Published byAnnette Gerritsen
Published on10 March 2017
The Nigerian version of “Big Brother,” the reality TV show known for featuring the worst excesses of human behavior, has sparked a conversation about sexual consent in this African country.
Nigerians have taken to social media to discuss the issue after a contestant, Ekemini Ekerette, (also known as Kemen) was booted off the show recently for appearing to molest another housemate as she slept.
The latest incident has led to soul-searching and recriminations in a country where studies show that rapes go largely unreported and victim blaming is common.
Influential political blogger Japheth Omojuwa recorded a video in which he said many people in Nigeria are “genuinely ignorant” about sexual consent. He said this is an opportunity for “Big Brother Naija,” as the show is called here, to use their platform to address “one of the biggest social issues in Nigeria — rape.”
The Lagos Mirabel Center, which provides support for victims of rape, says they have handled more than 2,252 rape cases since July 2014.
“The challenge is that some victims face a lot of stigmatization and they are not free to come out. Also, they don’t want to press charges because of pressures from their families, religious institutions and landlords,” center manager Juliet Olumuyiwa-Rufai said during a press conference Monday.
“The factor reinforcing rape is impunity,” she added. “If we have enough convictions, it will serve as a deterrent to others. We have not recorded up to 20 convictions since we started. Because of this, intending perpetrators are emboldened. Also, there is no support for the victims.”
In one notorious case, a video surfaced on YouTube in 2011 showing five men raping a woman at Abia State University in eastern Nigeria. It sparked public outrage, but police did not make any arrests because they said they couldn’t identify any suspects on the video and the woman had not resisted the assault.
The suspects in this case were never brought to justice.
Since Kemen’s expulsion from “Big Brother,” thousands of Nigerians have debated whether the show’s producers made the right decision. Many men and women have pointed blame at Tokunbo Idowu (“T-Boss”), the female contestant.
Some said they didn’t believe T-Boss was unaware of being touched while asleep.
Others thought it highlighted a bigger problem of sexual consent in Nigeria and talked about the casual groping and assaults they have faced in public places.
One of the most popular responses was a video, made by a British police force, that used a tea-drinking metaphor to raise awareness and understanding of what consent is.
The second season of “Big Brother Naija” premiered in January and is due to wrap up in April.