Cameroon - Speaking Up Against Rape Is Just One Part of the Solution
By Comfort Mussa, Award Winning Cameroon Journalist, Via Dignity TV
Although advocates for womens rights in Cameroon encourage rape victims to speak out, socio economic realities on the ground still makes it difficult for victims to seek for justice.
Recently, I came face to face with this reality as I tried to help a close friend who had been raped. As expected, she was traumatized following the incident. I held her as she narrated her ordeal. I could hear the pain in her voice as I held her close. I let her cry her heart out. The perpetrators did not use a condom, and we needed to rush her to hospital her medical check up.
We made contacts with some private clinics and were referred to the government hospital. We were told that in case of accidental exposure to HIV and other STIs it was best for us to go to a government hospital. When we arrived the hospital routine consultations had ended and we went straight to the Emergency Department. There were four other people there but as far as the victim was concerned, four people are more than a crowd if you need o talk about something as personal as a rape.
I stood there waiting for the other people in the room to leave so we could be alone with the nurse. We had no idea who the others were because they had no indenification batches or any uniform unlike the nurse in attendance.
The male nurse could not have been more nonchalant. He was chewing some roast corn, taking generous bites off the maize cob and speaking to us while he ate.
Nurse: Yes what do you want? Do you have an emergency?
Me: Yes, we do
Nurse:who has a problem .You or the girl. Whats the emergency? Is she pregnant and bleeding?
Me: No she is not pregnant and bleeding I was beginning to get annoyed, is that the only kind of case that qualifies as an emergency here. I wondered.
I leaned close to his table and whispered My friend says she was raped this afternoon
Nurse:Ok, thats not an emergency. You people should just take a seat outside and wait. I went out with my friend, and came back and stood at the door. As far as I was concerned, this was more than an emergency!
A couple of minutes later, the male nurse asked us to come back. We sat down and he took about 15 20 minutes to clear his desk, before attending to us. The door was left open and people kept moving in and out, some interrupting the consultation as he tried to get the facts of her story.
He asked for details of the rape. Before my friend could even make two sentences, he said:. How could you even do that How could you this, how could this have happened?
I just could not believe my ears. How could he be blaming the victim at this point? Victims often blame themselves and when they seek medical help, should not be under more pressure. They need love and assurances and not more blame for an incident they did not want. That is why some people will suffer in silence instead of reporting they had been raped.
This reminds me of an interview I once had with a lawyer on the subject of rape. He told me in no uncertain terms that women most often were responsible for being raped and remember this was from a supposedly learnt lawyer. The lawyer said the way some women dressed exposing enticing body parts was an invitation for rape.
I personally think that a woman cannot invite rape on herself. It doesnt matter if she wears a bikini or a burka! It does not matter if she visits you at your place or accept you pay her a visit in her house. It does not matter if she is 17 or 70; it does not matter if she allows you to kiss her at first. It does not matter if she is your girlfriend or a stranger. When/if a woman says NO, it means no. NO Means NO.
Back to my raped friend. When we finally met the doctor, he was much nicer. He didnt blame her. He did his checks, offered counsel, recommended some lap tests and then prescribed some medication. The consultation and tests cost about 5000FCFA. A medical certificate (required to file police report and set a case in motion) we were told will cost about 7.000FCFA. This all adds up and most rape victims in Cameroon cannot afford this.
When we eventually went over to the lab, the technician was visibly tired. As she took blood samples and vaginal smear for the test, she murmured about how tired and hungry she was. The danger of a tired nurse and the ratio of patients to medical personnel in Cameroon is a topic for another day.
Following the checks and lab tests, my friend received the medical help she needed to prevent any infections that she might have contracted from the sad encounter. However she has yet to get justice for what was done to her.
These socio-economic factors must be considered when urging women to report rape or speak out against it. Even when victims speak out and seek justice, the next question is if they will ever get any kind of justice.
- Violence against Women in the context of Political Transformations and Economic Crisis in the Euro-Mediterranean Region:
- Too Young to Wed
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo*
- Disposable Victims: Laws and Practices on Gender-related Killings of Women and Girls in the Islamic Republic of Iran