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Consent

MY ITAN SNIPPETS

The Who, What, When and everything in between

Earlier this month, there was an influx of horrid news inclining towards sexual violence crimes in my country.

First, a girl was raped in a holy sanctuary, then an hijabi assaulted a few minutes away from her home.

Sadly, both girls were brutally murdered by the assailants, and shockingly, a lot more cases of sexual assault followed suit.

Society needs to do better; in addition to reprimanding the final product — the rapist, we need to understand that it’s the little processes (and ignorance of core principles) that shape him into the ‘monster’ he becomes.

Many homes, friendships, and relationships are lacking an understanding of a foundational principle; the thin line that separates what’s accepted and what is unequivocal assault.

That line is what this write-up would be addressing today, the line called CONSENT.

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Ìtàn’s latest online session on Consent featured lawyer, sexual rights advocate, and founder of Justice Beyond Hashtags — Ifeoma Solanke.

She not only shed more light on the principle but did so by letting us know our rights and responsibilities as citizens and human beings.

My points here will be backed by Ifeoma’s shared sections of the Nigerian constitution (yes, this is a low-key class on human rights), a few of her statements, and how they apply to you and the other involved party.

So let’s dive right in…to the who, what, when, and everything in between of consent…

Who

Before we can actually get a foundational understanding of what consent is, I believe there should first be knowledge of who’s legally accepted to give it (also, ‘‘Who, What, When’’ sounded a lot better than ‘‘What, Who, When’’).

Section 31 of Child’s Right Act: (1) No person shall have sexual intercourse with a child…(3) Where a person is charged with an offence under this section, it is immaterial that–(a) the offender believed the person to be of or above the age of eighteen years;

Like many other ‘adult’ things in this world, the legally accepted age of consent in Nigeria is 18 years (so if you’re this or a lot greater, then congrats, you have the C. card).

However, something new and perplexing I learned from the session was that that law doesn’t apply to all parts of the country:

Section 282 of Penal Code for States in the North: A man is said to commit rape … with a woman in any of the following circumstances… 1(e) with or without her consent when she is under fourteen years of age or of unsound mind.

Yup, you read that right.

According to the Penal code, the legal age of consent in Northern states is 14 years.

So, yes, men twice as old as little Khadija are within their legal rights if she gives the green light.

What

‘‘Consent is a voluntary agreement between two adults to have sex or do anything sexual.’’ — Ifeoma Solanke (slide 1 on Consent)

Now that we’ve gotten an idea of who’s got the C. cards and a brief definition of what it is, here’s how to know if you legally have received ‘C-ard’ from someone else:

Section 264 of Criminal Law of Lagos: (1) … a person consents if he agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make and communicate that choice.

Summarily, consent is pretty much an agreement between two (or more; yes that’s the world we live in) people to engage in sexual activity within the limits of body autonomy (i.e. freedom to approve of anything happening to their body).

Simple enough, right?

Well, if it happened to be that simple, there would have been no need for the Consent session or this article in the first place.

So, here are KEY words encompassing the sphere of Consent:

  • Voluntary (removing the ‘No’ option from the table isn’t consent),
  • Sober (them ‘asking for it’ after getting intoxicated isn’t consent),
  • Enthusiastic (them showing signs of fear or indecision isn’t consent),
  • Verbal (them keeping silent or ‘implying’ with revealing clothing isn’t consent),
  • Non-coerced (forcing a ‘Yes’ by blackmailing, threatening or abusing them isn’t consent),
  • Continual (that it was a ‘Yes’ in the beginning but tapered down to a ‘No/Stop’ and yet you held on to the first answer isn’t consent),
  • Active (that they are unconscious or not in the right state of mind to say what’s allowed every step of the way isn’t consent),
  • Honest (getting a clear-cut understanding about what is and isn’t acceptable IS consent).

If there’s a lack or flaw in any of the above-stated terms, then my friend, you’re tending toward the red zone.

Another thing I learned from the session was that according to Nigerian law, consent from the mentally-challenged is considered invalid.

And, be reminded that a lack of consent = rape.

When

‘‘When you have consent, be sure to check that at every stage of the sexual activity, you still have consent. This is why feedback is good. Like I said, silence is not consent.’’

I think the best way to explain the ‘When’ of consent is with tea.

Blue Seat Studios ascribed sexual activity to tea and exemplified how asking if the other person is OK with having some is analogous to consenting to sexual activity.

Here’s my remix of the analogy…

  • You should ask if I’d like some tea, and the type of tea I’m OK with, before attempting to make me a cup,
  • That I had a cup last night, doesn’t make it OK for you to pour some down my throat this morning,
  • That I had Orange tea last time, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a more subtle Lavender this time,
  • Downing four cups with you last week doesn’t mean I’d like any today…

If you’ve been following so far, you understand how important active communication (before, during, and after sexual activity) is; in fact, consent and communication are two sides of the same coin, and should both be seen as a necessity rather than an option.

If you happen to be thinking ‘‘…wouldn’t that ruin the mood?’’ or ‘‘Isn’t that very robotic?’’

Well, know that there are fluid, ‘non-robotic’ ways of seeking consent from first base all the way to home-run.

Statements like ‘‘…are you OK with this baby?’’ or ‘‘…would it be alright if we did it this way?’’ can serve as your starter pack (I don’t know why you guys are doing like you didn’t read Harlequin novels).

And, if they’re not OK with any of the steps, well, that’s your cue to put a leash on your hormones and respect their decision anyway!

Photo by Ese Onakpoya from The Consent Workshop, OAU

‘‘The idea of teaching consent and body autonomy is for us to curb our sexual indiscretions, so that we do not get in trouble. Look after yourself and be deliberate about sex.’’

Be reminded that, it is the little actions (and inactions) that eventually make the impact.

We all have our roles to play in curbing the sexual violence menace by promoting consent advocacy;

Educate your sons and daughters on their sexual rights, and train them to know and respect the rights of others as well,

Let your guy friends know that their masculinity is intact (even more so) when they seek consent, and that asking, instead of assuming, puts them in a better position (make ogbanje hand no meet dem),

Let your girl friends understand how important their appreciation of consent from their guys is (you are part of the problem if you make them feel stupid for asking before initiating).

When in doubt, always settle for No.

It is better to be seen as ‘dull’ (for asking and knowing your boundaries every step of the way) than to be labeled a rapist.


Consent was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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