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Opinions of Thursday, 17 January 2019

Columnist: Dilys Sillah

How to avoid being a rapist by understanding food and borrowing etiquette

Dilys Sillah Dilys Sillah

It’s baffling how four years on from the famous cause celebre concerning ‘that’ media personality has people still unsure of what rape is and what it isn’t in Ghana.

This recent revelation by Kuukuwa Andam who alleges she was raped by the President of the Ghana Bar Association, Anthony Forson Jr and the former acting Deputy Director of Legal Aid Ghana, Selasi Kofi Fumey, brings back those memories of when I fiercely tried to educate our Ghanaian men and some women on what rape was and what it wasn’t.

You see, when people like me who are ‘labelled’ as activists or worse still, that ‘dreaded’ word, ‘feminist’, we are automatically relegated to the side of those women who will believe or support any allegation of rape brought against a man because they secretly hate all men. Truth is how many of such women really exist? I personally love the men in my life so the assumptions levied against women like me are seriously misplaced.

What I have always had an issue with in matters such as these is the stark revelation of the level of ignorance of what constitutes rape and who is guilty of it and who is allowed to be called a victim of this crime.

I hope this little guide will be printed off or the hyperlink saved by every male soul in Ghana to help them understand what rape is, what it isn’t and when it does or doesn’t occur.

I’m no Jesus, but I absolutely get why it’s necessary to use analogies and parables to get a basic point across – not that understanding rape is basic, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, but you get my drift.

The issue of consent, and that is defined as ‘permission for something to happen or agreement to do something’ seems to trip up our men too often, and women who do not understand their right to withdraw consent, because we are made to feel that once we have said ‘YES’ to sex, that is IT! No turning back, because they will die from their testicles turning blue and render them impotent for life, and yes we girls have been sold this line countless times.

So here goes:

1. I come to your house and you offer me waakye and fish to eat for lunch; this is the meal I’ve agreed to but you insist you don’t actually have fish once I arrive. You say you only have meat on offer. I decline your generous offer because this is not what I fancy. You respond, ‘Oh! But it’s still waakye! Meat or fish, does it matter? Can’t you still eat the food? So you the jury, should I not have the right not to eat waakye and meat?

As much as it might seem trivial to you, did I agree to eat anything else but fish? In fact, would I not be perfectly within my rights to decide I was indeed full up and not wanting to eat anything at all? How about I decided that I really wanted to eat fufu and goat meat light soup with pig feet and prekese? Does anyone have the right to force feed me because I initially agreed to eat waakye? What if you gave me fish and waakye but it wasn’t nice so I spat it out and refused to eat the rest? Am I obliged to eat the food because you are complaining how much trouble you went to, to prepare it?

2. I ask to borrow a pair of black shoes from you and you’re happy to lend them to me. I go into your room and see a pair of yellow shoes. I take the yellow pair of shoes without asking, on the assumption that because you have agreed to lend me a pair of shoes, I am at liberty to take any pair of shoes without asking further permission. Would my act of taking the yellow shoes instead of the black shoes without asking not make me a thief instead of a borrower?

3. I am at a Bush Canteen with two friends eating fufu from one asanka, palm wine on the side and ginger on a saucer. A third person, deciding that I’ve agreed to eat with two other people so don’t mind sharing my food, assumes that by virtue of the fact that they have washed their hands, they can join in the meal. Should I not have the right to object to this intrusion? Or maybe one of the two authorised eating buddies eats the fufu in a way that puts me off the food, is it not within my rights to wash my hands and stop eating? Or could I not tell them to remove their hand from the asanka, considering I invited them to eat in the first place?

Well here’s the revelation: Consent before and during sex works EXACTLY as it does in the aforementioned scenarios!

The fact that a woman agrees to have sex with you, does not mean that she does not have the right to change her mind at any time, yes, ANY TIME! And this includes withdrawal of that consent DURING sex. It is her body and she can choose what she does with it, and whilst we are on the topic – the fact that a woman agrees to one type of sex with you, doesn’t mean that she has agreed to any type of sex with you. It is not a buy one get one free or several free deal!

It was interesting to read the comments on social media concerning Kuukuwa’s alleged rape as not being rape because she was prepared to have sex with a condom! Precisely… with a condom. So in the absence of using a condom, she had every right to withdraw her consent because what was on offer changed.

Those of you who know anything about contract law, would see that the contract would not be enforceable because one party would have been in breach of it – agreeing to sex is a contract of sorts, and to change the type of sex without further permission would render the new offer redundant in the absence of renewed consent; in essence that would be a new contract. If Kuukuwa had been told prior to that fateful meeting that the sex on offer was without a condom, would she have left wherever she was for that rendezvous? Let’s say she would, would she not have the right to not eat waakye with meat as she prefers waakye with fish?

The point is, rape cases in Ghana are all too often judged purely on the following, none of which have a shred of relevance in regards to consent which is what rape is:

• What is the reputation of the alleged victim? • Is she a virgin? • Where did the rape happen? • Has she had sex with other men or boys before? • Does she enjoy sex? • How old is she? • What was she wearing? • Has she had a relationship with the accused before? • If the rape wasn’t reported immediately instead of years later, she is lying!

It’s interesting how we have a checklist of what constitutes a victim and hardly ever question the reputation of the person accused of rape. If you’re unlucky enough to answer in the affirmative to any of these questions or the opposite of what the rape apologists and sympathisers believe to be the right answer, well you are well and truly up the proverbial creek with no paddle.

Believe it or not, a prostitute can be raped. A prostitute is still a human being and has the right to decide who they will sleep with for money or not. That powerful word ‘NO’ from a prostitute is as valid as the ‘NO’ from a nun.

We have set this impossible bar for the reputation of the Ghanaian girl and woman to be seen as a credible victim because of this ridiculous criteria and here is where the ‘silence of the lambs’ continue to grow in number.

It seems the only time a woman can be seen as a victim is when she has been in a coma for 14 years and gives birth to a son, even then – the age old misogynistic and delusional rhetoric rears its ugly head. ‘It must be the janitor!’ It couldn’t possibly be the CEO of the facility or the surgeon or the doctor or the President of the Ghana Bar Association or the former acting Deputy Director of Legal Aid Ghana; God forbid! Nice, respectable, educated, religious men don’t do filth like that – NO WAY! Really? Do they not?

Truth is, many men are quaking in their boots because they know that any day now, their secrets could be out. Silence is what makes rape so hard to live with. Keeping a secret you never asked for and now, thanks to Kuukuwa, women and girls all over Ghana have a seed sowed in their mind of how liberating ‘coming out’ can be.

I by no means have the desire or inclination to sway public opinion to bay for anyone’s blood but I will absolutely work tirelessly to sway public opinion on what rape is and what it isn’t and I can boldly tell you location isn’t an indicator, nor reputation or the lack of. Did she say ‘YES’ and if not, at which point did she say ‘NO!’ with her words, her actions, her fear, her screams or her tears…and did you listen? If you didn’t, you raped her.