“Being forced to penetrate a woman had substantial negative impacts on men’s mental health, emotional well-being, and personal lives and relationships. These impacts included depression: PTSD; suicidal ideation and attempts; feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame; difficulties in forming relationships; and sexual issues/dysfunction.” – Lancaster University Law School
A conversation about defilement and rape among males only ends in whispers and laughter as masculinity and vulnerability stare at each other.
Ghana’s Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) in Section 98 states that “Rape is the carnal knowledge of a female of sixteen years or above without her consent.”
With carnal knowledge described as the penetration of the male sexual organ into the female sexual organ, the law doesn’t make provision for the prosecution of females who force penetration on males.
Therefore according to the law, no Ghanaian male can ever be raped by a woman.
However, in the case of a male culprit penetrating any person of the age of sixteen years or over without his consent, such an individual shall be guilty of a first-degree felony and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than twenty-five years.
Additionally, if it is with any person of sixteen years or over with his consent, the culprit is guilty of a misdemeanour.
In Section 101 which is on defilement of a child under 16 years of age, it stated that “defilement is the natural or unnatural carnal knowledge of any child under sixteen years of age”.
Therefore, a Ghanaian male under the age of 16 years can be acknowledged to be defiled.
Scene One: In the life of six-year-old Adongo Azure
Saturdays in the life of Adongo Azure [pseudo name], a six-year-old boy living in Ashaiman are mostly spent at home or a neighbour’s house where other kids converge to play various offline games like piloloo, alikoto, kpi-tin-gerh, etc. and lastly watch some cartoons.
This Saturday was quite different for Adongo as he moved to the house of Talata [a family lady friend]. She is older than him.
Nobody was home, and no child was in sight for a play on that day, so Talata convinces him to her parent’s room to watch some cartoons.
A few minutes later, she cleanly removed the clothes of the six-year-old boy who was lost in thought as this action might mean it was time to bathe.
Standing innocently, his soothsaying prowess couldn’t predict the event that would follow;
Smooching and cuddling continued as he wondered which new game this was. He would later learn in his adult life that he was satisfying a female’s sexual desire.
This is not a ‘Mama and Dada’ thing. Understood?
She’s in her early twenties and Adongo is only 6 years.
A section of the male Ghanaian population can relate to this story but there is a loud silence.
Scene Two: A Conversation Between Two Ghanaian Sexual Survivors
Akolgo is in his early twenties and a survivor of sexual abuse.
Responding to a question, “As a male, were you sexually abused during your childhood?” a conversation began between two Ghanaian men.
Akolgo: [begins to recount his experience] I was a victim of sexual abuse for over 10 years by our house help. It took me years to heal. It affected my relationships. Thank God for the help I got. It wasn’t easy but I am in a better space now.
Adongo: [responding] Man, that might have been hard. Mine was a family friend who was a little older, and we used to play at their house.
Charley the girl used me as a sex toy for some months. I didn’t know what it meant until one time they preached it at church then it hit me like a stray bullet during a protest.
Akolgo: [sympathising with Adongo] I am sorry bro. I couldn’t have any true relationship for so many years. It was just more of sex for me. I couldn’t love properly. Also, I couldn’t have genuine intentions [when in a romantic relationship].
I knew I needed help.
But I knew people would mock me. My English teacher helped me when I entered university. The teacher introduced me to some counsellors. For two years, it was just trauma, healing, and unlearning. My family never knew and they still don’t know. But I am in a much much better head space.
I am able to love properly and not just limit everything to sex. Like being fucked at least twice times a day for at least 10 years was wild. You wouldn’t know until you cannot actually function in a relationship without sex. But yeah.
Adongo: [sharing more about its impact] That also influenced my behaviour with ladies where I vehemently tell them not to touch me because I might just have sex with them and further use them as sex objects.
So while I loved them as humans, I made sure I reduced body contact and anything that might make me touch them inappropriately because I wouldn’t spare them. This didn’t occur to me to ask for help.
I continued with the strict church doctrine about relationships, which helped me. I always feared that I would take advantage of women and girls so I created so many walls not to ignite any sexual emotion.
Akolgo: You were better. Because it actually messed me up totally. Mentally, and physically. Anyway, that’s about it.
Adongo: Mine didn’t last for a long time. Like a few months. Man, thanks for sharing.
The conversation transitioned into finding solutions.
Akolgo: I think men should voice the stories. Society should not stigmatise men who are victims. Female abusers should also be jailed like men. Support groups should be created to help. There was one session where we were ten university students sharing our story and how we are coping, so more of that.
– Ends –
The conversation ends with words of encouragement and assurance to be better men as Wanlov The Kubolor said on Koo Kumi’s ‘The Griot’ “I no go touch anybody without demma permission. I no be rapist so I no go rape”
Scene Three: The Impact of Sexual Abuse
The reoccurring reason for male sexual survivors not reporting has been the case of stigmatisation and others explain that they were too young to understand what they experienced.
Also, a depressing question such as “If you didn’t like it why did your manhood erect?”
Through informal interviews with about six male survivors, I collated the following stories on its impact on their lives;
- Difficulty in being in a ‘romantic relationship’ as the focus is always on sex rather than building a life partner despite seeking to establish that.
- Aggression towards the female sex and being disinterested in a female body
- Using force and manipulation to satisfy their sexual desires
- Develop a love for older women. For example, a male who married at 25, explained that he had developed a love for older women and despite the wife being younger, he continuously had difficulty in his marriage.
These candid responses present the realities of male survivors and do not promote or endorse sexual behaviours.
Most of them said they were healing. Therefore, does this mean “One should know about their partner’s first sexual experience?”
Conversation with Psychologist Mohammed Salma
Question: What is the Ghanaian perception of sexual harassment?
Answer: To be very honest it’s not the best because most of the time we have so many misconceptions on sexual harassment. There’s a lack of understanding not just of the definition but also of the technicalities of what makes up sexual abuse.
Most of the time the victims are rather stigmatized. We don’t appreciate that beyond the physical harm that occurs especially in extreme cases, there are so many psychological or mental health defects that the victims go through.
In fact, legally we don’t even acknowledge that a man can be raped as a society so you can just imagine how that puts the victim rather in a very uncomfortable position.
Most families don’t want to be tagged with having a member have gone through something like that is it is considered a sort of disgrace although it isn’t the fault of the victim whether male or female.
Question: How does sexual abuse happen?
Answer: Technically any form of abuse especially sexual abuse is more of power dynamics probably the perpetrator having been in a position to dominate or enforce his or her will on the victim but using a sexual way or sexual needs to do that so the factors are varied and they are complex it can start from the environments, personalities, etc.
Most of the time perpetrators actually study their victims. They make sure that the person is vulnerable in a position whereby they can assert their dominance and perhaps the victim will not be believed or understand so they ‘groom’ victims basically.
Handling of male sexual survivors; the way forward?
- There should be sensitization not just any kind of education but letting everybody including the literate and first point of contact for abuse cases such as; the medical system, the police, the lawyers and then the community.
- Education; like letting people be aware of some of the signs of grooming. Most of the time people don’t realise that before an abuse actually takes place there’s some kind of grooming process because most of the time the perpetrators are people we know and not strangers however there are cases of strangers too.
Religion vs. Male Sexual Abuse
Question: What will you do if a male reports a case of sexual assault?
- Muslim Cleric – Whatever judgment is stated in the Quran for a man who sexually abuses a female is what will be delivered in the case of anyone who sexually abuses a male.
- Christian Youth Leader – I will probe to know the gravity of the harassment. If it can be handled in the house, if not I will advise so or report to the Police.
The Way Forward
It is easy to trivialise men’s recount of sexual abuse drains them emotionally. Therefore, one should not do the following when men talk about sexual harassment:
- Don’t tell them ‘worse things happen’
- Never respond with ‘not all women are sexual predators’.
- Women are victims too
Below are some suggestions for addressing sexual violence against men
- Re-program public education on gender-based violence to reflect both sexes; male and female.
- Revision of the Criminal Offences Act to be gender-inclusive on issues of rape and sexual offences cases like the Kenya law in its Section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act, No. 3 of 2006, which defines rape as: “a person commits the offence of rape if he or she intentionally and unlawfully commits an act which causes penetration with his or her genital organ; the other person does not consent to the penetration; or the consent is obtained by force or by means of threat or intimidation or any kind.
- Operate periodic safe groups for boys/men to share their concerns in schools and communities
- An operational male advice line
- A national helpline for male victims of domestic violence