Stalking in an Ethiopian Context

Reading this news article prompted me to discuss the culture of stalking in Ethiopia; as an Ethiopian, and as a young man who has fallen in and out of love or has been infatuated with women a couple of times, I understand what the fellow from Ethiopia is going through, but I have no sympathy for stalker; I believe he has to quit his hopeless romantic pursuit and must undergo psychological therapy.

This is not my first time reading or hearing about some Ethiopian men stalking their fellow Ethiopian women, often aggressively, ending in disturbing violence or even worse in murder. In fact, stalking is such a common practice in Ethiopia that it has mostly been embraced as something normal; in most instances, neither the police, nor the society intervene to save a woman from her stalker at the early stage of stalking; some may even encourage her to give up resisting and to submit to her stalker’s demands. Only when the stalker becomes violent, and after a crime is committed, that everyone reacts. Who will forget the sulfuric acid attack that happened in Addis Ababa few years ago that disfigured a lovely young girl, transforming her look into some kind of monster-ish?

The acid attack was the climax of a repeated stalking by the criminal, supposedly a ‘lover.’ It could have been prevented, had the victim, the people around her, and the police acted proactively at the early stage of the stalking.

Look at the image. Would you call that love? Obviously, no sane person would call that love unless the person wants to argue for the sake of arguing with feminists. The sadistic acid attack is just a pure, evil obsession, a reprehensible crime … in short, a mental sickness that needs a psychiatric attention, which barely exists in Ethiopia. For the man who committed that crime, the girl was just an object of his obsession; he wanted to have his object, he couldn’t, so he resorted into destroying her. That cannot be love. That man did not love this girl. He loved the idea of ‘owning’ her. You do not disfigure the persons you love, but you protect them from any harm. ‘If you are not mine, I will send you to hell’ is not love, can never be love. Infatuation, demonic obsession? Definitely! Such kind of ‘love’ is more about control than anything else.

Read the following biblical verse about love. Does that definition of love by any chance include disfiguring your love interest with a sulfuric acid?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Most Ethiopian men often find it difficult to accept rejection from women. That is due to our cultural and religious upbringings that subordinate women and inflate our manhood, false ego, or machismo. We grow up witnessing that women can rarely say no to men, especially in a romantic pursuit; even if they say no, that eventually can be translated into a yes; we accept that as a natural phenomenon, and we expect the same submission from the women of our dreams when our turn comes; we ask her, if she says ‘no,’ we start stalking her persistently until she says ‘yes’; and if she remains adamant, some of us turn to violence as a solution so that she forcedly changes her mind.

The problem happens when we find ourselves in places that have totally different mindset on stalking, places where it is legally banned and culturally frowned upon. When we come face to face with what we used to know as a normal practice, but now a criminal act, we are shocked.

What is stalking?

Knowing the meaning of stalking and its legal implications may help avoid jail terms. I doubt the countryman in the linked news article above understood the seriousness of stalking as a criminal act; if he had, I would like to believe that he wouldn’t have defied the restraining order.

So what is stalking? As one writer explains:

Most researchers agree that stalking refers to a group of behaviors that:

  • Are repeatedly directed at a person
  • That are unwanted and intrusive
  • That induce fear and discomfort in the person that they are directed at

The three most common stalking behaviors are 1) Phone calls, 2) Surveillance, 3) Unwanted contact.

In the bygone eras, many cultures considered the act of pursuing women persistently and aggressively as heroic love, the man eventually winning the resistant woman’s heart. As the mentioned writer further explains:

Even today, popular fiction tells tales of women being wooed and won over after an appropriate period of resistance. Women are told to be flattered (and many are) when a man persists to pursue her, despite protests. … When a man does not accept a ‘no’ or a personal boundary set (however small you might think it is)-its not ‘love’. It is about control and it might be the first warning sign that you have a stalker on your hands.

Today in Ethiopia, the traditional position or status of women in society is slowly changing. And many Ethiopian guys, whether abroad or at home, are learning the hard way accepting ‘no’ from women.

Those Ethiopian women who live overseas can get legal protection from their adoptive countries. In Ethiopia, however, laws on stalking are on their premature stage and the awareness on this subject barely exists. It took a sulfuric acid attack to shock the nation and to take the dangers of stalking seriously for the first time. So many young Ethiopian women suffer silently from stalking and other forms of sexual harassment by so many Ethiopian men.

It is time that Ethiopians speak against stalking and other forms of harassment directed towards our women.

Gentlemen: Will you stand aside and watch if another guy abuses, bullies, harasses, stalks, or sexually molests your sister?  You won’t. Our sense of fairness has to be the same everywhere. We shall accept that ‘NO’ from ‘our dream-girl’ must mean NO and  we shall move on.  … there are lots of fishes in the sea, why bother the one that wants to remain free, undisturbed? If one woman is not interested in us, another one will come. Respect her, her choice, her decision, and leave her alone!

And ladies: when you say no, please make it loud and clear, don’t throw at the man conflicting responses that give him wrong signals into thinking he still has another chance. The writer quoted above provides the following basic advice, which may help you overcome the challenges of stalking:

Basic advice to handle stalking:

  • End the relationship in clear terms: ‘I do not want a relationship with you’. There is no such thing as ‘letting down easy’ a potential stalker. Any other way that leaves the message open to interpretation will keep him hanging on. ‘Im not ready’ ‘I have a boyfriend’ or using a go-between will only make him think that there is a possibility.
  • Gather all evidence, but do not tamper with it. Save voice mails, letters, notes, gifts etc for the police. Have a camera and/or a VCR with you. Keep a record of all incidences.
  • No contact. Contact to the stalker translates in his mind into a relationship.
  • No response. Do NOT return gifts, letters or goods sent to you. This will infer a relationship in his head. Legal claims that can go unanswered should do so. Never answer the phone. If you answer the 31th time, he knows it will pay off to persist.
  • Leave a photo and description of your stalker to co-workers, neighbours, kindergarten employees-anyone he can think of contacting. Warn them not to give out information about you and report back to you if he has been around.
  • Get as much personal information about you removed from public records.
  • Do a safety check on your house.
  • Wear mace or a personal attack alarm at all time (if you have one).
  • Do NOT attack your stalker, neither physically, nor verbally as he then might get the justification for his pursuit or even a legal dispute.

10 thoughts on “Stalking in an Ethiopian Context

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