Big Men Small Girls
When the news broke that IMF president, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, had been acccused of raping a hotel maid, it sounded like something out of a sleazy made-for-TV movie. Things took a more sordid turn once it emerged that the maid in question was West African. Rumour even had it she was Ghanaian… before some smart journalist realized the difference between Ghana and Guinea.
There is something deeply distasteful about the notion of the head of an organisation that many feel helps keep the developing world in a developing state taking advantage of a citizen of a developing country. In fact, the image conjures up other images. Of power taking advantage of powerlessness. Of the rape of Africa.
That said, the ‘Big Man, Small Girl’ thing is not so shocking here. In the past few months, there has been more than one story of pastors, for example, being accused of abusing female members of their flock. One suspects that this sort of thing happens here more regularly than one might think. Barely below the surface of regular life. In the same way that most of Ghana’s sexual shenanigans occur just below the surface. There is so much that Ghanaians publicly disapprove of but privately revel in.
I know too many girls with stories of unwanted attention, from anyone from the man on street to the family friend who developed less than family-like thoughts for them. If I had a Cedi for every female friend I have with such a story, I would be one of Ghana’s wealthiest men.
Men often say it is women who have changed. “Poor man in wife o, be rich man in girl o / As you no get money, them go carry baby go” is the way one song puts it. Of course, it’s not as simple as that. Some men believe Ghana is already an equal society and feel that girls have just grown lazier over time, and more demanding of their money. Usually this money is given exchanged for sex or the promise of sex. Men have financial power while women wield another form of power within this sexual economy.
Everyone struggles to send their little girls to school but where men have problems taking orders from women at work or won’t vote for a female presidential candidate on principle, how many of these girls do we really expect to grow to be completely financially independent? Educated or not, our girls are groomed to rely on men. In fact, they are insulted – not admired – by both men and women if they become too independent.
This is in itself bad enough. The fact that these relations can turn violent is worse. Rape is more common than we think. Not every case of rape is reported, especially by those who do not think of the rape of a wife by her husband as rape. While they may not go as far as describing it as an act of love, they may still say it is about rights.
Everyone has the right to say no though.
Even a maid.