By Bianca Iboma-Emefu
The media is awash with sexual harassment of women of all ages, even as many are unreported. Many people are wondering what could possibly make a full-grown man have sexual intercourse with a girl of 10 or below.
Concerned women who have classified rape as a heinous crime, have, therefore, called on government at all levels to come up with policies that would subject the perpetrators to castration. This, they believe, would serve as deterrent to others who might be contemplating such acts.
There are also pockets of reports of how the menfolk, particularly minors, are being raped.
Many Nigerians fault the cumbersome and slow pace at which the legal system treats cases of sexual assault. There have been complaints that the process of getting justice is frustrating and discouraging.
In view of the scourge, and looking at the best ways to arrest the ugly trend, the reporter spoke with some women who shared their thoughts on the matter, proffering solutions to the menace.
A Lagos-based lawyer and founder of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Warien Rose foundation, Efe Anaughe, stated that the rise in rape cases in Nigeria was scary, especially against minors. She said that it was difficult to fathom what exactly is amiss.
“It is becoming clearer that we are not just fighting the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, but also the rape epidemic. Until we take drastic measures, the menace will continue to eat deep into the fabric of our society,” she said.
She added that the prevalence of rape, sodomy and incest in different parts of Nigeria and its attendant effects on victims remains a major concern to women and all right-thinking Nigerians.
Anaughe called for the culture of silence to be broken to curb the unfashionable development. She expressed worry over how rape victims find it difficult to speak out for fear of stigmatisation, unlike other crimes, whereby people willingly report to relevant authorities.
Anaughe narrated an experience shared during her radio presentation, when a lady called her, informing that her marriage was on the verge of collapse due to a discovery she made, sadly, after having three kids in the marriage.
“The woman told me how she was informed by her husband that she married with the notion of being a virgin. But that was not the case and it was shocking to the woman too. One thing led to the other and the marriage began to fail.
“The mother invited her home, and revealed to her what happened to her at age five while she was selling at Balogun Market on Lagos Island. She had a wealthy customer that patronized her. One day, when the middle-age man came, she had other customers buying goods, so she left the daughter with the man with the thought that her daughter would be safe with him. But she was shocked to see the about 65-year-old man taking advantage of the innocent child and having carnal knowledge of her.
“The man pleaded and gave them some money. Sadly, the mother accepted, cleaned her up and took her home. She concealed the incident even from the victim when she became an adult,” she said.
She also shared an experience that her friend, a doctor, narrated to her. She said that the doctor had treated a seven-year-old girl three times who was raped by her uncle. And the father kept it a secret because of what society would say.
“I think there should be a law that would permit doctor to expose such crimes despite the oath of confidentiality on the part of medics. The child’s wellbeing is what we are talking about here.
“Also, there should be stiffer laws that will have offenders to be castrated. The penalty of imprisonment can be manipulated.
”Our cultural belief has relegated women to the background. Women are not allowed to speak. There is this bias that prevents women from speaking out.
“I remember an event in the United States of America when this same issue was brought up, and I suggested that perpetrators should be castrated and almost everybody there screamed. But if a drastic decision is not taken, it would be difficult to for them to stop the crime. The laws must be stiffer to curb the rising cases,” she said.
Anaughe added that despite the fact that Nigeria has since launched a national sex offenders’ register, it was yet to be domesticated in every state.
”School proprietors need to profile their staff before employment. They must understand that, if they profile their staff, it would go a long way to prevent ‘sex for marks’ and various forms of sexual abuse found in the academic environment,” she added.
Anaughe stressed that sexual offenders’ register, set up by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NAPTIP), was an important step towards clamping down on abusers. She urged the agency to upgrade the initiative to produce the desire results.
Considering the trauma victims contend with, she suggested counselling and therapy to help victims of rape, incest and sodomy to scale through the bitter experience.
“It is important for victims to report and see to the end that justice is served,” she said.
Also, the founder of Betharbel Foundation, Bayelsa, Monisola Aiyekunseyin, stated that majority of sexual assault victims were afraid to speak out for the fear of stigmatisation.
In the same vein, singer, songwriter and actress, Gift Iyumame Eke, popularly known as Muma Gee, said that sexual and gender-based violence was always as a result of the offender taking advantage of the vulnerability of the victim.
She stated that, in spite of the outcry over the rising cases of rape in Nigeria, there seems to be no end in insight.
“There is no day in the country without a reported case of sexual violence. Victims are becoming more encouraged to report such crimes,” she said.
Muma Gee advocated the punishment of perpetrators in accordance with the law, and not only when the victim is a female, as it is always highlighted.
“Our society frowns at it and I get passionately pained, especially when the victim is a female,” she said.
Muma Gee charged Nigerians to desist from all forms of sexual violence, adding that, as humans, people must learn to cohabit with some sense of morality in bringing sanity to the system.
Her words: “One aspect that we, at the Muma Gee Foundation, fight hard to unravel when it comes to sexual abuse and violence is the part of the family trying to suppress the victim not to speak out, as it may bring shame to the family, especially when the perpetrator is a relative. And, most often, she is compelled to live in that devastation and pain for years. Families should aid the victim to speak out so that the perpetrator can be brought to book.”
A rape victim, Olawunmi Ogundare (real name withheld), said that it took her more than a decade to view what happened to her as an assault.
“I really took all of the blame for it for at least nine or 10 years,” she said.
With years of therapy behind her, she is now a mother and an attorney for an organisation that advocates for survivors of sexual assault.
Ogundare narrated how some strangers forced their way into where she was living at about 1am and raped the ladies in the building: “They stole our phones and money.”
Ogundare described the nightmare that she and her flatmates endured when four armed men broke into their apartment in Ago Iwoye as unforgettable.
“Who the men were remains a mystery to me because they all wore masks. Till date, I am traumatized whenever I remember the incident,” Ogundare said.