Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Thousands of Idoma women and youths on Tuesday, trooped out to peacefully protest the rising incidences of rape in Benue South Senatorial District popularly known as Zone C and Benue state at large.
The protest which was led by a coalition of Civil Society Organisations under the umbrella of Benue State Coalition Against Rape (BSCAR) moved from the Railway Crossing area of Otukpo down to the Och’Idoma’s palace to press home their message of justice for rape victims and stiffer punishment for rapists.
The protesters lamented the frequent rape cases among women and girl children in the senatorial district which covers nine local government areas of Otukpo, Ogbadibo, Ohimini, Ado, Okpokwu, Oju, Obi, Agatu, and Apa.
The coalition thus urged the state and Federal Governments to live up to their responsibilities by ending the scourge of rape and sexual violence against women and girls across the state and in the country.
This, they noted, can be done by enacting law that would proffer stiffer penalty against rapists and others who abuse women and girl children sexually.
In his speech, leader of BSCAR, and convener of the protest, Comrade Yemi Itodo decried the increasing spate of rape in Zone C in particular, Benue and Nigeria at large saying in just one week, eight cases of rape were recorded in Idoma land alone.
He lamented that those who commit these crimes against women and girls are often left off the hook while their victims live with the scars and stigmatisation all their lives.
“Government at levels must rise up to the occasion and do something to end this menace. We have come together as a group to take up the fight by creating this awareness to enable those abused sexually to come out and speak”.
“Is our government trying to tell us that rape is okay? What message are they sending when abusers are not punished for raping minors and women?”, Yemi said.
Also speaking during the protest, Evangelist Enewa Soo, founder of Restora of Paths Care Foundation and caregiver of the late Ochanya Ogbanje who was allegedly raped by a father and his son regretted that rape has become order of the day in Idoma land.
Soo who opined that the figures of rape are much worse in 2020 explained that her Foundation has received several reports of abuse often perpetrated by family members against minors, citing a case of a girl that was raped by her father.
“When Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje was raped to death two years ago, we thought that the issue of rape has ended in Idoma land but all of a sudden, it resurfaced again where fathers, uncles and brothers are beginning to rape their girl children.
“The menace of rape is now quite alarming. In recent times, we discovered that rape has taken over our country. We must stop this in Benue. We have come together to take up the fight. This is our fight for womanhood and let our voices be for the voiceless.
“Today, you can’t open the newspaper and not see at least two or three cases of rape. It’s happening all over the place,” Soo said.
Soo therefore enjoined the government to take stricter action against rapists stressing that there must be a better way to deal with cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the country.
Some of the CSOs that attended the protest included the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), HomeLand Defence Volunteers, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), North Central Zone and National Council for Women Society.
Others are Centre for Social Justice & Violation of Women Rights in Nigeria, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Free Image Entertainment, G12 Foundation, Sunny Oche Foundation, Aanu Care Foundation, Annie Global Foundation and FEDEC Foundation as well as Idoma Daughters and Wives Association, Concerned Zone C Mothers, Idoma National Disabilities Forum, Idoma Ambassadors Forum and Ogbadibo Cultural Carnival Initiative and Muslim Community Women among others.