What we have witnessed on social media the past 48 hours reveals the disturbing trend of sexual objectification of girls and women, rape jokes, body shaming and the enabling of rape apologists.
It is even more worrying that the very vulnerable class in our society isn’t spared, children and young students are easy targets for such behaviour.
On Wednesday 28th November, we were directed to the official Twitter handle of a comedian named Waris. He had a tweet where he alluded to looking forward to “tearing and eating” Sarkodie’s “ripening” 2-year-old daughter. This was clearly sexualizing the 2-year-old daughter of the celebrated musician. This came only a day after the proud father had shared a sweet picture of himself and his daughter on social media. PepperDemMinistries which is into probing toxic societal narratives took advantage of this incident to generate conversations on rape, rape culture and sexual violence.
This caused the particular issue to trend and resulted in some heated interactions with people who disagreed and thought apologies from the comedian should end the discussion. These discussions have however led to posts that show how common place such problematic mindsets are in the social media “comedy” space in Ghana. Rape, body shaming, sexist opinions are all run under the guise of harmless jokes.
In ensuing hours, we have been made aware of even more disturbing posts by another comedian, one Michael Owusu Afriye known in comedy circles as Teacher Kwadwo, who is also a teacher at the Akrofuom D/A Primary school in the Ashanti Region. While his posts often revolve around trivialization of sexual violence and body shaming, one post clearly showed actual interest/intent to rape and specifically asked for “Raping Techniques” from his followers.
For a teacher who is in charge of young, underage and teenage girls, these posts cannot be taken lightly! His mindset is not only toxic, but his confidence to express these thoughts publicly on social media, coupled with his sizeable social media following pose a huge threat into affirming these already dominant narratives on Ghana’s rape culture.
By simple definition, Rape Culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Common manifestations of this phenomenon include the following or a combination of these:
4.Trivialising Rape/Rape Jokes
5.Denial of widespread rape
6.Refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence
Denying the pervasiveness of rape and the mindsets that promotes rape in a society like Ghana where among other challenges, the justice system frustrates rape victims and their families more than rapists further entrenches rape culture.
Denying the pervasiveness of rape in a society like ours where media reportage continues to center their stories on victims and not the perpertrators promotes rape culture.
Denying the pervasiveness of rape in a society like ours where majority of rape victims would rather not report because they know for a fact that they won’t be believed or would be blamed, promotes a rape culture.
Rape culture is not a society that “supports” rape. Rape Culture refers to a society whose justice systems, social narratives and social norms “implicitly” create a conducive atmosphere for rape and sexual violence to fester.
Therefore, while our society may not “consciously” promote rape, there are many subtle attitudes that implicitly create an environment where rape and sexual abuse is left unchecked, unpunished and even normalized. A clear example is how many are justifying these posts by Michael Owusu Afriye under the guise of “comedy”. We strongly believe allowing such toxic mindsets to manifest in posts on social media among people with large following is not only worrying but potentially catastrophic.
He has shown himself to be uncouth, unprofessional, irresponsible and dangerous to the young students he is in charge of, this has been clearly manifested in his conduct and interactions on Facebook in the last 24 hours.
We call on the Ghana Education Service to protect our young people in their care, especially the girls from all forms of sexual violence, potential and real. This is even more critical in this era where there have been so many reports of such unfortunate incidents in our schools. We believe there should be specific sanctions for such actions and if there are not we ask (with disappointment) that this be immediately looked at and the right penalties be instituted. We ask that companies who he endorses to break ties with him if they consider any association with sexual violence harmful to the public they market to and the brand they stand for.
We also ask that entertainers (comedians, artistes, musicians etc…) take their important role of influencing society seriously and learn to guard their utterances and actions from a place of sensitivity towards all marginalized people; children, women, differently-abled, people of different sexual orientation etc. Works of art that demean any group of people based on race, gender, tribe, religion, and ability etc… are uncalled for and should be avoided.
We at PepperDem Ministries commit to keep the conversations on toxic societal narratives going, online and offline till we get to the point where they become unnecessary because all our interactions in society are guarded from a place of gender sensitivity and caution.
In honour of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism campaign to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, we would like to remind all Ghanaians that Rape is Rape! There is nothing comical about this crime that leaves it’s victims in perpetual trauma. We all have a responsibility to call out any actions (or inactions) that promote this toxic phenomenon.
Source: Pepper Dem Ministries