Yomi Fabiyi Is Yoruba Nollywood Scapegoat Today, But The Problem Is Bigger

Like the hundreds of thousands of other people on social media today, I watched the video of Nollywood Yoruba actress, Iyabo Ojo calling out one of their own, Yomi Fabiyi, for his attempt at defending a rapist actor who was arrested recently.

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According to Iyabo Ojo, Yomi had asked for ‘evidence’ which was a CCTV recording of the assault on the 14 year old victim.

This was Iyabo’s reply to that:

This is the part where I must say I’m super impressed that Iyabo is speaking out without mincing words.

In an industry that is closeted and cliques abound, stepping out when other colleagues have been silent is a big deal.

Now, here’s what I think:

Yomi Fabiyi is today’s scape goat but he actually represents a huge percentage of the people in that industry.

The Yoruba movie industry for a long time has been the headquarters of misogyny, sexism and movie scripts that shame women, trivalize gender based violence and blames victims for their own abuse.

All you need do is look at the stories they tell about women and how they tell those stories.

Men who sexually harass their maids because the wife is a ‘career woman’. She will then be made to apologise to the man who will then marry the maid because she is now pregnant

Rape victims marrying their abusers because it is their  ‘destiny’

The way Yoruba movie writers portray women is a reflection of the kind of minds that make up that industry.

Their industry is harmful because these stories shape mindsets and reinforces harmful and dangerous stereotypes.

When they write movie scripts that blame women for the violence perpetrated against them and then ‘reconcile’ an abuser with his victim, they are undermining every effort we are making to ensure that violence against women is not normalized.

Rape victims rarely get justice in Yoruba movies. In those movies, rape isn’t treated as a crime, but as a “family matter” in which the “olori ebi” (head of the family) is called upon to “settle the matter”.

In Yoruba movie scripts, great effort is made to villanize women who are openly sexual, who demonstrate any form of independence, have a successful and rising career, etc. They will always write the script to ‘punish’ her in some way through some male character.

The deliberate way their movies slut shame single mothers, divorced women, the way their stories perpetuate ignorant stereotypes about mental illness; all harmful.

Film makers are culture shapers and educators. They should be moving society forward with their story telling not setting us back 90 years and endangering our lives.

I’m hoping beyond this case, Iyabo Ojo can lead the charge by working with relevant stakeholders to not just expose the predators and abusers, but to bring perpetrators to justice.

I’m hoping that important questions will be asked and the industry is introspective enough to critically address their content issues and do the work required to change things.

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