‘Most African ladies first sexual experience is rape’ says Cherie Blair

The wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under heavy criticism for making a sweeping generalization and reinforcing harmful narratives about African women.

Cherie Blair claimed that for “most African ladies their first sexual experience is rape” this statement has attracted a lot of backlash as some African women are outraged by her claims.

Cherie Blair who is a barrister and women’s rights campaigner made the comment during a talk about women and leadership at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London, attended by about 100 school girls.
Mrs Blair has been accused of reinforcing stereotypes and usurping African voices.

Speaking to Report Focus News, Tshidz Pongo, from Girl Code 101 a women’s empowerment organisation, said “the comments from Cherie Blair are very unfortunate, she has broadly generalised the issue of rape. The fact that she made such a broad generalisation in front of young girls who might have held her in high esteem may reinforce stereotypes. It would be wiser for her organisation to bring in ladies from Africa to speak for themselves and share lived experiences and be empowered as they inspire and share their experience and stories. There are articulate African ladies out there and we can not have Mrs Blair speak for us and tell our story, she can however, give platform to African ladies to tell their own story let us sing our song.”

Mrs Blair has since responded to the backlash, claiming that her comment was in response to a question about African girls “missing out on their education for a variety of reasons.”

“In that context I said that for the vast majority of young girls – who are often 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds – their first experience of sex was rape,” she added, before sharing findings from a 2002 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) in an attempt to support her claim. “It was not my intent to offend or undermine anyone with my comments, and I would welcome more recent stats that showed these findings are outdated, ” she said. “But the sad truth is that too many young African girls continue to experience sexual assault, become pregnant and in consequence fall out of education. I believe it’s important to shed light on this, as the role of education is crucial to empower girls and the importance of investing in young people cannot be overstated.”

Mrs Blair’s comments are spurring discussions around the lack of agency given to Africans to be able to speak on their own behalf. Many are lambasting Blair for her disparaging words, and for the use of her platform in an irresponsible manner that only perpetuates a reductive view of the continent. However, some view her comments as necessary and welcome in as far as they highlight an issue often ignored by society and those in political leadership particularly in the affected countries on the continent of Africa.

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