Book Review: Silence after rape isn’t Plain Yellow but Plain Murder

Rape continues to be the most underreported type of sexual assaults in Ghana. It is no surprise that despite efforts by the government and civil society organisations to end such dastardly act, many girls are raped every day in the country by relatives, strangers and guardians.

Statistics by the Police Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) showed in 2014 alone, 1,296 girls were defiled and 335 women were raped. The figures, the Unit noted could have been higher had parents who covered up for relatives and friends, reported such cases.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to stoke the discussion about the growing insecurity of our girls in the land of their birth. The rape of a four-year-old girl at Assin Adadientem in the Central Region by an alleged juvenile last year spawned a public outcry in the country with a majority of Ghanaians calling for some tangible actions to be taken by the law enforcement agencies. The public discussion emboldened other silent victims to come out to share their ordeals with the public.

Author Ruby Yayra Goka

But it appears the Ghanaian has gone to sleep while more of our girls are being raped every day in our major cities and villages.

The need to sustain the discussion is what has motivated dentist and author Ruby Yayra Goka to weave the entertaining story, Plain Yellow published in 2015.

The novel opens with a girl, Amerley who had to sacrifice her ambition and boyfriend to fend for her three sisters and mother, Amerley-mami. She becomes a maid in the house of a distant relative, a vocation that exposed her to the sexual wrath of the boss’ two sons, Zaed and General. They raped her together for the first time. But emboldened by the silence of the victim, General did it again.

We didn’t see much of Amerley’s father, Ataa because he abandoned his family for the lack of a male child. His wife had given birth to only girls, something he considered a bad luck. But he resurfaces funnily to demand a paltry 10,000 Ghana cedis from the rapist’s adopted-father to keep the police and other law enforcement agencies out of the matter.

Ataa’s action, derided by Amerley-mami and later Amerley, reflects one of the age-old obstructions to a rape-free Ghana. It is common to find parents of victims scampering to residences of culprits, often fairly rich, to accept monies for the harm done to their children. Sometimes one wonders whose side the parents really are on. The raped or rapist?

Ruby Yayra Goka’s greatest strength is in the way she captures the complexities of rape in the Ghanaian society. The intention, act and scramble to cover-up. These are real and many unsuspecting girls pathetically find themselves raped by people they have grown to respect because of their standing in the society.

But the author failed to empower Amerley when she was first raped, leading to the second abuse done in the open. It’s a stark murder to teach our children to report rape after it had been done twice. Really?

I don’t know the relevance of the anonymous quote: “Silence is not always golden; sometimes it’s just plain yellow” used in the novel. Because the colour yellow has several effects. Yellow represents jealousy in France and stands for mourning in Egyptian and Burmese culture. Historically, Americans see yellow as the symbol of love while it represents the value of courage and nobility in Japan.

If keeping silent over the rape and hardships Amerley had had to endure is plain yellow, then that’s plain murder. We can’t continue to teach our children to take the path of silence on matters such as rape. We need outspoken future leaders.


About Author:

Kwabena Brakopowers is a journalist, novelist and essayist whose works focus on politics, migration, social situation, economic and environmental issues. He spends his time writing either in Accra or Monrovia, where he calls his second home. He could be reached at Brakomen@outlook.comor visit to read about him.

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