By Olusanya Anjorin
The incessant crime against women in Nigeria is on the increase. The cock no longer makes a serrated noise before raping a chicken, the lizard no longer bowed obediently to its female folks before devouring it like a dinner. This crime has been classified as the worst crime against womanhood in recent times.
The case of Vera Uwaila Omozuwa in Benin City was a spark that ignited the concerns for rape victims in Nigeria.
Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old microbiology student, has consistently sought the quietness of her empty church in Benin City, southern Nigeria, as a place to study. Shortly after, she was raped and killed.
The Federal Government of Nigeria has directed the police to untangle the tangled circumstances surrounding the gang-rape amid heaps of calls from rights groups, public figures and other interests groups demanding a thorough inquiry.
On May 31, 2020, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the global head of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the denomination of the church where she was killed, said: “All I can do at this time is to pray for the family of Omozuwa and do everything possible working with relevant authorities to bring the perpetrators to book.”
Sexual violence is endemic in Africa’s most populous country. Data on the number of reported cases is very limited but a national survey on violence against children in Nigeria conducted in 2014, found that one in four women had experienced sexual violence in childhood, with approximately 70% reporting more than one incident. Only 5% sought help, and only 3.5% received any services.
Just as the people were condemning the dastardly act of raping and killing Vera Omozuwa, an 18- year-old student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology Moore Plantation, Apata, Ibadan, was raped and killed in Ibadan, Oyo State. The young adult, Barakat Bello, was studying Science Laboratory Technology before she was harassed on June 1, 2020.
More sadden was the incidence in Kaduna when one Usman Sheu Bashir of Dogarawa Sabon Gari Zaria was convicted by hanging of raping a 2-year and 9-month–old to death by Kaduna State High Court. Such experience is like being burnt by hot embers of the flaming log, it is a deep scar in the heart of the parents who lost their daughters.
Barrister Zainab Aminu Garba, the chairperson of the International Federation of Women Lawyers in Kaduna, said rape has become an epidemic in north-western Nigeria. She said victims are not just women, but men and boys as well.
At the moment, Nigerians are on the street protesting against sexual violence, human rights campaigners have rallied in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital to raise awareness about violence against women after a series of high-profile rape cases in Nigeria.
More than 200 protesters marched around police headquarters in Abuja chanting slogans and holding banners that read”, ”no to female abuse,” ”It is her today it could be me tomorrow, don’t rape us don’t kill us, ”justice for all Nigerian girls and women,” among others captions.
On June 1, 2020, a group of protesters robed in black, including students from the University of Benin, protested to the State police headquarters in Benin City to demand justice for Vera Omozuwa.
Why do victims refuse to make formal reports at the Police Station?
There are several reasons, which include: fear of stigmatization, police extortion, and a lack of trust in the criminal justice system.
Most recent statistics from the NBS state that 2,279 cases of rape and indecent assault were reported to the police in 2017. And the Nigerian Correctional Service has said 4,436 people were jailed for sex-related crimes in 2014.
According to Barrister Kayode Ojo, an Abuja based legal practitioner, ”most rapes in Nigeria are perpetrated by people known to the victim. These could be family members, friends, neighbours, employers, and even online friends.” He added that one must be careful who one entrusts his child.
Records from other countries show that in South Africa, 41,583 cases of rape were recorded in 2018/19 and 52,420 cases of sexual offences generally; and at least 38,947 cases of rape were recorded in India in 2016. Each year in the United States, there are on average 433,648 victims of rape and sexual assault—the world’s highest in absolute terms.
Do rapists have justifications for their actions?
Yes, they conjured all sort of feeble excuses for their acts; reasons such as indecent and provocative dressing, heavy makeup particularly lipstick to lure men, the urge to explore by adolescent boys, obsession for sex, the culture of seeing women as a commodity and many other reasons.
A member of Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) who is nicknamed Scorpion in Alimosho part of Lagos said, some girls asked for it. When he was asked how? He said, the skimpy and short clothes girls’ wear melt the heart of man and that is the chief reason why men would want to sleep with such girls.
My response to Scorpion was that some girls wear sexy clothing in order to feel good about herself in a number of ways but I want to add, men who cannot control their libidos are miserable creatures and should be made to have miserable lives within the armpit of the law.
At the 2019 International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, Abuja, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development (FMWASD), Dame Pauline Tallen, said that there cannot be any justification for rape.
This is relatively strange in Nigeria but a question remained: How do we reduce the increasing tide of violence against women?
We could start by making rape a non-bailable offence in Nigeria. In most cases, people do get bail because of inadequate evidence and more particularly, the accused are often sheltered by police and or lawyers. At the national level, rape can be made a national emergency. In other words, the Federal Government will direct resources, time and energy to deal with the problem.
To the individual, we could start with public enlightenment about the implication of rape and the culture of violence against women.
In major cities like Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Ibadan, etcetera mapping of desolate areas with closed-circuit television (CCTV) is also a good way to go.
The Law Makers are not only muttering against rape but are thundering about the existing laws. For instance, The Nigerian Criminal Code recommends life imprisonment for the perpetrators of rape and 14 years for attempted rape. Are these penalties enough?
Olusanya Anjorin, wrote this in June from Lagos. He is an Inspirational Speaker, Columnist and Entrepreneur
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