Am I An Immigrant?

I was reading a post by JannaT about facets of change when I recalled an incident which happened to me and decided to articulate what I was feeling. Luton is an incredibly diverse town; thousands of people from all over the world have moved here, sometimes with their entire families, sometimes very wealthy families have come here to set up businesses and invest here for the safety net and low risk business environment. Others have come alone with no money, sometimes with only the clothes on their backs to sojourn for better lives for themselves and the people they love. They remain here for decades and begin a new life, marry and have children. Thus there is a sense that anyone who comes here and speaks in a different accent is an immigrant. I went to the bank to set up a student account and the lovely customer care lady I spoke to said to me;

“Are you an immigrant?”
“I do not believe I am, are you?” I asked

Wardown Park Luton
Wardown Park Luton

To be honest, I was shocked by her question and my response. I think we were both shocked. Anyway, we cleared that up; student vs immigrant; two completely different things, thank you very much. When I thought about it later, I wondered if I should have reacted that way. I wondered if I should feel a bit ashamed? It is like there is a stigma attached to being an immigrant, a feeling that these people are aliens and a burden to the state. You can tell who the immigrants are because they have no language and money is often times a struggle, they also work the hardest jobs which nobody else wants.

According to the international migration organisation, an immigrant is someone who moves to another country usually for permanent residence. I have moved here to study not for permanent residence. In the event that my project Management qualifications are needed by a company and I am hired, then by all means call me an expatriate, thank you. Immigration is incredibly fascinating, equally fascinating is the host community’s reaction to it. When you think about it, the world is one huge immigration case study. Most of North America was “founded” by immigrants. Australia for example, was used as a penal colony by the British; the dumping started with the ships arriving in Botany Bay in 1788. There are certainly disadvantages to immigration; the culture of deprivation and alienation shows in densely populated immigrant areas; there is very high incidence of crime and poor integration which can then beget problems which last for generations. There is also the culture of resentment in some parts of the host communities towards immigrants for competing for jobs that are already scarce, few and far between, and for using other facilities which are bursting at the seams already.

It has been three weeks since I moved here to study and I still feel like a part of me is incomplete, that feeling you get when you forget something but can’t quite place your finger on what was forgotten.

“Do you miss home?” People constantly ask me.

It really is not that big a deal, I say most times. I wake up as usual, put on my warm clothes, and conduct my business as best as possible. But you see, change is tough, it is like a scab on a healing wound; you know that pulling it off will reveal a new layer, a much needed healing. But you are also afraid of the pain and possible bleeding. When I decided to move here for 14 months, I knew this was not the usual holiday where I saw sights, did some shopping, visited friends and went home. Nonetheless, nothing prepares you for the tightness in your chest when you hang up after speaking to your mother, nothing prepares you for the tears in your eyes when the wind slaps your face and howls in your ears. More than anything, nothing prepares you for that feeling of being an outsider, when you open your mouth to speak and it is evident that you are a stranger.

When No Means Yes: The Lines Between Rape And Romance

I was very saddened by a piece of news I read this morning about a teenager who was raped and brutalised and left in a pool of her own blood in Lagos. She was rescued by OPC and taken to the police station. It is my firm belief and hope that Gov. Fashola will ensure that this is investigated and these miscreants found and prosecuted. It made me recall a link to a blog which a friend sent to me on twitter, where the male writer was basically asking his male readers to push on when a woman says no to sex. It was a tournament he said, and women expected to be conquered. His argument was that women would not give in easily and needed to be coerced or taken down like the opposition. In the comments section, many men were extremely pleased with the article while many women were outraged by this worldview. Now I am not certain if the writer was being sarcastic or ironic, it did not seem that way to me. I am writing about this because this is something men commonly discuss in my culture and laugh about. Apparently, women are created to be coy and should show some resistance. I remember discussing this with some guys at a party; and they totally agreed that when a woman says no, she means yes and just wants you to wear her down. I was much too shocked that day to say much.

I will say here that giving the rising numbers of rape particularly in developing countries and patriarchal societies/cultures where the laws do not protect women, this just shows why. There is rape of women on streets and in buses and other public areas, and there is domestic rape also where the rapists believe that the fact that the women are in their “space/house” or they paid for dinner, etc, means consent. In countries like India and Nigeria, women are raped all the time and perpetrators go scot free. The recent outcries in India following the rape and death of the young medical student and the prosecution of the men involved has opened up more questions about laws and gender crimes in developing countries. People may remember the rape of the young Nigerian student in Abia State University in 2011; she was raped over and over by five men who made a video and circulated this on the internet. I remember being deeply disturbed by her cries of “please just kill me”.

Rape is rarely reported to authorities in Nigeria, as their handling of the cases are very degrading of the woman and her family. According to federal police statistics which were gleaned from a website called Nigeria Police Watch, only 1,952 cases were reported in 2009. In spite of these numbers, a 2006 Amnesty International report said that those numbers are at best “sporadic, piecemeal and inconsistent” in a country with numbers rising above 160 million people.

I was raised to stay away from potential situations which would put me in a position of violence particularly gender motivated attacks. When I was younger, I thought my mother just did not want me to have fun. Now I understand. If a woman is raped, society judges her; they ask her questions such as where were you, why did you drink, why did you go to his house, that dress you were wearing can cause rape because it is too short. I believe that things can only change when we change as individuals. When a woman says no, she actually does mean no, if she were being coy, she would come to you in no time. Have you ever wondered why men from developing countries tend to serve time in Europe and North America for rape? When one takes the no means yes mentality to a developed country where the justice systems work, then be ready to serve a well deserved time in prison; and rightly so too. I get very passionate when I write or talk about this. Someone even said to me when I was discussing this piece;

“My friend is serving time in Germany for allegedly raping a girl. But this chic went home with my friend, why did she go home with him, and she was moaning too, my friend said so.”

Really? You take advantage of a drunk girl who probably said no, and you think she will fight you? Unless a woman is trained in black belt or some such martial arts, how is she going to fight off a rapist? That will probably make things worse. I always say to people; be a gentleman, actually no does mean no. If a woman is interested in taking it further, she shows it soon enough. I feel that this piece is so small, I feel that I must launch a huge campaign with our police and the people who need to amend and implement the laws to protect women. If the law makes examples of a few people, it deters many others. However, I am confident that there are many groups working on this and trying to make the world a safer place for all vulnerable groups; and it is my hope that this drop can gradually begin to cause small ripples in our mind-sets and legal systems. I shall follow up the story of the teenager in Lagos and hopefully update this post with news on police investigations going forward. While I do that, I urge everyone to work together in every little way possible to make the world safer for our mothers, our daughters, our wives/partners/girlfriends and our sisters. No does indeed, mean no!