Reducing Rape and Sexual Assault through the Education of Adolescent Boys

Overview

Tactical Aim: 
Human Right: 
Country or Region: 
Organization: 
Ujamaa Africa

Ujamaa Africa reduces the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya by teaching boys about respect for women and how to intervene in the event of an assault.

Sexual assault is endemic in Kenya, with one in four schoolgirls having experienced it in the past year. When Ujamaa Africa began a program to empower girls to fight back against assailants with self-defense tactics (see tactic here), they learned that the majority of sexual assaults and rapes were committed by boyfriends. With this knowledge, they developed a program called “Your Moment of Truth” to raise high school boys’ awareness of the attitudes that perpetuate gender-based violence.

The Your Moment of Truth curriculum is composed of six two-hour lessons. The lessons focus on teaching adolescent boys how to make difficult choices, including whether or not to rape someone. Social theory, the idea that people copy the behaviors of those around them, plays an important part. Boys can make a difference simply by refusing to participate in actions or conversations that are demeaning to women. Yet taking a stand requires courage, so many of the lessons focus on building confidence.

The Your Moment of Truth program has been very successful in improving the attitudes of adolescent boys towards girls and women. At the start of the course, many boys believed it was justifiable to rape a girl if she was out after dark or had been taken on an expensive date. 63.1% of boys in one study agreed that a woman wearing a sexy dress was inviting men to have sex with her, while 58.5% thought that when a woman said “no” to sex she really meant “maybe.” After the six-week course, only 14.5% believed that a woman’s outfit was a sign of permission for sex and only 22.8% thought that “no” meant “maybe.”

Boys who had completed the program also were successful in stopping or preventing sexual assaults. Six months after the course had been completed, 47.7% of the boys had witnessed verbal sexual harassment, 47% had witnessed someone physically threatening a girl or woman, and 34.7% had witnessed a physical or sexual assault. Over 70% of those had successfully intervened to stop the abuse in each case.

The initial challenges faced by Ujamaa Africa were funding for the program and opposition from some teachers. Teachers were reluctant initially as their presence was required during the sessions which follow immediately after classes. These challenges were overcome once tangible results were seen from the training. There are plans for further expansion for this program in Africa including global expansion.

Resources:

http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezp1.lib.umn.edu/science/article/pii/S1054139X13005636

http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2015/03/26/boys-trained-to-fight-rape

http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Trained-that-No-Means-No-young-Kenyan-men-act-to-stop-rape-20150617

 

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

This tactic focused on a target population of potential future perpetrators of violence against women. Such an idea of targeting future perpetrators can be transferable to other issues and contexts for the long-term reduction of specific kinds of violations in a community (see other examples of targeting potential future perpetrators regarding: policing, HIV transference, government corruption, judicial actions). In this case, teaching boys to respect girls when they are young was seen as an investment in the future, with these boys becoming men who will respect women when they are older and married. Teaching boys confidence was an important aspect in helping them to face the difficult challenge of taking a stand when they see abuse happening.  

When implementing tactics that involve changing beliefs and behavior, it is important to consider follow-up and evaluation methods for determining actual success. Such follow-up and evaluation will reveal which parts of the tactic worked, where there were gaps, and what parts were insufficient in order to make adjustments to be more effective in the future.