No place for cultural taboo in Cyberspace
by Ola Ogunyemi — University of Lincoln (UK)
April 17, 2008 – 03:01
The images of Darfur remind us of the scourge of war in Sudan. But implicitly, they tell the story of the emancipation of the victims of war from the burden of cultural taboos in African communities. The militants might have used rape as a form of torture precisely because it is a taboo among Africans that is rarely mentioned in conversation. However, what is usually kept secret and within the family is now a subject of discourse with millions of online audiences around the world. Evidence of this debate is on ‘Africa Have Your Say’ (AHYS) website, authored and monitored by the BBC World Service for indigenous and diasporan Africans. The embedding of attribution of responsibility into the framing of the social issues has endeared it to the global African diasporas.
Subsequently, it provides a forum for the victims of rape in Dafur to exercise their freedom of speech and break the taboo surrounding rape. For instance, one victim recounted the trauma of rape by stating that ‘before it was a big problem and the father or brothers of the girl would kill the person responsible. But now rape has become common because of the fighting…’ (Sudan survivors, 2007). It is widely known that Africans are reticent to question or challenge taboos because they are embedded within their cultural and religious practices. “When something is considered a taboo, it must not be talked about, done, mentioned, touched or looked at” (Madu, 2002:65). But the victims have shown courage to break cultural taboo by telling their stories and warning about the psychological effects of using rape as a weapon of war because ‘previously, the girls would be cast out of society and no young man would marry them. She would be ostracised…. However, ‘society is changing our ideas and they are supporting these women more by letting them live a normal live…’ (Sudan survivors, 2007).