Posts Tagged mob-justice
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.
Until the case of the sexual abuse of an alleged female student-thief [as reported by Citifm], I would have argued that University of Ghana students’ justice was one of the fairest and even something one could call spectacular and fun if you are an outsider [and not the perpetrator]. But the actions of the students (men) of the Mensah Sarbah Hall has left a sour taste in my mouth and that of any person looking up to graduates of the university to be future leaders of Ghana.
University of Ghana students’ justice works this way; when a student steals from a colleague and caught with stolen goods or red-handed, two options are presented to the perpetrator. They are either reported to the school authorities or ‘ponded’. In effect, the perpetrator is presented with the option of rustication/suspension (as stated in the University of Ghana handbook and determined by the university authorities) or humiliation at the hands of fellow students.
Actually all students accused of theft are entitled to a hearing by the university authorities and with so many witnesses to a case of theft [as is often the case with about 5 roommates], it is a given that the said student-thief would be rusticated or suspended after a hearing. Students’ justice is actually not a response to the university’s perceived perversion of justice as has often been the argument for mob justice in the world outside the university walls. Students’ justice is a show of solidarity and to a large extent a support system which seeks to help the perpetrator of theft to still maintain his scholarship.
So it is not surprising that most students who find themselves at this cross-road of choice of justice will prefer students’ justice because it will probably save them [2 years] from rustication and having to explain to their families why they’re suddenly out of school.
At this point the student-thief is stripped to his boxer-shorts or shorts and put on a truck (cart) and pushed to the pond at the entrance of the university amidst chanting of war songs. It is at the pond that the student-thief’s crimes are called out and then dipped into the grimy pond (and mud) and that is what is called ponding. The journey back to the hall is led by the student-thief who pushed the truck (cart) followed by his colleagues [who happen to be his judges] and that short ceremony/spectacle albeit humiliating serves as a better deterrent for other students and in the eyes of students justice is done without messing the student-thief’s academic life.
In the annexes, the student-thief is typically brought out to the parking lot of the 5-storey building and splashed with water from buckets. After this public display of ‘punishment’, judgment is done.
What most of us never envisioned whiles in school was a lady being dragged thru the school in her panties to the pond at the university gate to be ponded. And I still can’t imagine what form of students’ justice can be meted out to a lady if she was caught with stolen goods. But I never in my wildest and craziest dreams imagine what happened at the Mensah Sarbah Hall of the University of Ghana. Besides breaking every rule in the books of the country and the university, it has also brought shame to alumni of the university as a whole and the hall in particular.
What these students have done has jarringly brought into the university what has been happening in their neighbourhoods. To wit – kill the thief; lynch the thief; no need for the police. And this scares me above all things; that students who are supposed to bring enlightenment to the world have somehow allowed themselves to be swayed by the unenlightened thoughtless actions of the unwashed masses that they are supposed to positively influence.
What happened to Integri Procidamus? What does it mean to be a Viking now?
By this gruesome treatment meted out to an alleged female student-thief, you have put the University of Ghana in a bad light that will not only reflect badly on your own futures but that of all alumni and alumnae.
Two things must happen of a necessity because of this gruesome justice meted to the female student.
- An official denouncement of the actions of the students by the university authorities and all student bodies.
- The men responsible for sexually abusing this female student should be sacked by the school and handed over to the police for them to deal with them in order to send out a clear message to the world and rest of Ghana that instant justice of any form cannot be condoned in a community (country) that is governed by law.
But I ask myself, how can this happen in the University of Ghana of all places and I come to the conclusion that allowing students to have their own form of justice can lead to this case we currently have on our hands that has hit the whole nation like a sucker punch.