the fact that 'losing some' is by no means a 'dent' on his fragile ego, it won't be long before we begin to realize the benefits of this approach.
Dramatic art forms: radio, television and stage dramas, television commercials and radio jingles should first of all be employed in creating an awareness of this rising incidences of rape. They should then creatively address the danger signs that a woman should look for in individuals -aggressive language style, maybe even body language, an aggressive desire to control the female companion and other well-researched signs. These art forms should also creatively address the man's perception of a woman and help him realize at what point he is about to cross the line and enter into the territory of rape. The issues of date rape, student rape, sexual harassment in homes, schools and offices are also important ones to treat creatively. Sexual violence against children can all be dealt with in such a way that women are also aware of when they enter into potentially dangerous situations and possible ways to deal with it. Another important issue that can be creatively dealt with is: "the stigma of rape". Dramatic art form can be effectively used in dealing with this just as they were used in dealing with the stigma of AIDS.
But in whatever way we apply the concentrated media mindset change approach, it's success will substantially depend on how much and how well it draws from the ethnologies of the various African countries to create a new social identity, because social identity theory tells us that an individual's self-esteem is influenced by group status, and, by extension, social identity informs our sense of self-esteem. [Steele, 1988; see also Cohen, Garcia, Apfel, & Master, 2006; Sherman & Cohen, 2006]
"Real men don't rape."
Image credit: Jobaze blogsite