Friday, September 30, 2022 5:06 pm
By Adejoke Adelete,Abeokuta
*As the rate hits 103 in 8 months
*Poverty, ritual conspiracy fuel cases
“Violence against women and girls in Nigeria (mainly rape and defilement) is a pandemic-sized problem. Millions live in fear of being abused, assaulted or raped”.
The above excerpt culled from a dedicated report undertaken on Nigeria by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on rising cases of violence against women and girls is apt and punchy to the agonies, contempt and discrimination suffered by the victims of rape, abuse and assault daily.
Consequently, it was described by UNICEF as being assumed a pandemic-sized going by the alarming incidence rate of the cases across the Country for which Ogun State, a State in Southwest, Nigeria, is tagged, Gateway State, because of being a gateway to international borders and connects four others States, is not an exception.
Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act defines a person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or using threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or using false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband and he is guilty of an offence which is called rape.
While Section 218 of the Criminal Code defines defilement as a criminal act or a person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 years and is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for life.
In Ogun, a Yoruba-speaking State with over seven million population and the presence of almost all Nigerian tribes, as well as foreign nationals going by its proximity to Lagos and international borders such Republic of Benin and Togo, cases of violence against women, keep increasing and victims are left to suffer for long due to challenges as being created by conspiracy from security agencies, parents and relatives of victims. Conspiracy and compromise from this set of people have not only affected the due process expected and due prosecution of suspects involved in the heinous act but have also fuelled the incidence rate in the State and the Country as a whole as nobody seems to have served a scapegoat and a deterrent to the others.
Agboola Oladoyin CEO DonMary Human and Community Enhancement initiative in her believe also made us realize that many men, fathers or clergy don’t rape for the fun of just to release themselves for the urge but also use this young girl for ritual purposes.
Oladoyin also awakens us that many culprits have told their NGO when handling a case that they defile young girls to cure their HIV syndrome.
Here is a question for researchers, Does sleeping with a Virgin cure HIV?
This Act of rape and the inability to get justice for victims has rendered many NGOs hopeless and almost given up the fight against rape.
We spoke with Mrs Bolatito Adeonajobi the founder of Gender Base violence on Girl child and women, widow, who opined that fear of stigmatization has made many victims commit suicide and some are married but packed out of their husband house because of fear of what had happened to them, some had refused to marry because of the bad fear they have for men.
When asked about the solution Mrs Bolatito hoped on God who is the creator of all and believed only God can touch the heart of man against evil doing.
For instance, cases of rape and defilement in eight months – January to August 2022 as released by the Nigeria Police Force, Ogun State Command show that 103 in total have suffered sexual violence – 34 rape, 68 defilement and one sexual abuse, meaning that, at least, three cases of rape, defilement and sexual abuse would happen in a week throughout the 34 weeks that made the eight months under review.
The sorry case of Amoda Bola, a 49-year-old who did not only sleep with his 14-year-old daughter but also ‘rented’ her to other four men to have canal knowledge of the poor and innocent girl, is a ready-made example of how poverty and conspiracy fuel incidence rate of violence against women in Ogun and the other Nigerian States.
Amoda, who disclosed that he had been sleeping with his daughter at age 13, but denied having impregnated her, said in one of the interviews with Journalists at Police Parade in Eleweran, the Ogun State Police Headquarters, that he was jinxed.
“The first time I slept with her was some times last year. I came back from the shop that particular day and I don’t know what came over me, I just found myself sleeping with my daughter”, Amoda said. This attribution to an unseen spirit infuriated many people in the State, including Non-Governmental Organisations, lawyers and other people who have taken some steps to ensure that justice is done and culprits are served accordingly.
Speaking on the cases of violence against women, Dr (Mrs) Oluwakemi Ayanleye, who is Chairperson, the International Federation of Women Lawyers – The Federacion Internationalé De Abogadas (FIDA), Forum of Women Lawyers of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said various issues are contributing to cases of rape and what FIDA is doing to curtail the rising cases and prosecute the like of Amoda.
“There are several issues that are contributing to the increase in the incidences of rape. The breakdown of traditional family values, moral decadence, broken homes, emotional imbalance, shift in family roles due to poverty and ignorance are some of the reasons among others.
“Easy access to pornography (on the phone, on TV, lewd music that tends to debase womanhood blaring publicly), easy access and increase in the use of libido building drugs, native and local gins (all these come in small sachets and bottles that are sold without restrictions on every street and corner), the get rich quick syndrome and popularity rituals, increased cultism and peer influence, unemployment (idle hands, the devil’s workshop).
“In my opinion, the rise of incest is attributable to the above factors as well as the fact that many women tend to leave their young daughters for (long periods) with their elder brothers, fathers, uncles and neighbours.
“Poverty also contributes to this a lot. For example, a man and wife living in a single room or room and parlour and the grown children of different sexes sleep together on the same bed or mat or same room. They might even be exposed to their parent’s intimacy at night unwittingly.
“For the clerics, the same decadence in the society and the fact that many believe that their clerics can do no wrong and an increase in false prophets and the gullibility of the people have led many of the so-called clerics to commit a lot of atrocities in the name of religion.
“I will also say that the issue of incest and rape by close relatives and confidants had been in existence before, but victims are now more confident to speak out. Before, such issues were buried by the family because of the stigmatisation and the attendant blame and shame. Oftentimes, the victims suffer double jeopardy, the pain and emotional torture of the rape itself and the societal stigmatisation.
“People would rather blame a rape victim by attaching the crime to dressing rather than castigate the rapist for his lack of self-control and cruelty. I usually ask the question, how sexily can a 3-year-old or 5-year-old girl dress to warrant being raped? The culture of silence and community pressure on the victim and the family where these ungodly acts were usually shielded, rather than exposing the perpetrators also go a long way in perpetuating the crime”, she said.
When asked about the position of law and what can be done for rapists, Dr Ayanleye noted, “Rape and other sexual offences are criminal matters.
“The cases are usually between the government and the defendant. The intervention of FIDA comes in ensuring that the cases are duly prosecuted and not compromised by the police and that the victim and the family have access to justice.
“FIDA gives free legal representation to the victims. Several cases were reported to FIDA. We have been able to ensure that the cases are duly prosecuted.
“Within the last couple of days, we have received complaints from different areas of Ogun State. We have liaised with the police in ensuring the cases are taken to court. The Police always demand money from the complainants for sundry expenses like duplicating case files, going for investigation, taking the accused to court for arraignment etc.
“FIDA pays the money to ensure that the cases are taken to the court. There are several cases in court now on account of FIDA intervention while many have been concluded.”
“As stated above, cases are prosecuted by the state. It is only cases that come to the knowledge of FIDA that we can follow up and ensure proper prosecution. The money demanded by the police to ensure prosecution of cases sometimes discourages the complainants who oftentimes are poor and cannot afford the money.
“Also, community pressure discourages complaints sometimes from insisting on their rights. There is a case of a 3-year-old that was sexually abused by 25-year-old and 10-year-old neighbours at different times. The maternal grandfather of the child sought the intervention of FIDA because the police were requesting money to even incident the case.
“Once the FIDA representative got to the police station, the IPO was hostile and uncooperative. The accused persons sought settlement of the case and the father of the girl agreed to collect money in a settlement. Upon a complaint to the Commissioner of Police by FIDA, the case was transferred to Eleweran.
“The grandfather that initially sought our intervention was the one disturbing us to withdraw from the case. I even heard that the mother of the girl was lamenting that the father did not give her the money. So, you see that poverty also comes to play. In a situation where the police are asking for money to prosecute and the accused wants to settle the case with money, the parents of the victim will compromise and collect money.
“We have heard of a Baale, that went to plead on behalf of an accused. The case of the 84-year-old man who raped an 8-year-old girl gained prominence because the community stood up as one against the act.
“Also, the lack of a coordinated response team for rape victims is also instrumental in this regard. Oftentimes, the evidence and exhibits have been compromised before a rape matter is reported to the police. For rape to be established, certain facts must be proven, when such evidence is rendered inadmissible in court because they have been compromised, then, the accused will be discharged.
“Another reason is a provision of the law that gives imprisonment or option of fine for sexual offences. When an offender is convicted and the court sentences him to a term of imprisonment with an option of a fine, such an offender may have money to pay the fine and he will be released back into society.
“We must see the issue of rape in Ogun State as a pandemic and declare a state of emergency. All hands must be on deck. We all have a role to play in this regard, the family, the government, the police, religious bodies, the civil society and the community.
“There is a need to inculcate the traditional family values and norms in the society. The difference between a human being and an animal is the ability to control oneself. Parents must teach their children self-discipline and restraint. They need to teach their boys respect for womanhood and the girls to appreciate their womanhood.
“To curb incest, there must be the privacy of individuals in the homes. Children of opposite sexes of 10 years and above ought to learn to deal with each other in decency. They should never sleep in the same room alone. They should have separate rooms. “Shebi he is my brother”; I can undress in front of him has led to many rapes!
“We need to encourage young girls to ensure that they do not become pornography for their fathers and brothers and women should not be pornography for their boys. There is a need to counsel self-restraint and discipline for fathers and brothers too.
“The religious bodies also have a role to play. There should be spiritual counselling and guidance for both male and female gender. Erring clerics should be adequately sanctioned by the religious bodies and government.
“Society needs to encourage rape victims to speak up by stopping the stigmatisation and blame and shame. They should empathise with the rape survivor and appreciate the psychological trauma such a survivor is experiencing. They should realise that they or their relatives might also be at the receiving end.
“The community must rise against the menace and should not condone the rapist by seeking settlement out of court. No amount of money can bring back a girl’s innocence and dignity that was stolen by the rapist. We need to counsel them to know that the Girl Child is your pride! We must not tarnish her diamond.
“There is also the need to train and retrain the members of the male gender. The efforts at ensuring gender equality for female seems to have neglected that the male also needs counselling and reorientation. When we are training our girls to be Queens, we need to train the boys to be Kings fit for Queens.”
She however tasked security agencies against conspiracy as he said, “The Police are the first contact after a rape incidence. They need to treat the cases with the attention, urgency and professionalism they deserve.
“Many cases are lost because of shoddy investigations conducted by the police. They need to realize the trauma being suffered by the survivor and the family, after all, members of the police force are also fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.
“They should stop demanding money before they incident a report and also before taking the matter to court.
On the part of the government, though several laws criminalize rape and even incest, there is a need to put in place enforcement mechanisms for their implementation.
“Most of the efforts to ensure the implementation of the laws have been through disjointed efforts of NGOs and CSOs and other stakeholders. There is no synergy between the government ministries and parastatals who have the duties of ensuring enforcement, NGOs and CSOs are also working in silos, leading to a multiplicity of efforts without the desired results.
“All stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that justice is done and also to reduce the menace to the barest minimum.
There is a need to establish a Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Agency (DSVRT) in every state of the federation. This would ensure a coordinated response to sexual and gender-based violence not only in Ogun State but throughout the federation.
“This would ensure the prompt gathering of evidence and swift prosecution of the offenders. It would also ensure that the rape survivor has adequate post-trauma care and counselling to live a normal life thereafter.
“There should be censorship of movies and music that tend to debase the female gender and promote lewdness and pornography. Agencies like NAFDAC and NDLEA need to come to the rescue in stopping the sale of unwholesome libido-enhancing substances indiscriminately. Similarly, parks or garages maintenance agencies need to be sensitised against the many dangers of consumption of such drugs, drinks and substances. After all, they are also parents.
“There is a need for deterrence through sanctions and punishment imprisonment, public shaming, register of sexual offenders etc. There should be an amendment to the law in this regard. Rape offenders should not be given the option of a fine. Even before the amendment of the law, the judiciary must exhibit stern activism in ensuring that courts be wary of giving the offenders an option society needs to encourage rape victims to speak up by stopping the stigmatisation and blame and shame.
“They should empathize with the rape survivor and appreciate the psychological trauma such survivor is experiencing. They should realise that they or their relatives might also be at the receiving end. The community must rise against the menace and should not condone the rapist by seeking a settlement out of court. No amount of money can bring back a girl’s innocence and dignity that was stolen by the rapist. We need to counsel them to know that the Girl Child is your pride!
“We must not tarnish her diamond! There is also the need to train and retrain the members of the male gender. The efforts at ensuring gender equality for female seems to have neglected that male also needs counselling and reorientation. When we are training our girls to be Queens, we need to train the boys to be Kings fit for Queens.”