On Tuesday, July 3, 2018, the winds of #MeToo swept in on the timelines of Naija Twitter.
#MeToo is an international female-centric movement against the sexual assault and harassment of women. It went viral late 2017 knocking down key figures in Hollywood most notably movie mogul .
While #MeToo has spread worldwide it has failed to have a firm footing in Nigeria. There have been pockets of accusations within the year but a wholesale outing hasn't been witnessed until now.
The purge took place in the wokest spot in Nigeria, Twitter. Rape accusations are not new on Naija Twitter but when the lady with the handle @Mayowade encouraged women who have been victims of sexual assault and harassment to share their stories anonymously via her DM, a storm was unleashed.
@Mayowade would share the sexual assault and harassment stories from these anonymous women which mentioned their molesters. The confessions came in thick and fast and sooner than you could think, rape, consent and sexual harassment became the prevailing topics on timelines.
The stories are horrible. Young women raped or forcefully coerced to have sex with monsters. Others were stalked by psychopaths and predators. If the screenshots of our Twitter #MeToo movement tells us anything is that rape culture and sexual assault are very strong in Nigeria. It also means a lot of strong women are suffering in silence because they have no one to share their stories with and who they can turn to enforce justice.
The movement sparked by @Mayowade must have been cathartic for the women who decided to share their stories. After carrying a burden for so long they had a means to express themselves.
The expository tweets came with some backlash. Those who doubted the authenticity of the allegations saw it as witch hunting and a smear campaign. Sorry guys, this is not female toxicity at play but a day of reckoning for staying silent and allowing rape culture prevail.
Another angle poked at the grey areas of consent with regards to coercion. Like most feminist discussions on Twitter, it became a shouting match, a battle of the sexes.
Some of the young men who were accused threatened to clear their names by exposing their accusers as liars in the court of law. The counter accusations became too much that @Mayowade had to make her Twitter account private. Pulse has reached out to her for an interview. She is yet to respond.
This #MeToo incident has however raised a concern. If you have been accused of rape, do you have the right to make a counter-accusation and deny or roll over and let the court of public opinion bury you as a rapist and or a molester?
This problem is not only unique to Nigerian millennials who are having this conversation on Twitter. In America, it is a concern too where certain famous men who have been acquitted of rape charges are still hounded by past allegations.
In the Nigerian context, this grey area is made more grey because women who are victims of sexual assault cannot trust law enforcement to help them seek justice. Also, there isn't a wide array of support systems for victims of rape and sexual assault. Apart from the cultures of fear and shame, these are the reasons why it takes a while for rape victims to come out. And when a rape victim comes out, months or years after the incident, it's her word against his.
A week before the #MeToo storm, a true life story that touched on sexual harassment, coercion and consenttrended on Twitter. It started out as a rape accusation only for it to seemingly morph into a case of (alleged?) coercion.
Now let's make this clear. In a country that has an embarrassingly wrong attitude towards rape and sexual assault, the burden of proof should be with the rape accused and not the victim. We have to understand this. The patriarchal system is already against the woman already. The burden of proof shouldn't fall on her but rather the alleged molester or rapist.
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This means instead of poking holes at the statement of the rape of the victim, the accused should be the one to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is innocent of the charges against him.
We also should do away with the mob mentality that an individual who has been accused of sexual assault, harassment has no right to defend himself. He has a right to. We are in a modern society and not in the dark ages. If you call someone a rapist it is his God-given right to seek redress legally.
Our attention and energy should be focused on creating a healthy system where victims shouldn't hide in fear and shame to point fingers at their alleged molester.s This is what we should be trying to do. The back and forth on Twitter is just a battle of the sexes and who will come out on top.
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Until we 'all' do this, our #MeToo movements will make a lot of noise and make no impact.