Elizabeth Ohene writes: The missing outrage
In 1952, I was seven years old, I was in Class Three and I was living in Abutia with my grandmother. There was a celebration marking the opening of a bridge near or in a village called Podoe, which meant the road was now opened from Abutia to Juapong. I am told there was a political figure that came to perform the inauguration to signify the formal opening, but I did not know about those things then. I do remember exactly how I was dressed and how concerned I was that the white frilly socks my grandmother had made me wear had turned brown from all the dust along the route of the journey. When we got back from the celebrations, a man dragged me into his room and defiled me. Download Graphic NewsPlus I don’t remember what or anything that he said, but what I do remember is the smell of his body that has stayed with me to this day, 67 years after the event. I cannot say that I knew what he had done, I did not have a name for what he had done, I did not even have a name for the part of my body that had been violated. When I got to our house, a few meters away, my grandmother was not home and I went to lie down. The next day when my grandmother was giving me a bath, I heard her tell my aunt that I had got “edepua”, or something that sounded like that and that, as I understood it, meant there was pus coming from my vagina.
My grandmother did not ask me what, or if anything had happened. I don’t know why I did not tell her about the incident and I don’t know what she thought had happened to make my vagina sore; she applied a hot compress on me and made me sit over hot steam for what seemed like hours. When I was eleven years old, I was raped. He was not a stranger. The brouhaha
I know that the President of the Republic has made a pronouncement on the Comprehensive Sexuality Education, CSE brouhaha and the country can now relax in the knowledge that Ghana is safe and our children are safe from any danger of being exposed to dangerous sexuality propaganda. In the past two weeks, I have listened and read with awe and wonder at the outrage that took over this nation. I have listened with disbelief and dismay at the discussions that have swirled around the subject of sexual education and sexuality and I have wondered whether we are talking about the same country that I know and live in. I know and accept there is a difference between sexual education and sexuality education. I understand if CSE is seen as an attack on the long-held binary view of humans as being made up of males and females and, therefore, to be rejected as a step too far in our society. But why should our children not be equipped to deal with the abuse within the male/female sexuality we do accept? Exactly what is the culture that we are so keen to protect? Would it be the culture in which children are at bay on a daily basis from sexual predators in homes, schools, churches, markets and public places? On the very, very few occasions that some brave soul dares to make a report to the Police that a young girl has been defiled by a grown-up man in the family, the police will not be enthusiastic to prosecute and will be glad when someone appears to ask for the case to be “withdrawn and settled at home”. These are matters to be settled at home in our culture. Where is the outrage that should come with the daily reality of children being defiled by grown-up men in our homes? Why do we think it is “Ghanaian” and, therefore, acceptable for young girls of eight, ten, twelve, sent out to go and sell groundnuts, to be sexually molested by grown-up men who consider it a sport? Why is there no outrage at priests, teachers and lecturers targeting young girls in church and classrooms, and sexually molesting them and pressurising them into relationships? Exactly what is the sacred culture we are seeking to protect with teenage pregnancies on the increase? Where is the outrage that should seize all of us with our children having children? It seems to me that the greatest risk of sexual molestation that our children face comes from homes, shops, churches, markets, and from the people who shout the loudest that there should be no sex education for children. Surveys All the credible surveys that I have seen, point to about two per cent of the population in this country either being or having LGBT tendencies. How can it be that we are so terrified of what this two per cent of the population can do that we are unwilling to take a look at what the 98 per cent does? Why are we so tolerant of sexual harassment once it is from a man and the target is a female? I hold my breath and pray that there aren’t other seven-year-old Ghanaian girls being subjected to what I went through, but I fear that is not the reality and when the men are found out, the matter “will be settled at home”, and not in the courts. For two weeks, we the people of Ghana were united as one in outrage at the prospect of children, our dearly beloved children, being told in a classroom that there are homosexuals in this world. Go to your local police station today and find out how many cases of child defilement have been reported and try and follow up and see how many of them will make it into court. Look around you and see how many children are having babies and see if you can work up some outrage. Don’t smile or shake your head the next time a priest or a chief or a teacher or lecturer or any grown-up man takes advantage of a young girl. Maybe we should encourage more women and girls to tell their stories. We would discover there are many today still going through what that seven-year-old girl endured back in 1952 in the house next door. And there will be no outrage.