Africa as a whole is a largely superstitious society. In Nigeria, where I’m from, we have strong superstitious beliefs and while the reasons behind most of these superstitions may come from a good place, some are ridiculous and some are deeply rooted in misogyny and tend to aid rape culture. For instance, attaching human behaviour to the manipulation of supernatural forces is one of those superstitions that allows rapists to get away with their crime.
Rape is without a doubt an abominable thing in any society and raping a child is even more disgusting but due to the patriarchal nature of most societies, the anger and shame are directed towards the victim and not the perpetrator. It is also the reason behind people being quick to blame the rapist’s actions on manipulative and evil spiritual forces sent by the so-called enemies of the rapist to ruin his life. Superstitious people might want to argue that it is due to the irritating nature of rape which makes people believe that no one in their right senses and freewill would want to rape another human being.
This mindset is not only faulty and ridiculous, it is also quite dangerous in a country like Nigeria, where rape culture thrives.
It gives the rapist an avenue to escape the responsibility of his crime because all he has to say to gain the sympathy of the people is that he was not in his right senses and that he has been fighting some unknown spiritual battle. I have seen this play out so many times.
A paedophile was caught in my neighbourhood, years ago when I was still in secondary school. He was a religious leader and when he was caught, he didn’t deny sexually harassing the little girl. However, what he did was place the blame on another religious leader whom he claimed was jealous of his success and the number of people in his congregation and because of that, the jealous religious leader placed a curse on him to make him misbehave and lose the favour of his congregation.
As unbelievable as this excuse sounds, he got away with his crime. It was swept under the rug by the community leaders and today, the victim’s father and her assailant are close friends.
There is also the recent example of a popular comedian and actor, Baba Ijesha, who was caught on camera confessing to raping a minor and blaming his actions on some spiritual problems he had.
These cases are not too different from each other, only that one man is a popular figure and a celebrity, while the other man is just a regular neighbourhood religious leader. The religious leader has gotten away with his crime while the celebrity’s case is still ongoing but the number of his sympathizers are growing every day.
This type of mindset shifts the focus and blame from the rapists and places it on the victims — the very foundation of rape culture. I remember correctly, that during the religious leader’s case, the blame was shifted to the victim and her mother. They were blamed for going to the paedophile’s house where the abuse happened and in the actor’s case, the victim’s mother was blamed for not being vigilant enough.
When someone does something bad, it’s very easy for them to blame the devil. But for rapists, people blame the devil on their behalf.
Rape is a deliberate act. The rapist rapes because he is powerful enough to rape and calculative enough to know what to say if he gets caught and society lets him get away with it often.
Saying a rapist was under spiritual manipulation when he raped is the same thing as saying he was drunk and had no control over his senses. It is also in the same category as asking the victim what she wore when she was raped — they are all excuses that encourages rapists to keep on raping.
I understand that we are all entitled to our spiritual beliefs and religion. However, in all situations, our humanity as a people must come first. We need to be able to draw the line at certain things.
The only way to tackle rape is to make the rapist and the rapist alone responsible for his actions. He isn’t some faceless monster or an unbridled wild animal — he is a human being who is fully aware of his actions and the consequences attached to them and he must therefore be held solely responsible.