‘What was she wearing?’
‘Her dress was revealing’
‘Her makeup was too loud’
The activities of the past few days have left me aghast and short of words. The rape case of Uwaila Omozuwa has brought to light the thoughts of many people in our society about rape and consent. It is without saying that many people especially the male folk who are usually the perpetrators of rape against the female gender do not understand what consent means and many believe that a female’s choice of clothing is consent to or an invitation to being raped.
I believe many people if asked what ‘rape’ is would be able to define rape as a forceful sexual activity or intercourse. What many people don’t understand is that consent is what makes the difference between a forceful sexual activity (rape) and a non forceful sexual activity. Also it is important that we all understand that rape is not limited to sexual intercourse; sexual intercourse is only the peak of it. Rape involves any and every sexual activity such as kissing, touching in appropriate places and other activities that can be deemed sexual without the consent of the other party.
On the issue of consent, many (both men and women) believe that a woman’s choice of clothing is consent for rape. This is a misconception and myth about rape that should be debunked. Saying or regarding one’s choice of clothing as consent to rape means it is okay for the rapist to believe his own assumptions over the word of mouth of the victim, and act on those assumptions. Click To TweetSaying or regarding one’s choice of clothing as consent to rape means it is okay for the rapist to believe his own assumptions over the word of mouth of the victim, and act on those assumptions.
As a matter of fact, the question ‘what were you wearing’ usually posed to rape victims draws attention from the heinous crime of rape itself, victimizes the victim through victim blaming, and then justifies the rapist’s actions. Saying that the victim was ‘asking for it’ by her dressing makes it ok for rape to be perpetrated. Whether a woman decides to wear a low cut blouse or a turtle neck blouse, a short skirt or a long skirt should not be regarded as a yardstick for determining why the action of rape was carried out.
A woman’s choice of dressing is not and should not be attributed as a cause for rape. The only cause of rape is the rapist. The only person who could have stopped the rape is the rapist. We’ve heard so many sentences such as ‘if she had worn a longer skirt…’, ‘if she had covered up her body…’ as a preventive solution to rape. Several cases have however indicated that a longer skirt or a more covered up choice of dressing really does not make the difference in whether a rape would be or would have been committed or not. This is evidenced by several cases in which the rape victim was a Muslim who was covered from head to toe, a primary school student who was in her school uniform, and even a baby in diapers.
To this end, an exhibition of clothes of rape victims was done in Brussels. Hanging on the panels around the room were several outfits of rape victims. These outfits included a pair of pyjamas, a child’s school uniform and even a police uniform. This justifies the fact that a woman’s choice of dressing in no way determines whether she would be rape or not. I mean no one can say a woman in a police uniform was ‘asking for it’ by her choice of clothing. It then follows that whether a woman chooses to wear a pair of shorts or a pair of trousers, a duller shade of lipstick as opposed to a bright shade does not really make a difference.
As a matter of fact, according to various studies carried out as regards the causes of rape, a woman’s dressing is not one of these causes. Only a person not an article of clothing can give consent regarding what happens or doesn’t happen to their body. No choice of clothing no matter how revealing equals consent to rape. Click To TweetOnly a person not an article of clothing can give consent regarding what happens or doesn’t happen to their body. No choice of clothing no matter how revealing equals consent to rape.
Again, I cite the example of a girl named Imade who from the age of seven was sexually abused by her teacher. A girl at the age of seven could not have worn dresses deemed to be provocative. This also points out that the choice of clothing is not a cause for rape.
According to the UN Women organization, when discussing cases of sexual violence, a victim’s sobriety, clothes and sexuality are irrelevant.
There are many stories like Imade’s and Uwa’s that have been silenced and disregarded based on the context of what she (the victim) was or was not wearing. We should begin to debunk the myth of a woman’s clothing as consent to rape. When we start doing this, not only will more focus be placed on catching and prosecuting the perpetrators, there would be reduced cases of rape in our society.
Other ways you can stand against rape according to the UNwomen organization is to: Create a culture of enthusiastic consent, Stop victim blaming, educate the next generation, and redefine masculinity.