Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
Traffic and other activities at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja were last week grounded as thousands of women marched around the seat of power protesting the continued sexual molestation of children.
The women under the umbrella of Abujamoms, clutched placards with inscriptions like: “The child is the victim, no matter the excuse”; “Stop the silence”; “End the molestation”; “Shatter the silence”; “Report molestation”; “Uphold the child Rights Act always” . They marched through Wuse, Garki, Maitama to Asokoro.
Sexual abuse is a crime punishable under sections 21 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said about six out of 10 children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18, with half experiencing physical violence.
The convener of protest, Happiness Ani, said the women chose to use the platform to raise awareness on the need for collective effort to rescue the future generation.
She said the group was founded in 2017 specifically to attract opportunities to women adding that Nigerians with conscience would not sit back but expose perpetrators for adequate punishment:
“Three out of every five girls and one out of every five boys are molested before the age of 18 and perpetrators do not come as masquerades or strangers, but people that are likely acquitted to the victims. Child molestation is one of the silent crimes due to the misplaced fear of stigmatization, with evidence of increasing case alarming of child sexual abuse.”
She said investigation conducted reviewed that a lot of women suffered from this abuse and their abusers never got caught: “Many still harbor the pain and shame, which affected their contributions to their society. We hope this awareness walk today would enlighten parents on the need to be more protective of their children and encourage victims to speak out in order to get justice.”
Ani appealed to the Federal Government to uphold the part 111 of Child Rights Act adopted by Nigeria in 2003, which prohibits every form of sexual abuse and child exploitation, to reduce the menace destroying the future of children.
Another member, Otinu Carew, said child molestation is devilish that has beset the society and need to be addressed urgently. She was hopeful that the walk will create more awareness especially to mothers on the need for them to be more watchful and speak against this menace and further expose perpetrators irrespective of their social status:
“In recent time, we have seen this evil going on without any serious attempt to stop it. It is either people are not aware or they choose to deliberately keep mute about it. We hope that this walk will reawaken their consciousness to protect children against molestation.”
Helen Akpeyere, called on the government to stiffen penalty for the crime of child molestation: “We cry to the public and government against this menace that is destroying our children. The worst is that judicial system does not give quick Justice to victims.”
John Attah, said his heart bleeds at the increased rate of child abuse in Nigeria. He said it is not only female children that undergo this agony, but also the boys. He urged parents to be very observant and be friendly to their children so they can easily open up and speak to them in case of any molestation either in school, home or elsewhere:
“When we relate freely with our children, they would not be afraid to disclose things to us. Let them know that certain parts of their body are exclusively private to them, and nobody should touch or play with them. Educating them on this will go a long way in reducing the crime and exposing perpetrators.”