The double-edged sword of technology – case of sexually abused University of Ghana student


I have been reading a lot of blog posts (DAIXY, Dustyfootgirl, CriticalPoint)and comments about the case of Amina and one thing is clear, most people clearly and unequivocally denounce the actions of the Mensah Sarbah hall students who took the law into their own hands and sexually assaulted a fellow student who they had caught stealing.

What led to this blog post were a couple of comments by (mostly) some men that this case of Amina [sexual assault] is being given too much attention and blown out of proportion. What you find common in their comment is that Amina is getting so much attention because it is a case of a woman, or in some cases saying that same noise would not be made if it was a man who was [sexually] assaulted (by other men or women?).

This argument, I think reflects a general mindset of some men who feel threatened by womens’ rights and pro-feminist [affirmative] actions or a denouncement of any male testosterone-charged acts of folly that in their minds is their privilege.

But this blog post is not about such men who can’t distinguish a condemnation of an ACT as heinous as the one perpetuated from a feminist agenda. This is about the role of technology in the unique context of a sexual assault case caught on tape, shared over the internet and the issues arising.

Technology has played an important role albeit positive and negative.

1. It has given a wider audience an opportunity to see an act so heinous we’re all reeling from the effect of a wanton display of human rights abuse.

2. It has preserved forever a traumatic experience of an individual.

3. It has brought to the fore the human taste for the morbid and also brought out the best of/multiple human emotions including fear, empathy and need for justice.

4. It has helped open an opportunity for mob-justice to be seen and addressed.

I am among the many people who have witnessed ponding, [as I described in my previous post] but like most of you, we have not seen it on YouTube. I can barely recollect the faces or names of the few guys I witnessed going through a ponding session and somehow I am happy for it. Whoever underwent ponding for theft wouldn’t have to relive that experience every time they saw the video somewhere. The internet is like an echo that never ends; an echo that is carried on and on; an echo that is reechoed just when one thinks the sound is dying down. Amina will forever remain in the minds of people because of this video but also she will relive the experience whenever she sees the video reported on the news, mentioned in a conversation or even intimated in a conversation that her ordeal was ever captured on video and probably residing on people’s hard drives and phones.

The human taste for the morbid is a paradox. We feed on tragedy but don’t want to be in them. We have to even exercise restraint to not go back to see this video as is the case of most people [who for bizarre reasons still have the video sitting on their desktops]. As Daixy said in her post, it was scary how fast the video went viral. Would people have recommended the video so fast and with glee if it were something intellectually challenging or even a newly discovered animal or natural phenomenon? I think not!! Some of the comments I saw on twitter and facebook made me wonder if some of those people would have acted any differently from the assaulters of Amina and the possibility that some might have still scares me.

But there are positives that should be highlighted, credit that can be given to technology [not to mention the fool who decided to video it for his private/ viral/ public consumption of mob-justice]. The video can lead to the apprehension of some students (witnesses or perpetrators) and help in investigations that will? (may) ultimately lead to justice for Amina and the correction of a wrong that shouldn’t have happened in the first place, on a university campus of all places.

Technology has brought to light something that most of us would never have had the opportunity to see or to even appreciate the gravity of. That in itself is not a benefit but it definitely serves as a call to action and will forever gnaw at the minds of people in authority till they do something in response that will be measured in the public eye as a commensurate response to the ordeal Amina went through.

Our attitude to mob-justice has been challenged to the core by the video we saw. The campaigners against mob-justice now have a powerful tool to highlight their point. Our own fears of the [remote] possibility of us or someone we know suffering same ordeal has rocked us to the core as it should. In a call for justice for Amina we’re acting on a natural instinct of self-preservation. No one wants to go this way.

I must say that I have not seen the gory details of the whole video [save for the edited version I watched with Graham on TV3] and whiles I can’t get Amina’s look of sheep-caught-in-the-midst-of-wolves out of my mind, I am grateful I know people whose judgment and [emotional] response I can trust. I have seen human empathy at its best, demonstrated through a thorough condemnation and show of disgust at the ill-treatment of Amina through blog posts, radio call-ins and general discussions. Someone told me, ‘please don’t watch the video if you haven’t seen it’; it is that bad and can take one through a rollercoaster of emotions.

In conclusion however, I will want a few persons who think this issue is being given too much attention to think these through. Would they rather this had happened to a man for them to gauge public response? Would they rather physical damage be done to Amina to finally get them to lend their FULL voice to the campaign for justice?

No, I can assure you Amina has been psychologically scarred enough [ and will need all the support the University of Ghana guidance and counseling session can give her.] No, I don’t need to see another video of a human being fending off many hands from different directions in a bid to not drown in the furor of tugging and poking. No, I don’t want to see another person fighting to maintain their personal dignity against a throng that will not give ear to their pleas for mercy.

Amina wasn’t given a chance but technology has now given us a chance to call for justice for Amina; justice that through our indifference towards mob-justice was denied her the moment she was caught in an act of theft. An opportunity to call on the police to get closer to the public, hold citizens’ arrest trainings and other ways to manage thieves. An opportunity to call on the University of Ghana authorities to put policies in place and spearhead a national discourse on [stopping] mob-justice and by so calling these people to action, we will be securing the lives of our friends and loved ones.

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  1. #1 by Emma on April 5, 2011 - 9:19 am

    Good point you made.

    But there is a factual error here. Amina is not a student of the University of Ghana. She is however, a known serial thief on campus.

    While this dastardly act against this woman has shaken most people, may it lead to a movement that would change Ghanaians’ reaction to crime suspects and other acts viewed as deviant behaviour. Our society needs urgent reform.

    • #2 by hollatainment on April 5, 2011 - 2:09 pm

      Thanks for the information about Amina’s status. Emerging details indicate an interest in getting to the bottom of this incident.

  2. #3 by Barima kwakye on April 8, 2011 - 12:28 am

    I think you are wrong if you say men are threatened by women pushing for their rights and gaining power. amina’s issue is a little chunk of a bigger problem we have in the country. indeed amina is getting a lot of coverage because she is a woman but to me we shldn’t focus on that. what we shld do is use her case as marker for all mob justice related incident. Their punishment shld serve as a warning to all think mob justice is gud. i cant believe u said u are in support of ponding in legon. that sort of threatment is equal to what happened to amina thus in agreement to what happened to her. its unfortunate that due to technology such incident when recorded stay with us forever. but dont let us say it will haunt her forever. what abt all the sex tapes that have leaked in this country how many even remember their faces. let talk abt the issues at hand. she committed a crime, she got caught. instant justice was in play, which was illegal in the first place. it went too far but it shldn’t have happened at all.

  3. #4 by hollatainment on April 8, 2011 - 9:56 am

    Thanks for adding your voice to the call to address mob-justice now that an opportunity has availed itself. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t think men are threatened by women, “I think [some comments being made] reflects a general mindset of SOME men who feel threatened by womens’ rights”, to quote from above.

    What I tried to do by describing ponding is to put in perspective the [historical] significance of that form of [students] justice and mind you it was well organized. It was a system that made sense to me when I was in school and lot of students chose that over the official system. But with the benefit of hindsight and current events, I opine that it can get out of hands and might result in what we’re all discussing now; Amina.

    What the case of Amina has offered most of us is the opportunity to ponder past mistakes that were not given the needed attention and I still think Amina will be carry this with her all her life as will all the victims of leaked sextapes. You will agree with me that they need to get some psycho-help and counseling.

  4. #5 by pace on April 11, 2011 - 5:30 pm

    I don’t think any man is threatened by women or those who advocate for their rights.It is unfortunate what Amina went through and may all those who partook in causing her desperate tears, bear the full wrath it shall incur.However, I would also like to say that women should pick an option and stand by it. If they feel they are our equals in the sense of everything (because no man ever claimed to be equal to a woman, not in beauty, not in emotion, not in charming power, not in femininity), let them choose it and stand by it. On the other hand, if they understand that there is no competition, that they are strong where they were made to be strong, that we are weak where they are strong, that they can’t compete with masculinity, then let them choose. So much noise is being made, merely because she is a woman, a man would have borne insults on top of the stripping. The line has to be drawn somewhere, they can’t enjoy the good side and dodge the bad.Its all or nothing, I am getting tired of all this………………………………..

  5. #6 by hollatainment on April 13, 2011 - 1:03 am

    Pace, I like your point and want to explore it further by saying that men and women are not the same but should be treated equally and given equal opportunities to choose. When the freedom to be and choose is given to all, I think then any two persons are equal. Whether women will fall into certain roles based on their natural abilities should be solely decided by them with no imposition from men as the case has always been.

    In the broad scheme of things you can accuse us of patronising women on account of how we’ve taken up Amina’s cause. But knowing what atrocities women have suffered and still suffer at the hands of men, I think calling other well-intended men to treat women better is the least I can do and no I don’t think men are threatened by women, only some are….

  6. #7 by Anon on May 11, 2011 - 3:53 pm

    Are you single? Do you have a brother you can introduce me too?
    Where do men like you hang out? Seriously…..

  1. Sexual Harassment Policy – Can It Stop Sexual Assaults at Uni of Ghana? | Kajsa H. A.
  2. Sexual Harassment Policy – Can It Stop Sexual Assaults at Uni of Ghana? | Kajsa H. A.

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