Everyone is focused on the big, despicable sexual advances that men make, but it is really the little things that fuel a flame inside of me. The crude remarks, the dirty looks, and the unwanted advancements. This is what enrages me. Regardless of the way you dress, a lady cannot enjoy her walk home without being groped in the streets or given seductive looks. Many will simply ignore it and go about their business, thinking it is a waste of time to speak up because it happens so frequently in our society.
We tell ourselves, “They are just being annoying,” but what we should know is annoying can turn dangerous very quickly. For every fierce and clever wolf was once a harmless cub. They approach you quite friendly and smiley until you reject their unwelcomed advances. That is when they turn into monsters. The feeling of entitlement towards us, the audacity to touch us without our consent while we walk down the street – this is sexual violence, and it needs to stop!!!
Recently, I joined The Woman Boss on their journey to 19 schools in Banjul, KMC, and West Coast Region to train girls on Leadership and Gender Based Violence. This afforded me an opportunity to connect and converse with girls from diverse backgrounds and ideologies. When asked to list the different forms of sexual violence, the only offense the girls could verbalize was rape. Sadly, in The Gambia, this is the only form of sexual violence that is acknowledged. People do not talk about unwelcomed comments, groping by shameless and notorious men, or fondling and grooming of young innocent girls by trusted adults in society. In reality, these forms of sexual violence are just as significant because they have the power to weaken a victim’s self-esteem. Women are left feeling defenseless and humiliated.
What is worse is that there are some women who protect perpetrators, further enabling them to get away with sexual violence. A friend of mine was a victim of objectification by a guy on the street and she put him in his place. What happened next was disheartening; the female witnesses were the very ones to tell her, “You should not have done that. You should have just walked away. Men and women are not the same. Speaking to him is just disrespecting yourself.” My point is some women are so unempowered that they unintentionally shield shameless men that need to be incriminated. Ignoring these wrongs is what fuels the confidence of these perpetrators.
Sexual violence will continue to prevail until the various forms are recognized and spoken out against, boundaries are set, turned into law, and enforced, and perpetrators are condemned.
This can only be actualized through when we start inspiring that change in men and show them that it is not okay. When laws are made and enforced and most importantly when these issues are openly discussed.
Written by : Aji Isatou Nyan