National outrage had greeted the rape and murder of a 100-level student of the University of Benin inside a church in Benin City penultimate week. The outcry was yet to die down when another heinous rape occurred in Ibadan, Oyo State. Like the Benin incident, the rapists in Ibadan also killed their victim. The two recent tragedies represent the rising violation of women and the need for stringent measures to curb the menace.
The Benin incident is particularly heart-rending. Miss Uwaila Omozuwa had gone to read at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Miracle Sanctuary, Mega Parish, in the Ikpoba Hill area of Benin, in Edo State. Ordinarily, the church premises should offer sanctuary to anybody who visits there to read. But the moral decadence in our society has gone so bad that some people no longer respect the sanctity of such places. It was on the premises of God that Omozuwa’s assailants struck, raped and killed her.
Similarly, some daredevil hoodlums attacked 18-year-old Miss Barakat Bello at her home in Ibadan last week. Miss Bello, a member of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, was a student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Apata, Ibadan. Her assailants did not only rape her, they also hacked her to death.
Little girls are also victims of this dastardly phenomenon. Last week, a retired army captain reportedly defiled his four-year-old niece in Calabar, Cross River State. It would have gone unnoticed but for the two-year-old brother of the victim who saw what happened and innocently reported to their mother how the man, who is in his 60s, fingered the child and broke her hymen in the process. The man reportedly claimed he was under the influence of alcohol.
Although there are increasing reports of rape cases in Nigeria, there is no reliable data to back up any claim. Last year, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Pauline Tallen, claimed that two million Nigerians were raped every year. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), however, estimated that 2, 279 cases of rape and indecent assault were recorded by the police in Nigeria in 2017.
Globally, experts estimate that about 35 per cent of women have experienced one form of sexual harassment or the other in their lifetime. South Africa happens to be one of the countries with the highest rate of rape in the world. In 2018/2019, the country reportedly recorded 41, 583 cases of rape and 52, 420 cases of sexual offences generally. In the United States, there are reportedly over 400, 000 victims of rape and sexual assault every year.
The motives behind these crimes are variegated. For some, it is sexual pervasion. Those who fall into this category derive joy in seeing their victim suffer and cry for help. For some others, it is to exert revenge against perceived wrongs of the victims.
Whatever be the case, rape shows the bestial nature of man. Even in the animal kingdom, certain male species sometimes woo their females before having any intimate affair. It is, therefore, worrisome that some men, who are supposedly superior beings, behave worse than animals. The mental state of such people needs to be thoroughly examined.
The trauma victims of rape go through is unimaginable. Most times, they lack the courage to report to the police because hardly do they find justice at the police stations. In the US, about 97 per cent of rapists go unpunished. In the United Kingdom, official statistics indicate that only about 15 per cent of victims of sexual assault report to the police.
Victims are sometimes compelled to hide their plight because of the fear of reprisals and the stigma associated with being raped. For those who eventually get pregnant out of such cases, the psychological trauma of having to bear a child of rape is better imagined.
Besides, the laws meant to deter people from committing sexual offences are not strictly enforced. Some of the laws against rape in Nigeria include the Criminal Code, which is applicable in all Southern states; the Penal Code applicable in all Northern states and Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP Act), a federal law that has only been domesticated in a few states. Under the Criminal Code of Nigeria (Section 358), a rapist is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without caning. There is every need to strictly enforce this law.
We join the global human rights organisation, Amnesty International, to call on Nigerian authorities to declare rape a national crisis. According to the organisation, the government’s response to rape is woefully inadequate as violence against women is often not properly registered or investigated.
It is gratifying that the Edo State Government is reportedly working on domesticating the sex offenders’ register, which the Federal Government launched last year. The Chairperson of the Edo State Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Response Team, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, was quoted to have said that in the coming months, Edo State would be able to launch its own sex offenders’ register, which would probably be a live register to prevent manipulation. To stem the rising cases of rape, we urge other state governments that have not done so, to do the same. We also commiserate with the families of those who have lost their loved ones to this heinous crime.