Cherie Blair says ‘most African women’s first sexual experience ...

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Cherie Blair says ‘most African women’s first sexual experience is rape’

The women's rights campaigner has been slammed for 'usurping' the voice of African women

Gabriella Swerling


Cherie Blair has been accused of reinforcing stereotypes by telling schoolchildren that “most African ladies’ first sexual experience is rape”.
The barrister and women’s rights campaigner made the remark during a talk about women and leadership to pupils at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London.
The event, entitled “The Leadership Lecture”, which was attended by about 100 people on March 20, was hailed as “very popular” by the school.
However, the 64-year-old wife of former UK prime minister Tony Blair, has since been criticised for “usurping” the voice of African women.
One audience member, Caitlin, who did not wish to give her surname, told The Guardian she was surprised by Blair’s comment.
“No one seemed to react and I was shocked because I felt like she was in a position of authority and should take responsibility for saying things like that without any evidence to support it,” she said.
It is reported that, when contacted, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women said Blair’s comment referred “to the women she had met and heard directly from in the initial years of the foundation’s work rather than a specific research piece”.
Chi Onwurah, the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa, suggested that she pay for the fares and visas for African women to come to the UK and speak for themselves and “undo the insult and injury” of her comments.
“Ms Blair should enable African women to speak for themselves instead of usurping their voice and their experience,” she added.
“Violence against women is a huge problem in many African countries – as it is here – but to characterise African women’s sexual experience as rooted in rape undermines the hard work of many to tackle this issue whilst playing to and indeed stoking stereotypes of sexually aggressive African men and passive women.”

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