​Dear diary,

Yesterday, my mama ordered me to change from that dress. 

Today, Mama Sawalu was arrested because the police couldn’t find Sawalu, her son.

Yesterday, my mama ordered me to change from that dress.

It was a gorgeous dress with calico print and a big bow on the chest. 

It was a really hot Saturday and I wanted to see the new movie at the movie-house down the road with my friends.

 ‘That dress is too colourful’, mama said in the usual high pitched note she used when irritated, ‘With that big bow, attention would be drawn to your chest. And you don’t want boys staring at your chest now, do you?’

Sawalu, our neighbour’s son nodded his head approvingly as though to say ‘Preach on, reverend’ and hooted with laughter, muttering condescendingly,

‘It’s not like there’s much to see’, in a voice that mama couldn’t hear over the din of the guinea-corn she was grinding.

‘No, mama’, I acquiesced silently as I went back upstairs to change.

I came back down with a ball gown-like ensemble and a shawl wrapped tightly around me for extra coverage. Mama nodded as I came down the stairs and motioned me to come closer.

‘Now, make sure not to stay beyond 4pm. And don’t stray from your friends’. I nodded again and went towards the gate, walking as quietly as I could.

Mama never asked if I was hot in that dress. She never asked if the movie was going to run longer than 4pm. She never asked me anything. And I never complained. Because good girls never did.

Today, Mama Sawalu was arrested because the police couldn’t find her son, Sawalu.

Mama came in with a frenzy.

‘Sawalu raped a girl last night. She was walking alone at night with a dress way too short for any decent girl, chewing her gum nonchalantly’ She flapped her arms in irritation and continued in her high-pitched voice, pointing her finger at me.

‘You see, this is the reason I always tell you never to wear those dresses. And never to walk alone. Or even talk loudly. And never to stay out late.’ She shook her head, muttering, ‘These girls just walk about carelessly and aimlessly, asking for it.’

She sighed loudly as she poured water in a bucket from the drum, ‘Poor Mama Sawalu, no one should ever have to be treated that way. These useless policemen, they shouldn’t have taken her away like that. It’s not like its Sawalu’s fault what happened.’

I couldn’t listen anymore.

‘Excuse me, mama’, I muttered as I went upstairs.

As I stared out my window, I wondered how many others held my mama’s opinion.

Dear diary, perhaps, just perhaps, if mama hadn’t said all she said before Sawalu yesterday, he wouldn’t have felt like he had to rape a girl simply because she did all the things mama said a good girl shouldn’t do. Perhaps, if mama had said ‘Good boys don’t stare at a girl’s chest. Good boys protect a girl. Good boys should never touch a girl without her consent’, maybe, just maybe, Sawalu wouldn’t have forced that girl without her consent.

Dear diary, my mama caused a rape.