On Abortion – Bunmi Tella

On Abortion – Bunmi Tella

I was asked where I stood on abortion in Africa….here’s my response…..

I’m definitely pro-choice and hate to see men legislating on matters which they know nothing about.

Just a couple of months ago the Sierra Leonean government tried to pass a bill legalizing first term terminations and it was vetoed by male religious leaders on the basis that it’s a sin. Meanwhile that country has the highest rate of maternal deaths in Africa and since the war a steady increase in incest and rape.

It is unfair that men get to decide such matters without much consideration for the mother – who is essentially then victimized twice.

The uncomfortable truth is that even if it’s not rape or incest, a woman should have the option to say ‘I’m not ready – I cannot handle this’.

A woman having unwanted babies is the fastest path to poverty and misery.

The other day I saw a video of 2 men “fishing” a baby out of a river. It had been abandoned by its mother.

When we force people, who are not ready to be mothers, into motherhood we sentence the child to a lifetime of neglect at best and outright abuse at worse.

Its unwanted children that become victims of sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse. Its unwanted children that become thieves, murderers and rapists.

During the first term, the fetus is barely a fetus and if i was a fetus I’d rather be terminated than condemned to a life of misery.

There is a reason China had its one child policy and African governments should be embracing terminations en masse to stop poverty if nothing else.

I don’t understand how you can care so much about some cells the size of a grape in a woman’s body but you can’t bring yourself to care about the abject poverty and the miserable life a huge chunk of your population is condemned to.

 

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Of Kisses, of Sexual Predators, Of Chijioke Amu-Nnadi

Of Kisses, of Sexual Predators, Of Chijioke Amu-Nnadi

Mine didn’t start with poetry.

I didn’t know him beyond his name, his posts, on Facebook.

I was in Uganda for 2015 Writivism Literary Festival as the festival’s blog editor; he was there too, as a guest to hold a masterclass on poetry.

He checked in at midnight with Sadiq Dzukogi. I was working at a section of Ministers’ Village –the hotel we were lodged- dining hall when he arrived. Mukoma wa Thiong’o, Pa Ikhide, and Aaron Bady had arrived not long before and I’d gone to the reception to greet them so when Ssekandi – the festival’s official chauffeur – pulled into the driveway, I went out to see who else had come in.

As I greeted him and introduced myself, he hugged me. Then one of the minders  and I accompanied them upstairs to settle in. After we found their rooms, we all made to leave. I was going back to the ground floor to continue work; he offered to see me off a bit. When we got to the first floor (his room was on the third), we stopped to wrap up our chit chat. I didn’t see what happened next coming. It just did.

He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me.

I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t even processing. I just said, “Goodnight,” turned around and walked back to where I was working. As I sat, it began to hit me. Chijioke-Amunnadi kissed me. He kissed me…he…kissed me? He fucking kissed me?

Irritation. Anger.

This was the man I had never interacted with personally, not even on Facebook. We had just met and he’d kissed me. I didn’t even know him! As I processed, I began to calm myself. I had work to do, Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire and the Writivism team did not bring me to Uganda so I could spend time sorting feelings at Ministers’ Village hotel. As I continued working, he came downstairs to give me an autographed copy of his book. I thanked him and kept working.

The next days at Uganda found me avoiding him and getting irritated when he tried to come close or call me daughter. My roommate, Nneoma, knew my irritation for the man.

One night, he asked us to move into his room which was bigger than ours so he could move into ours, because a “friend” had come in and needed somewhere to stay. I disagreed but Nneoma calmed me and said it was just for the night. When we got to his room, he looked around and said it was big enough and we all could share. We disagreed.

Adeola would later see the massive doze of ‘attitude’ I dished him regularly. And even the night she and Nneoma asked me to go with them for a dinner that Chijioke ended paying for, I had mental workings to do and ensured nothing drew he and I close.
.
I have heard things.

I don’t know Chijioke. I don’t know him at all.

Perhaps kissing me – without so much as a simple by-your-leave, may not count much in the scope of all that’s been blowing up for days but I heard the old man has been saying the girls he tried things with seduced him, they were cheap…I hope he hasn’t mentioned my name because the result will take the host of heaven to settle. My blood is that hot.

There are a few more things to say about my encounter with this man.

I hosted a project on 10 October 2015 for World Mental Health Day at University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Some of you may know about it. The Curator of the project invited Chijioke to perform as we were interpreting mental health issues through art. I had given the Curator sole right to decide on who got invited, so I chose to let things slide.

In the course of planning, we ran short of funds and she turned to Chijioke for help. He did. She was one of his “daughters” but as I’ll later discover, one of the few “daughters” he hadn’t tried to touch… Yet.

He gave a total of about 35,000 naira towards the event. I thanked him. And I kept him far.

But the old man still did not know his place and went on to attempt something with our Welfare Coordinator. He wanted to kiss her; he wanted to give her head. I wasn’t there when he said those things but she came back from performing her official duties and told me this.

It is important to mention the money part because I heard he said these girls – the ones he’s tried things with – were after his money.

Dem too love money.

– Mary Ajayi

Liberty is a many-colour-coat made of Rags

Liberty is a many-colour-coat made of Rags

 
Coming out of my closet, I carry my heart about
           like cufflinks.
It is my way of being transparent- that is coming out wearing
                 my heart 
on the cuffs of
                 my sleeve.
It is my way off attracting like-minds.
I find my kind of people everywhere I go
                             or
any closet I snoop in. 

It will amaze you …the number
The caliber of people
hiding away in their closets,
coiled up upon themselves,
trying to get smaller and smaller,
                    or
just hoping to vaporize.

I am not one of them,
I come out all the time,
even though I am timid 
For self-validation,
I like to look in on them-
those still hiding away
                                    in their closets-

Amongst this run of
                  Homo
                          Sapiens,
hiding away their
sexuality
in the Closet of
                        Marriage
are the most gifted beings-
humans
and
            women.

And many they are that will never come out of those
                   dark places
to get some air in the sunlight. They dread to be
                gay,
to be outspoken
You know like the
                             feminists
 
I was one time peeking into such
dark
      dreary
              airless
                      gloomy
closet,
and I found a feminist
          housewife
                   mother
a one who really could use the
                   liberty
of getting some
fresh air and sunshine

“so, what are you still doing in there”,
            I probed. 

“I went in
             for the feminist rants,
  and stayed in
             for the kids.”
she replied. 

I knew she isn’t coming out
of that
          closet
anytime soon;

so the answer
            to the question of
“why don’t you come out from that hole already”
was out of the
                    question.  

Great many
        are they
              who are like
I am- timid about coming out
and walking in the
              gaylight,

but
if liberty
is a
Many-Colour-Coat made from rags,
I still will wear mine
and strut about in it
– even if I only do that
        in
          my
             closet.

Christopher Raphael Okiri

…You sometimes feel like a sea shell…

…You sometimes feel like a sea shell…

As a girl you sometimes feel like a sea shell – beautiful, intricate, thrown up from the underbelly of nature, but belonging to the world. Neighbours, friends, strangers, and family members. Unfortunately, in no way akin to beautiful sea shells, your breasts and vagina are sources of electric conversation and unintelligent analyses for people who have neither seen nor touched them.
.
You almost want to apologize for having breasts and a vagina. Maybe your mother will stop being so angry with you over nothing – as she seems to have been since your menstrual cycle made an appearance. Perhaps your father will smile at you a little more and not get grumpy when you receive innocent phone calls on your mobile.

“Is it not ordinary breast and vagina? What is all this?”

It is not ‘ordinary breast and vagina’, my friend. Were you not told that your vagina is a burden you carry, a red gash – an inflammation you must be careful not to trigger? When your breasts start growing, you are in double trouble. They must never quiver, they must be caged by tight bras otherwise you are calling attention to yourself and “anything wey your eye see make you use your head carry am”.
.
For many girl children, sex is not something you ‘own’. If you experiment at sixteen with a boy of sixteen, you are automatically the slut and he is the adventurer. Sex is just not something the world permits you to be associated with, AT ALL. If you want it, you are a ‘dog’. Your body’s biology becomes a problem. You cannot swing your hips, it means you want to be fucked. You cannot prettify your face, it means you want to be fucked. Your hormones are doing what Mother Nature requires them to do and your unconscious acquiescence means you want to be fucked, maybe by one man, maybe by two, or maybe gang-bangs are your thing?

And so what if you actually do want sex as a teenager? Teenagers want sex, dammit! It is a natural desire and it is not wrong, neither is it your fault. What you do with it is what counts and that’s where sex-education is supposed to come in. Unfortunately many parents fail at it, especially with their female children.

It is just really painful how being a girl, you as a sexual being are repressed. Your desires are required to be bound tightly with strong rope and carted into the bin of denial. In exchange you are bestowed with the burden of ducking sex. In other words, as a girl child one of the reasons you are alive is to prevent yourself from being fucked, literally and metaphorically. Never mind the perpetrators – it’s all on you.

If sex ‘happens to you’ without your permission, it is your fault. You wanted it, you Jezebel, and you made sure you got it, now you say you’ve been raped. Even toddlers have been blamed for their own rapes. You enticed your father. Your uncle could not resist your swinging hips that have only been weaned from diapers six months ago. Your neighbor’s penis got swollen and hard when he saw your lips sucking on your pacifier. Throw away your pacifier! You are seducing your uncle!

Nkiru Njoku

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE: THE BURDEN OF A SLOW JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN NIGERIA – by Toyin Adepoju

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE: THE BURDEN OF A SLOW JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN NIGERIA – by Toyin Adepoju

The rape epidemic in Nigeria seems to be deepening its roots into our contemporary society due to many factors which fearfully, have become a norm, welcomed by the nation with open arms. Some of these factors no doubt include fear (of stigmatization), poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, corruption and a terribly slow judicial system. The prevalence of this phenomenon, which mostly affects children, calls to question the activities of certain agencies, set up with the sole aim of preventing the Nigerian child from any and all forms of abuse.

stock-photo-stop-child-abuse-sign-words-clouds-shape-isolated-in-white-background-121620967Apparently, child molestation can be said to be the new dimension to rape incidences in the country as the media, on a daily basis, headlines no less than a rape story involving victims which most times are children. Just like other states in Nigeria with increasing records of child molestation, Oyo state is no different. Section 34 (1) of the Child’s Right Law of Nigeria, 2006, domesticated by the Akala’s administration in the state has it that “No person shall have sexual intercourse with a child”. By the specification of this law, a child is a person who has not attained the age of eighteen.

A child subjected to labour is vulnerable to sexual abuse. Such is the story of 13 -year old Abike(not real name) who was left in care of her grandmother and made to hawk “eko” in the evenings. After being stalked for a while in her neighborhood by two men believed to be in their thirties, she was forced into an uncompleted building and was raped. Abike could have been left alone to deal with the trauma and stigmatization which in most cases, often resulted in depression, but she was taken in by Williams Marcus of the Child Protection Network, cared for and sheltered.

Sadly, the alarmingly slow legal system in the country has made it entirely difficult to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous crime who still freely roam the streets. Meanwhile, it is quite heart-warming to know that Abike has continued from where she left-off and has returned to school. But this one story is about Abike who was lucky to have gotten help. What happens to several other victims who have been left alone to bear this burden?

Then, here is another story of Tolani, a nine-year old, repeatedly molested by an “Alhaji” in her neighborhood who threatened death if she ever said a word to anyone about what transpired between them. With a late mother and a commercial motorcyclist father, no one had the time to take care or protect her from the evil machinations of Alhaji who lured her in to his apartment on Sundays and raped her. The girl with no knowledge about what was being done to her tries it out on a younger boy, a family friend of hers, and was caught in the act. Again, the perpetrator has not been made to pay for the committed crimes, due to the terribly slow judicial system in the country. The same Child Protection Network responsible for taking care of Abike (in the first story), does same for Tolani, and just like every other well-meaning Nigerian, they are concerned about how the law enforcement agencies in charge of such cases have done little or nothing at all to bring the perpetrators to book, to at least serve as deterrent to prospective abusers.

The Chairperson of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, Oyo state chapter, Yetundestop-child-abuse-stop-child-abuse-23073274-400-311 Adegboye also agrees that the legal processes involved in the prosecution of a rape culprit is extremely slow. She explains that the initial process involved in reporting a rape case begins at the Police Station where an arrangement will be made for the victim to undergo medical examination. The charge is then forwarded to the Magistrate court which has no jurisdiction to try rape cases but could remand the suspect in police custody. The prosecutor is then ordered to present the charges to the Director of Public Prosecution in the Ministry of Justice, who originally bears the burden of attending to all major crimes coming in from literally every angle in the state. The ministry, after looking into these charges then tries to see if the suspect is liable to go through trail (or trails) in respective courts. The process in itself is tiring and while some prosecutors give up half-way into pressing these charges, the perpetrators, either with influence or affluence of find ways to escape trial by applying for bail at the High Court.

The Nigeria Police Force has a whole lot to do in a bid to ensure that the required punishment is meted out to the perpetrators of such grave crime by ultimately seeing the reported cases through to courts. Victims of rape should also help the police effectively carry out their legal duties by providing every bit of information they can make available to help in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators. The society also has a very important role to play in protecting her children from the seemingly inherent dangers by fishing out those responsible for such crimes and handing them over to the law enforcement agencies to follow-up on their prosecution.

Williams Marcus has called for the establishment of family courts which he says will see to the timely prosecution of abusers; most important are the child rapists, as it is the responsibility of the government at all levels to protect the child from acts that could negatively affect the child’s physical, sexual and mental well-being.

Parents and the society at large should also ensure they make themselves available at all times to provide all the necessary love, care, protection and support to and for their children.

The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. We need to protect them.

Toyin
Toyin Adepoju is an OAP at Splash FM, Ibadan.

the fuss about the hymen – Meeriam

the fuss about the hymen – Meeriam

From the Editor’s Desk: When this article appeared in our mailbox in January, we were, to say the least, surprised. Not because of the content (since 9jafeminista is an advocacy platform for equality, in all its ramifications) but because of the young lady who sent in the article. She is a very religious person, who does not believe in labels and believes that feminism is an ‘f’ word.

Her article below examines one of the many ways in which inequalities prevail in the Nigerian Society especially as it applies to women’s sexuality.

Read on:

I feel the need to first point out that this is not a ‘feminist induced rant’. If we were in the 1920’s or Alexander Chukwuedo1930’s, this caption would have earned me a resounding slap from all and sundry. But nowadays parents have more to worry about than their daughters’ hymen or lack of.

I’m sure all the holy books preach against pre-marital sex and gone are the days when a groom’s family would return a full box of matches to the bride’s family the morning after the consummation of marriage as a sign of the bride’s virtue. Woe betides any girl that was found ‘incomplete’.

Back to the present day, sex has been totally demystified (which is a huge problem for me). Everyone is totally doing it. We can blame pop culture, MTV Base, Iggy Azalea and even Canada, but it’s what it is. Children who have been cloistered often tend to run wild when finally let loose.

I believe that it’s a precious gift women offer to the man they truly love and possibly want to spend the rest of their lives with but is that truly what we’re worth? Why should my entire worth be determined by a membrane? I could be top of my class, my net worth could be in the range of 6 figures or even find a cure for cancer and all this would not matter because of the absence of THE membrane.

It’s almost laughable how hypocritical our society is. Like the girls who lost their virginity, did they have sex with themselves? Why aren’t men subjected to the same standards as women? Because their own no dey read meter abi?

I would love to see a society where a woman is accepted for who she is, what her accomplishments are rather than something as base as a hymen.

Sex and Sexuality: The Missing Historical Link by Eccentric Yoruba

Sex and Sexuality: The Missing Historical Link by Eccentric Yoruba

We know so little about how our ancestors viewed sex and sexuality, it is high time we delved into this much overlooked part of our history. However before we do we may have to dump some of our biases.

It never fails to shock me just how much we modern-day Africans deny the most basic things to those that came before us. Perhaps it is a legacy of (mental) colonialism that a lot of us view our ancestors as backwards, uncivilised, naïve, even depraved. There are those among us who believe that our foremothers never knew emotions such as love or lust, and to take it further that they would never have considered any form of sexuality that was not of the vanilla, hetero variety. Several years ago I came across a comment someone left on a blog I frequent, while I do not recall the exact words used in the comment I remember it went along the lines of “no one in pre-colonial Africa fell in love, all women were forced to marry old men who already had many wives”. Looking back, that may have been a troll comment but it spurred me to write this post on African initiation rites.

9jafeminista
9jafeminista

Initiation rites are very fascinating to me, their existence illustrates how societies that do not discuss sex in the open find avenues to impart sexual knowledge to young adolescents. They also show that for a good number of our foremothers, not only in Nigeria but across Africa sex was something enjoyable. Young girls would learn many things during initiation rites, how to take care of themselves for example, as well as what was expected of them when they became wives. This education covered anything from using aphrodisiacs, knowing erogenous zones and rhythmic pelvic moments. Through songs and dances this form of sexual knowledge was transmitted to young girls who would grow up to become women that were sexually confident. Nkiru Nzegwu is much cited in her creation of the term Osunality, she uses the multi-faceted Orisha Osun to symbolise the sexuality of Yoruba women that also appears in countless other African cultures (also posits that in several African cultures the power does not rest in the penis but instead in the vagina).

I was (still am) excited that African authors are writing historical romances. We have writers like Naa Shalman and closer to home Kiru Taye writing love stories set in the past that feature passionate love scenes. I know there are those who will be surprised to see kissing and oral sex in a piece of Nigerian historical fiction and will label it ahistorical. At the same time I wonder, is it so impossible to imagine that sexual acts like oral sex was something that was done before the Europeans appeared to teach us everything? Widening this perspective why would we assume that “alternative sexualities” are a Western import. A friend of mine would vehemently argue that traditional practices such as massages and certain dances could have provided the prelude for women to explore sex with other women. In situations were women constantly came in contact with their peers and touched each other, she claimed, it is not too farfetched that some could have chosen to explore these avenues more.

Something that has always struck me when I read works by Nigerian scholars such as Ifi Amadiume and Oyeronke Oyewumi kehindeawofesochallenging the ways in which our ideas on gender have been affected by colonialism, is why there still seems to be so much unwillingness to do the same for sexuality. In her book Male Daughters Female Husbands, Amadiume provides an amazing insight into the gender ideology of the Nnobi. Through her book we are able to know that there was a time when gender in that part of Eastern Nigeria was not fixed as simply “male” and “female”. There was no gender binary as it was understood to be something more flexible, this was/is a society where women could marry other women and perform “male” gendered mannerisms, and daughters could become sons. Oyeronke Oyewumi’s controversial The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses looks at the Yoruba example and puts forth the argument that Yoruba also did not place as much importance on a gender binary prior to European contact.

 What surprises me is how we can be open about examining gender in our pre-colonial pasts but cannot about sexuality. Both Oyewumi and Amadiume seem to be of the opinion that homosexuality did not exist in the societies they research on, that it is a foreign concept to Africa. I always agree that Western ideas on same-sex relationships should not be imposed on African cultures, but to me the possibilities are endless. While the research is scanty on this side of the pond, studies into women-loving-women in the African Diaspora have been quite revealing as to the African connection. Gloria Wekker in The Politics of Passion argues that mati, that is put simply women who have sex and form relationships with other women in Afro-Surinamese culture, is linked to West African cultural heritage. For women of African descent in Suriname who engage in the mati work sexual activity and fulfilment is more significant that the sex of one’s sexual counterpart. Rather than being an identity, the mati work is versatile and fluid even as it may recognise he presence of a masculine spirit for lack of a better term in women who love to lie down with other women.

Sexualities similar to the mati work have been recorded throughout the African Diaspora, yet they are so few when it comes to the continent. Could our biases be blinding us to the diversity of sexualities in our pre-colonial traditions? My proposal is that we rethink the way our foremothers viewed sexuality and sex. That we open our minds to the possible realities that may not fit into our impressions of how the past was.