The story concerning the sexual abuse of 25 year old Amina, reported here and here, raises wider issues. Daixy has written an impassioned plea for sanity in her blog post Mob Mentality: It can lead to Fail and so has Bright in his post University of Ghana Students’ justice gone bad, both of which I would urge you to read.
I would like to say that everyone must be disgusted and horrified at this crime but many are not. Instead some have stated that Amina got what was coming to her, even if it went a little too far. There is an inability to clearly differentiate what is punishment and what is sexual abuse because the issues are blurred in people’s minds.
It now seems certain that she was stealing from students, yet her treatment has never been, in our knowledge, inflicted on male students. The assumption is that once you have committed a criminal act you have no human rights. That may explain the neglect of the young men and women whose flesh is literally rotting off their bones in Ghana’s prisons. Many have not even been convicted in court – their cases will never be heard, lost in the bureaucracy – yet the mere suspicion of a crime is conviction enough and justifies the withdrawal of compassion.
The issues surrounding sexual abuse against women have clearly not been fully discussed in the wider society of which the students are simply a product. When Ghana was discussing its Domestic Violence Bill some, including religious leaders, argued rape cannot occur in marriage. The lingering, archaic idea, that women are men’s property to be sexually available once married, is still the underlining belief. The over-exaggerated notions of decency women are encouraged to adhere to are simply ways of preserving the ‘goods’ until purchase. People still believe that a raped woman must have asked for it. The inability to speak the word vagina without preceding it with the words “excuse me”, demonstrate a deeper problem with women’s sexuality not present when discussing men’s.
However, we have expected more from university students who are training to be members of the elite. We have mistakenly believed they have a higher intellect and ethical values merely because they are at university. This is our wakeup call. Our lesson is not to default to the elite for moral guidance and action but to take responsibility for our own lives.
The irony is that the final attempt at humiliation – the filming and publishing and circulation of the crime – allowed, what would surely have been private matter, to be brought to the attention of the world. We must now grasp the opportunity this has provided to raise the wider issues and force action.