African women are under siege. This past week alone, Zimbabwean twitter was abuzz with sex scandals and a sextape was part of that mix. The sextape was particularly disturbing as there were threats by the girl involved to commit suicide after the boy leaked it on Youtube. In fact, the girl's family called the young man telling him that the girl had committed suicide, a claim no one has been able to verify. Whatever the case might be, a sextape made by youths was leaked and the girl was devastated. The scandal was as messy as that of 2015 when the country's Miss World Zimbabwe queen was dethroned after her nude pictures were leaked. Handing a petition to legislators, the dethroned model said, "This is not just my issue. I’m fighting because I want this thing to end. Just like every other woman, I want to treasure the special, intimate moments that I have with my boyfriend. As women, we just want to make sure there are laws to protect us."
In these two events, one feature is particularly conspicuous: women bore the brunt of the leaks. In fact, in both instances, equally culpable men leaked the pictures and footage yet only women were punished. Lisa Vetten, a researcher in the field of violence against women told the Mail and Guardian, "The idea that immorality is a feminine characteristic is deeply rooted and stubbornly difficult to dislodge."
The natural reaction after nudes leak is to attack the woman who posed for the pictures in a moment of private intimacy with her partner. The male partner is present at shoot (and is usually the reason why such a shoot even occurred in the first place) but his morality is not even considered when society judges. Shah's assertion in Sluts 'r'us: Intersections of gender, protocol and agency in the digital age can never be disputed. She says, "Those identified as “victims” of revenge pornography are sluts, not because they are necessarily engaged in slutty practices. In fact, most of them are defined as “good” women engaged in intimate activities with men whom they trust. They become “slutty” as their images migrate and reproduce by the perpetual memory machine of the Web...these “sluts” are then shamed for putting themselves in situations which make them precarious and subject to technologies of sharing and distribution beyond our control "
At the end of the day, it becomes all too clear that revenge pornography is a species of Gender Based Violence. It could never be justified by pointing to the victim's naivete in consenting to the filming; doing that would be akin to blaming women for being sexually assaulted. If the victim's consent is so important in the whole issue, why is it then disregarded when the images or footage are leaked? There is sickening hypocrisy at play here! Women are being violated daily as more and more people view their nakedness, branding them sluts in the process while the villains are absolved of all wrong doing. In some instances, these villains even become the heroes. It is even scarier that the women have little legal recourse available to them. Countries are not expediently enacting laws that directly attack the practice. England, Wales and some states in America have led the way in dealing with this vice but other countries are simply not jumping on this train fast enough. Women are exposed and at the mercy of a lascivious world that is all to keen to gaze at their nakedness without their consent. There is no sense of urgency because the issue affects women. Women are no longer in charge of their own dignity. It is sick, depraved and should be illegal.
Header Image Source: This Is Africa