A passionate advocate for the boy child, he told The Guardian, “We have to start very early with the boy before he is influenced negatively outside. However, with grown men, we strongly believe that nobody is too old to be reformed, especially when presented with new evidence-based information on how their actions are hurting women around them. If both genders are going to live together in harmony, we must focus on both the boy and girl because both genders have their roles to play.’
He continued: “A man is going to head a home and has to be well trained from the onset on the role he will play in life. The average boy will find himself in multiple relationships and must be trained on how to handle these relationships. If we focus only on the girl child, our efforts on the boy would be frustrated because that well trained girl child would come and suffer at the hands of the badly-raised boy,” he said.
Irawo said he was saddened at the fact that boy-centred organisations, interventions and conversations do not receive as much focus and support as girl-centered ones because there’s an erroneous perception that boys can easily sort themselves out.
“Even within our families, everyone focuses on the girls, leaving the boys to run wild and entrenching in them, negative patriarchal roles. Some people also believe it is more financially beneficial to do activities centred around girls and women as they can easily get grants and supports. This saddens and discourages those of us in this field.”
On the role of the media in encouraging SGBV, Irawo, “We need to change the way our media portrays boys and men and how women are seen and how they should be treated. We know the power of the media and the influence it wields and whether we like it or not, our young boys and men are heavily influenced by what they see, read and are exposed to. Our music videos and movies objectify women; pornography is easily accessible by anyone. Almost every young boy with a smartphone easily accesses porn sites that objectify women and negatively influences them. Our young boys have so much sexual content thrown at them from a very young age and any boy that grows up around so much sexual content can never respect women and would have problems in life. From music videos, to movies, to adverts, there is so much objectification of women going on, fuelling SGBV practices.”
He continued: “There’s a strong nexus between early exposure to sex and sexual assault and violence which if not addressed sooner rather than later, would cause great problems for us all. There is what we call the man-code that our society practices which we must abolish. The first is that our society has told men that he is superior to a woman, with our words and actions. Men are told they have control over women and this is the first place from which violence emits from because the moment he feels or is told that he doesn’t have control over a particular woman, he wants to do everything to assert his dominance, either through rape, assault or violence. The second is that from a young age, men are told that women are objects meant for their sexual pleasure, whether she likes it or not. Third, boys are trained from early on not to cry or show emotions apart from anger and violence. Fourth, men are told that the better they perform, the more they will be respected. Also, men are told they have to be strong, violent and must not be disrespected by any man or worse, a woman. Furthermore, men are also told that once they have money, are successful and can throw money around, that is what makes them men and finally, they have to be tall, dark and handsome to be regarded as a real man. Once we can demolish all these negative stereotypes, we would begin to see an automatic reduction in SGBV. These are institutionalised, unwritten codes that many of us hold dear that breeds sexual predators and rapists.”
On how we can raise better boys, Irawo said, “young boys must not be brought up with these negative codes and the patriarchal system that allows them to thrive must be eliminated. Also, our media and schools must begin to support the kind of boys we want to see. We need to update our curriculum to include wholesome sexual education. The government needs to become stricter with media contents and what we put in our public space for consumption. We need to begin to make strong examples of men that are caught raping or assaulting girls or other boys. As a society, we need to stop shaming victims of rape and instead, offer them support. There should be stricter punishment for convicted rapists and we must raise better, stronger role models that will stand openly against rape. We must also encourage initiatives fighting this fight and we must re-examine our traditions and get rid of toxic tradition/cultures that encourage patriarchy, subjugation and objectification of women. Cultures can evolve and change and we must drop those bad ones that no longer serve us.”
“Religious organisations must begin to lead by example and take strong stands against rapists and perpetrators of SGBV. Whilst I must point out that young boys and men are also victims of assault and rape, it is no secret that men are the greatest perpetrators of SGBV. Parents have a very important role to play; you both must develop strong relationship with your kids and introduce them to sex education very early. You both must be observant and sensitive to your children and must be actively involved in every aspect of their lives so they are free to tell you anything.”
“A lot of our religious leaders are not innocent either and we must begin to look at who can be called a religious leader and stop covering up for them when they have been found wanting. I would want the authorities to begin to check the activities of our faith-based institutions because when we have checks and balances, we will begin to checkmate the activities of pedophiles and rapists that hide under the garb of being a religious leader.”