The public backlash and outrage from a sex tape leaked and shared through social media in Ghana has given one Ghanaian activist “a rare sense of relief” while another said more needs to be done to protect women from public shaming.
On Monday, news media through Ghana reported that students at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) had screened a video on big screens in a public area of the university of two students having sex.
The video was also shared through social media.
While authorities of KNUST profusely denied that any of its students has been involved in a sex tape scandal, or it was screened at the university, the outrage caused by initial reports of it being screened was expressed though mainstream media.
However, social media saw plenty of bashing and victim blaming of the girl. Social media users posted the video or told other users to contact them if they wanted a copy.
A search on Facebook of 'KNUST sex tape' finds screeds of social media users offering to share the video, and share their opinions and judgments of the female victim.
Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, human rights advocate and founding editor of GhanaCelebrities.com shared screenshots of people on Facebook asking for the tape to be shared with them, and casting judgment on the girl.
In a piece on his website he wrote about the criminality of what happened, and called for more to be done to kill a growing culture of shaming women in Ghana.
“Many have questioned the moral correctness of what the students did — condemning the screening of the tape as repugnant and immoral,” he wrote on GhanaCelebrities.com
“For me, it’s not an issue of moral inconvenience but it’s a legal crime against all women, committed by those who took charge to screen the tape and perhaps those who even participated in the public viewing."
He cited Section 281 (C) of Ghana’s Criminal Offences Act which makes it a criminal offence for any person to distribute or exhibit any obscene video or tape publicly; or to make a business of lending any obscene material.
“Therefore, the discussion and condemnation should be taken out of the moral pit and be thrown to where it rightfully belongs—-a criminal offence.”
“If University students who ought to know better can publicly disregard the laws of Ghana and act without conscience just so that they can achieve their deplorable motive of shaming another, then the law must be allowed to sweep them off their feet and deposit them where they deserve without any dose of mercy,” he wrote.
He wanted “Women Interest Based Organisations” to “help kill the brisk growing culture of young people shaming and making the lives of young women hell in Ghana” through sex tape leaks.
While Dilys Sillah, founder of sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence victim support and prevention organisation Who Will Hear My Cry which works in both Ghana and the UK told Pulse Ghana that for once she had a “rare sense of relief” looking at the public outcry over the tape.
“This is not the first time we have been made privy to the crass and shameless acts of those masquerading as gentleman, who have publicly shared sex tapes of unsuspecting partners," she said.
She said most often the focus is on the female, blaming her for getting into the situation with no mention of who was behind the camera.
She said some reactions to this release filled her with hope.
“It was a first to hear such contempt and outrage for this sex tape being shown on a university campus of all places. People were upset and disgusted that such a thing should happen to this young lady and rightly so. It makes a change for the focus to be where it needed to be, and that was on this total sleaze bag that sought to damage the reputation of a girl whose only crime was to fall for such a despicable character.”
Sillah said more needs to be done to raise men to respect women.
“We need to raise our young men better and teach them to respect women even if they feel the girl or woman doesn't respect themselves.
“Personal standards, integrity and personal values must come into play somewhere.”
She said the actions of these men cannot always be as a response to situations or the so called message the girl is putting out - “these young men need to take responsibility for the garbage they embroil themselves in.”
“If I were the parent of this man I would be so ashamed and disappointed that my son would allow such a disgrace to befall both my child and the family.”
Ghanaian actress and activist Lydia Forson said this was the latest in a number of instances in Ghana where women are shamed and blamed when they are put in these circumstances.
“It seems for most men the only way to shoot a woman down is with sex, it’s become their weapon of choice to completely degrade a woman; and in their opinion, humble her," she wrote on her personal website.
Forson asked if young men witness their mothers beaten, see their colleagues assaulted by men in authority, rape victims ridiculed by the media, and politicians verbally assault a woman who they think has offended them, and get away with it, how were they meant to know any better?
She noted while people condemn and speak out about these kind of issues, the general public’s reaction is usually “so nonchalant” that is supports the idea that “crimes against women aren’t punishable by law”.
In her piece, she implored people to refrain from circulating naked pictures and sex videos that have been leaked, as doing so will further the agenda of the person who leaked, and cause the victim more trauma.
“You think watching and sharing it makes you any different from the person that leaked it?” she asked.
“What’s even more horrifying is the participation of women in the degrading and humiliation of other women.”
She expressed frustration at the often heard comments that if people didn't want others to see their sex tapes, they shouldn't film them in the first place.
“Which may seem valid, except that just because two consenting adults made a sex tape regardless of the risks involved, doesn’t mean they wanted to share it with the public. If they did they would have released it themselves online.”
Forson said while the KNUST authorities have come out to say this incident didn’t happen on campus and the students in the video circulating aren’t from the university, even if they are right, “it's not impossible for this to happen in Ghana, especially when so many are already circulating this video.”
“So dear authorities, how about outright condemning the videos in circulation, even if it isn’t from the university or they’re aren’t students of yours, they’re still people.”
Whoever was behind it, Forson called for the perpetrators to be put through the same humiliation the victim endured.
“Because for a lot of these people it’s the only way they can understand the depth of what they’ve done, it’s the only befitting punishment for them.'
“What they’ve done to this woman cannot be taken away, even with a life sentence, her video will live on for her children to see, so perhaps if they’re made to feel her pain, they can one day become advocates for change themselves (wishful thinking). Even if they don’t, I doubt they will ever think of doing anything remotely related to this.”
It wasn't only activists who spoke out of the tape, students did too.
The Women's Commission of the National Union of Ghana Students also condemned the leak and offered full support to the victim in a statement it called the leak humiliating and “very barbaric”.
“We sincerely share in the woeful plight of our dear sister and assure her of our strongest support. Indeed every woman within the society is to be deeply worried and concerned because such act is not only against the victim in the tape but against the rights of all women in this country.”