This April, I am taking on one of the most difficult tasks ever in my career ─ staging an original musical on rape. Being the first of its kind in Ghana, I have written 16 songs to be performed to aid in telling the story.
Since 2015, my team and I have told varied stories on stage. All our stories are targeted at sparking conversations on topics that have been somewhat relegated to the background.
To impact society through unique storytelling, we have vowed to bring to prominence themes that will make Ghana (and Africa as a whole) better.
Titled IN THE PANTS OF A WOMAN, our new play entails a soul-gripping story that touches on sexual violence and how victims have been silenced through the actions of society.
Rape is a hard issue to confront in this part of our world.
It demands a lot of tact. It is almost an abominable topic, and that is why writing a story on it may be the last thing most playwrights will dare. However, I am wired differently.
I believe the theatre is a place where the hardest of issues must be confronted without fear or favour.
IN THE PANTS OF A WOMAN is a family musical that will cause great transformation in our society. The story sits on three foundations:
Empowering the abused
Many cases of abuse go unreported because victims are not empowered enough to do so. After all, we live in a society that is quick to blame the abused for their abuse.
Oftentimes, the perpetrator is assumed to have been ‘tempted’ by the skimpy skirt of the victim.
At other times, the victim’s account is discredited as a false accusation.
It is almost impossible to have abuse reported when we are quick to silence the abused. Little wonder many victims prefer to live in silence than bear the shame and stigma inflicted on them by society. Mind you, whenever a sexual abuser is intentionally not reported, we unintentionally expose more potential victims to them.
We will be shocked to know how many loved ones of ours have been sexually abused but never had the guts to report because of the wall society has erected for such victims. Fighting sexual abuse should be everyone’s duty. Others may be the victims today but your loved ones may be the victims tomorrow.
The musical, IN THE PANTS OF A WOMAN, is here to empower victims (both children and adults) to voice out their abuse. Cases of sexual abuse are not solved at home. They are not solved by opinion leaders or church elders. They are reported to the police!
An informed person is a threat to every potential abuser. When we empower people (especially children) to report any sort of abuse, perpetrators of the abuse become disempowered. Their space is threatened because they know they cannot get away with their actions.
As a society, fighting rape begins with disempowering abusers. This means not finding excuses for their wrongs. This means supporting victims all through their healing. Disempowering abusers means condemning rape and sexual jokes and people who mock victims.
In a world where news on rape is treated as comedy in some local media houses, abusers are empowered. In a place where the influential easily gets away with abuse, fellow abusers are empowered.
IN THE PANTS OF A WOMAN is a must-watch because it challenges our society to look at abuse through the lens of victims. We understand the weight of trauma that sits on these victims when we wear their shoes, at least. As long as everybody is a potential victim, the war against rape is a world war!
Developed nations are built on systems and institutions. Citizens have faith in strong institutions. They are confident that regardless, no one is above the law. Where these systems and institutions are non-existent, everyone is in control because no one is in control.
Weak institutions are manipulated.
They have no direction because they only tow the direction of the manipulator. The uncomfortable truth is, abuse of all forms exists where there are weak institutions. Hence, the last thing abused people would dare to do is to report.
They only put their lives at more risk.
Empowering victims of abuse to report sexual violence means having strong institutions that can take up reported cases and penalize culprits.
A toxic rape culture cannot be tackled effectively where institutions are weak. Weak institutions mean weak morals, hence, people will always prioritize their interests over integrity.
IN THE PANTS OF A WOMAN seeks to question the strength of our institutions.
Are our hospitals accessible to victims? When victims walk into any police station to report abuse, are they confident about getting their abusers nabbed? Would justice be served?
We will be fighting a lost battle if we don’t put our institutions into shape. Until we build a society where people of power cannot abuse their power and the people they are to serve, the fight against abuse can hardly be won.
When all has been said and done, may our piece of art change every piece of heart in society.
Kobina Ansah is a Ghanaian playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications (www.scribecommltd.com), an Accra-based writing firm.
His new play, IN THE PANTS OF A WOMAN, is a musical themed on rape showing on Saturday, 20th April and Sunday, 21st April, 2024 at National Theatre.
Inquiries - 0546098082.