By Zulaiha Danjuma
Due to the global statics readily available, most people assume that only women can be victims of sexual abuse. When we hear the word rape, we subconsciously think of a female being sexually abused. Conversely, it is true that the most reported cases of rape are against women, and in this regard, we usually tend to underplay the fact that men get raped too.
On September 9, 2021, Vanguard News published a story of a 65-year-old man who was drugged and raped into a coma by two men in Ondo state.
In Nigeria, like most other patriarchal societies, it is hard for men to report cases of sexual abuse for fear of being judged. Statements like, “Are you not a man?”, “How can a woman rape you?”, “Is he not a man like you, how can he do that to you?” are some of the likely phrases men who speak about being sexually abused get from friends, and society.
Male rape cases are hardly heard on mainstream media, if for anything arguably for the fact that most rape victims either refuse to report the incident out of fear of the shame and stigmatization of being raped by a fellow man or because society has nurtured the concept that only women (due to some biased vies of strength) get rape; as such these men assume normalcy of female and male inappropriate sexual behaviours towards them.
The Nigerian criminal code also those not help bring to bear male rape incidences due to its non-gender-neutral definition of rape. According to section 357 of the Criminal Code Act applicable in the Southern part of Nigeria, rape is defined as such:
“Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.”
Also, section 282 of the Penal Code which is applicable in the Northern part of Nigeria defines rapes as follows:
“(1) A man is said to commit rape who … has sexual intercourse with a woman in any of the following circumstances:- (a) against her will; (b) without her consent; (c) with her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt; (d) with her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is the man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married; (e) with or without her consent when she is under fourteen years of age or of unsound mind. (2) Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape if she has attained to puberty”.
Evidently, both the Criminal Code and the Penal Code’s definition of rape is not gender-neutral as such inversely push the concept of ‘only women get raped’. However, this is what the VAPP Act and the Child Rights Act have amended and it is left to State Assemblies to domesticate.
So now, How can we help break the silence around Men’s Rape?
- Demystify the notion that men cannot be raped: society tends to adopt the idea that men’s physical strength makes it impossible to get raped by either a woman or a man. The truth is that rape does not have to be through force. It can be through coercion, being drugged or through fear (mostly with younger boys and elderly men and women).
- Stop stigmatizing male victims: Stigmatization both in cases of male or female rape is psychologically and emotionally damaging to survivors. Instead of pointing out the man who was raped, point out their abusers. A victim of rape is never at fault, all blame and shame should go to the abuser.
- Stop making light of Men’s rape: Rape of any kind and to either gender is never a joke. Making comical remarks about a man being sexually abused; this act enables rape culture.
- Report cases of Men’s sexual abuse: The true extent to which men get sexually abused has not been adequately documented to get the needed public attention. It is important that more moe are encouraged to speak up. This is because the importance of speaking up is not just for male survivors to heal and get justice, it is also to ensure adequate research can be done to map out areas of concern and where caution should be applied.
- Parents should pay attention to people around young boys: A lot of young boys who search for stories about sexual abuse experiences largely identify teachers, older family friends or relatives and neighbours. It is a fact that most cases of rape tend to be between the victim and familiar faces, which is why parents need to put extra caution and attention on the boy child as well as the girl child. Regardless of a child’s gender, they can suffer sexual abuse.
To have male survivors speak up requires a collective willingness to end rape stigma and support survivors. At STER, we encourage survivors to speak up so we can collectively end sexual violence.
Photocred: India Today