The ever increasing incidents of rape, especially of minors, have become a source of worry to many Nigerians. Hardly can a day pass without reports of women and minors raped across the country.
Just recently, a hospital in Edo said it handled 80 rape cases in seven months.
Besides, the courts are daily inundated with cases of rape, most of them minors.
The punishment for rape as spelt out in Section 358 of the Criminal Code is life imprisonment, while an attempt to commit rape attracts 14 years imprisonment.
In spite of stiff penalty for rape, it still thrives, because of bottlenecks of legal technicalities, and unwillingness of victims to pursue their cases to logical conclusions.
A lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, said that the problem hindering prosecution of rape cases was unwillingness of many victims to pursue their cases to logical conclusions.
According to him, it is one thing to allege being raped and another to lodge a complainant and proceed with the prosecution of the offence.
Keyamo attributed the situation to the complacency of the society and the nature of the act, which most victims perceive could stigmatise and tarnish their image.
Prof. Friday Okonofua, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, said that political commitment was needed to reduce the high incidence of rape.
Okonofua, who is a Programme Officer for Ford Foundation (West Africa), said that the “ rising incidence of sexual abuse of minors in the country is evidence that our policies and laws are not working.
“In other countries, when such happens, the perpetrators will be sent to life imprisonment or punished; but in Nigeria we have some laws and policies that are not being implemented,’’ he noted.
The gynaecologist also called on the law enforcement agents and judiciary to live up to their responsibilities and quicken the dispensation of justice.
“There are penalties for people who commit such offences, but people are afraid to come out because they feel that nothing will be done.
“The executive and judicial arms of government should work in harmony and formulate policies that can prevent incidences of rape,” Okonofua said.
On her part, Dr Oluwatoyin Jegede, Senior Lecturer, Department of English, University of Ibadan, described rape as a crime against humanity.
According to her, rape infringes on the rights of the victim, who carries the psychological trauma for life.
Jegede however blamed the high incidence of rape to negligence and care free attitude of some parents.
The don urged parents to be alive to their responsibilities and protect their children at all times, stressing that females should take cognisance of their susceptibility.
“Indecent dressing among ladies should be discouraged, and society should reject it in totality.’’
The university teacher advised ladies to present themselves in a manner that would promote respect for the female gender.
Dr Jennifer Spiff, the National Coordinator, Women Initiative for Transparency and Social Justice, an NGO, blamed the increasing rate of rape and child defilement on unemployment.
“There is unemployment in the country; youths are loitering around; no work to do and their minds are not occupied. When a man’s mind is not valuably occupied, he can do any kind of evil.
“The young men that have no job go around, they have no work to do and sometimes they also want to make friends with girls.
“They cannot afford the money to make friends with girls, and when they find out that they can rape them, they do it.
“A youth that is gainfully employed will be busy at his work place, he will not have time to rape,’’ she said.
Spiff also called for concerted efforts to check the high incidence of rape, stressing that women should be conscious on how they dress.
“It is a very diverse problem. We will look at it from the social perspective, how women present themselves before their male counterparts.
“Are they dressed in provocative manners and also find themselves in compromising situations with men and incidentally these things happen?
“There should be reorientation in our schools, telling young men the things that are involved in rape cases.
“To tell them that morally it is not good to rape a woman, because when you rape a woman you destroy her,’’ she added.
Mrs. Omotola Rotimi, the Director in the Office of the Public Defender, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, on her part, called for the establishment of rape victims` unit in all police stations and hospitals.
She noted that many cases of rape were not reported because of lack of confidence in the criminal justice system.
“That is why I emphasise on the special victims` unit at every police, where the victim will be attended to immediately.
“From there to the nearest hospital, either private or government hospital for further investigation.’’
She said there should also be a rape victims’ unit in every hospital, that would work closely with the police.
Rotimi said setting up of special victims’ unit in all police stations and hospitals would provide easy access as well as ensure prompt treatment of rape victims.
She said that the establishment of such units would give victims confidence to report cases.
Stakeholders want the government to remove all the inhibitions in the extant rape legislations that hinder prosecution of rape cases.