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‘Don't You Touch My Sister': Guinean Citizens Rally Against Rape

Guinee Violence

Guineans march against sexual violence. Photo via Facebook – Les Observateurs. Used with permission

At the end of 2015, the Guinean blogosphere voiced their outrage in unison after a video circulated on social media that seemed to depict an attempted rape of a girl by a well-known rapper in Conakry, Guinea.

Civil society organizations organized a march against rape and violence against women in Conakry in response to the video, with bloggers spreading the word under the hashtag #TouchePasAMaSoeur (Don't You Touch My Sister).

According to the Guinean website Gnakry Live, the video that ignited the outrage appeared on October 28. In it, a young woman is threatened at knifepoint to disrobe, and she complies. The video is filmed from the alleged rapist's point of view.

The accused, rapper Tamsir Toure, despite denying any wrongdoing on his Facebook, was eventually arrested over charges of sexual violence.

In a conservative society such as the Guinean society, rape and other forms of violence against women are shrouded in a veil of hypocrisy, forcing the victims to remain silent on what they have endured.

‘Today, sexual violence in Guinea has a face’

The citizen rally started after Fatou Baldé Yansane, president of the Association of Leading Women in Guinea, appealed to others through a post on her Facebook page:

Ça n'arrive pas qu'aux autres. 75% des filles sont victimes de tentative ou de viol entre 8 et 20 ans. Dans la zone spéciale de Conakry, on estime à 96% de femmes victimes des violences basées sur le genre. Ces chiffres proviennent d'une étude multi sectorielle PNUD, autorités policières et judiciaires de guinee sur une durée de trois ans.

It does not only happen to others. 75% of girls aged between 8 and 20 are victims of attempted rape or rape. In a specific borough of Conakry, around 96% of women are estimated to be victims of gender-related violence. These numbers came from a United Nations Development Programme study and included data taken from the Guinean police and judicial authorities over a three-year period.

After being informed of the intention of these civil society organizations to rally, the members of the Guinea Bloggers Association reacted fast to help. First, they started by condemning the acts individually on their blog, just like Cireass did on his blog Rivières du sud (Rivers from the South):

Aujourd’hui, les violences sexuelles en Guinée ont un visage [faisant allusion à l'accusé du viol en question dans la vidéo qui circule sur les réseaux sociaux]…
Nous devons soutenir cette victime présumée dont nous n’avons pas forcément besoin de connaître la personnalité. Nous devons la soutenir parce qu’en Guinée des femmes sont souvent violées dans l’impunité totale. Oui, nous devons la soutenir parce que nous avons des mères, des jeunes et grandes sœurs, des tantes, des nièces, des cousines, des amies et des femmes ou des petites amies que nous aimerions être en sécurité.
Nous devons soutenir cette femme parce que les relations sexuelles doivent être un plaisir partagé entre les deux partenaires. Pour la première fois, il faut que ces hommes comprennent que le sexe ne se force pas mais plutôt se négocie, et qui parle de négociation s’attend à des réussites et/ou à des échecs.

Today, sexual violence in Guinea has a face…
We should support the alleged victim without necessarily having to know her personality. We should support and stand by her since in Guinea women are often raped in total impunity. Yes, we should support her since we have mothers, younger and older sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins, female friends and wives or girlfriends that we wish to keep safe.
We should support these women since sexual relations should be a shared pleasure between two partners. For the first time, these men should understand that sex should not be imposed but negotiated. And whoever talks of negotiation should be prepared to both succeed and/or fail.

Cireass provided more information on the laws against sexual violence, underlining that rape should in theory be taken very seriously in Guinea, citing Article 321 of the penal code. But in practice, that's not always the reality. Here is the content of the article, as explained in his post:

Le viol n’est pas une petite infraction. Selon l’Article 321 du Code pénal, “Tout acte de pénétration sexuelle, de quelque nature qu’il soit, commis sur la personne d’autrui par violence, contrainte ou surprise, constitue un viol. Le viol sera puni de la réclusion criminelle à temps de 5 à 10 ans. Toutefois, le viol sera puni de la réclusion criminelle à temps de 10 à 20 ans lorsqu’il aura été commis soit sur une personne particulièrement vulnérable en raison d’un état de grossesse, d’une maladie, d’une infirmité ou d’une déficience physique ou mentale, soit sur un mineur de moins de 14 ans, soit sous la menace d’une arme, soit par deux ou plusieurs auteurs ou complices, soit par un ascendant légitime, naturel ou adoptif de la victime ou par une personne qui a abusé de l’autorité que lui confèrent ses fonctions. La tentative de viol sera punie comme le viol lui-même.

Rape is not a benign infraction here. According to Article 321 of the Penal Code, “Every act of sexual penetration, whatever its nature, perpetrated on another individual using violence, coercion or surprise, constitutes a rape. Rape shall be punished with 5 to 10 years in criminal detention. Nonetheless, rape will be punished with 10 to 20 years in criminal detention when it is perpetrated on an individual particularly vulnerable due to pregnancy, illness, infirmity or physical or mental deficiency, on a minor aged less than 14 years, at gunpoint, by two or more perpetrator or accomplices, by a legitimate, natural or adoptive ascendant of the victim or by any person who has abused the authority conferred on him/her by his/her functions. Attempted rape shall be punishable as rape itself.”

Subsequently, Alfa Diallo, one of the founding members of the Guinea Bloggers Association (like Cireass), published the following rallying call on Facebook. He asked all members of the association to join the protests:

Des activistes de la société civile guinéenne ont décidé de ne pas laisser cet acte impuni. Ils ont accompagné la victime à la police pour porter plainte et projettent une manifestation.
Mais vu que le présumé coupable n'a pas été arrêté, les risques que les autorités abandonnent l'affaire, s'il n'y a pas de pression, sont bien réels.
Je propose donc qu'Ablogui, en tant qu'organisation citoyenne, se joigne aux autres organisations pour maintenir la pression sur nos autorités notamment sur internet.
Cela passe d'abord par la création d'un hashtag puis une campagne sur les réseaux sociaux.

Activists from the Guinean civil society have decided to speak out against this act of impunity. They have taken the victim to the police to file a complaint and intend to hold a protest.
However, since the supposed culprit has not been arrested, there are real risks of the authorities abandoning the case if there is no pressure being exerted on them. I then suggest that the Guinea Bloggers Association, as a citizen organization, should join the other organizations to maintain pressure on our authorities mainly online.
We can start first by creating a hashtag, then a campaign on social networks.

Photo de Alfa Diallo.

Poster to denounce sexual violence in Guinea via Alfa Diallo. Used with permission

#Don'tYouTouchMySister

After a brief debate, the members of Ablogui adopted the hashtag #TouchePasAMaSoeur (Don't You Touch My Sister) that they mainly used on Twitter and Facebook to engage people into joining the campaign:

There has been other hashtags too, such as #NonCNon (No Means No), #HalteAuViol (Stop Rape), and #LaPeurDoitChangerDeCamp (The Offenders Should Live in Fear Too).

Regarding the rapper accused of rape, Kindy Dramé wanted to avoid any confusion with the music band with which he worked with in the past. Dramé wrote the following:

Petite précision, il n'est pas membre du groupe. N'oublions pas le groupe @BanlieuZart est finaliste du Prix RFI Découverte. Prudence #Halteauviol en Guinée.

Just a small matter to clarify, he is not a member of the group. Don't forget that the group @BanlieuZart was a finalist for the Radio France International Prize. Be careful #HalteAuViol (Stop Rape) in Guinea

Abdouraim Bah shared a publication by Ousmane Fédérateur Guinée Yattara on his Facebook, page in which one can read:

Nous savons tous qu'elles sont nombreuses à subir quotidiennement les agissements de cette société injuste. Nous vivons dans une societe où il y'a bcp de facteurs rétrogrades et où les femmes ont peur de decrire certaines mésaventures  Cette histoire serait certainement méconnue si ce criminel n'avait été aussi sûr de lui [jusqu'à filmer et publier la scène]. Les guinéens doivent soigner leur société. 28 octobre fut le résultat d'une impunité érigée en mode de gouvernance et de l'absence d'une éducation qui prend en considération la dignité et de la vie humaine

We know that there are many women who suffer daily from the actions of an unjust society. We live in a society where there are many retrograde factors that make women afraid of describing certain misadventures. This story would've remained in the dark if the criminal was not so sure of himself [to the extent of filming and publishing this scene]. Guineans should heal their society. October 28 was the consequence of entrenched impunity in the governance and the absence of an education that takes into consideration dignity and human life.

After the rally, discussion continued within the different groups on Facebook and on Twitter.

In his answer to a question from the President of the Guinea Bloggers Association, Kouyah Kouyate, Guinean blogger Solo Niaré revealed the complexity of the victim's legal status and state of mind:

C'est méconnaitre l'état d'esprit d'une victime d'agression sexuelle en général. Elle n'entreprendra aucune initiative, si tu veux bien savoir. C'est à nous d'aller très vite vers elle. Renseigne-toi, stp, sur la psychologie des victimes de viol, que ce soit en Afrique ou ailleurs, c'est pareil. Elles se recroquevillent sur elles-mêmes et, au final, tombent dans un trouble aux conséquences très graves.
Moi, ce que je dis, si on veut participer à sa réhabilitation ou la sauver en un mot, c'est de prendre cette initiative car nous sommes les mieux placés pour l'instant à le faire.

The state of mental distress of the victim of sexual aggression is difficult to grasp in general. It is possible for a victim to not take any initiatives, if you care to know. We should be the ones who reach out to her to provide guidance and support. Please, try to be informed on the rape victims’ psychology. Whether it happens in Africa or elsewhere, the conundrum is the same for the victim. These girls and women might isolate themselves from the rest of the world and eventually face additional mental disorders with graver consequences. I personally think that if we wish to participate in her recovery or in her well-being, we should take this initiative since we are the one who, for now, are in a better mental place to do so.

This rally against rape and violence against women is a premiere in Guinea and could mark a shift in the approach concerning this important problem. Awareness needs to be increased, which could be achieved by regularly holding information campaigns.

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