By Owolabi Kuburat Omobolanle
In recent times, reports of rape and pedophilia have cascaded the pages of national dailies and social media. Reports on how young kids are being sexually abused, molested and how aspiring women have been made to face horrifying experience of their lives.
Cases of rape and act of pedophilia is so alarming that it has become a daily occurrence in Nigeria. It’s a barbaric act against everyone: young or old, male or female, though it has a higher rate of occurrence among the females.
Rape according to Oxford English Dictionary, is the act of forcing sexual intercourse upon another person without their consent or against their will. While Pedophilia according to Oxford English Dictionary is the sexual attraction to children by adults or sexual activity between adults and children.
It is pertinent to understand that a nexus exist between rape, defilement and pedophilia in terms of the abuse and imprint left on their victims, and so they are mostly used interchangeably. By and large, defilement is believed to be an unlawful sexual intercourse with an underage below the age of twelve and rape, the same act above the age of twelve – this as explained by section 218 of the 2004 criminal code act.
Regardless of their differences, they all portray sexual abuse against humanity. They are all acts that has rendered the lives of many people useless. Children with great dreams of becoming a doctor, lawyer, banker, etc have watched their dreams and dignity scattered and taken away by some maniac pedophiles or rapists.
Rape/ Pedophilia is an act that hurts the victims in a physical, psychological and sociological way.
Victims of Rape/ Pedophilia suffer psychological problems such as depression, panic attack, self blame, isolation, aggression, feeling of shame and may even turn suicidal.
The effects of sexual assault is even more severe on the part of females as they are the major victims of the barbaric act. Heath problems such as vaginal bleeding or infection, Hypo active Sexual Disorder, Unwanted pregnancy, Vagina inflammation, HIV/AIDS and even death occurs as the result of sexual assault.
As if it’s not enough, victims and family as a result have to live the rest of their lives in stigmatization and infamy.
Young kids with bright future have been made to lose their self esteem because of the cruel act of pedophilia against them.
Earlier this year, a picture of a young girl wearing a white T-shirt up to her knee, stained with blood went viral on Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter etc for being raped by an unknown man. Then I start to wonder, “How is she going to survive people’s harsh comments?”, “How will she cope in the world of hypocrites; where she’d be pitied for a while then mocked after?”
Considering how dangerous and scary the act of sexual abuse is to the society, many laws have been passed towards curbing this menace. Nigeria alone has four laws put in place to address the issue of sexual abuse against children and women. We have the Criminal Code which is applicable within the south; the Penal Code which is applicable within the north; The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act and the Child Right Act which was adopted in 2003.
The maximum sentence provided for the act of rape or sexual abuse against children is life imprisonment. The Child Right Act of Nigeria 2003, provides in section 31(1) “No person shall have sexual intercourse with a child.”
(2) “A person who contravenes the provision of subsection(1) of this section commits an offence of rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.”
Section 32 of the Child Right Act further stated in section 32(2), “the term of 14 years imprisonment for any person who sexually abused or sexually exploits a child in any manner.”
However despite all these, the act of sexual abuse remain persistently on the increase. The inconsistency in law is one of major reasons sexual abuse remain on increase. The Child Right Act which has been domesticated by Nigeria was only accepted by 25 states out of the 36 states. I believe this isn’t enough strategy to curb rape. A global collaboration on sexual abuse law is needed to create a hostile rape punishment and environment for these miscreants.
Prevention they say, is better than cure. Thus, preventive measures should be adopted over curative ones. Life imprisonment, castrations, payment of fines etc are all curative measures, which only focus on the perpetrators and not the welfare and future of the victims. Punishing the offender is fundamental however that’s not all. After all, India gives death penalty to rapists, yet India remains one of the top 10 countries in the world with the highest rate of sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, the one million question here is, what is the way out? How do we eradicate rape/ pedophilia for good in Nigeria?. Well, it starts with the family.
The first agent of socialization is the family. To be able to curb the menace of rape/ pedophilia, the family is needed to provide basic education and care to their wards.
The rise or fall of any country lies in the hand of family upbringing. We live in a world where parents have little or no time for their children, they put strangers in care of their children, exposing the children to danger.
I could remember vividly, when I was much younger, my mom would call on us both the females and males and give us sexual orientation. She even came up with the idea of telling us “If a man touches you, your stomach will get big and you’d die”. But many parents have replaced that with the search for greener pastures. Imagine a mother going to work by 7:00 am and returning by 9:00 pm when the kids would have been on bed.
Most parents would blame Nigeria economy and the need to go out for greener pastures, regardless I believe parents should dedicate time for their kids.
Every kid deserves sex education.Teach them what is Vagina, Penis, Breasts, Sexual Intercourse, Pregnancy, AIDS/ HIV etc.
You might be worried about how to educate them if they’re young, however there’s something I read, called age appropriate messaging. It’s not too big to tell a 3 year old girl “Don’t sit on a man’s lap”, “Don’t allow any man touch your breast or Vagina”. Furthermore, parents should maintain a closer relationship with their children. Ask them not to keep secret as their rapists would obviously tell them “Don’t tell anyone”.
In addition, parents shouldn’t leave their children alone with a stranger or family members when they won’t be around for long. Most act of sexual abuse are done mostly by close and trusted relations. Just like the case of the 27 year old man caught fondling his 11 month old niece in Ogun state. There is also the need for parents to censor what their children view, their watchlist must be appropriate with their age.
The next in line is the society. Sexual abuse is being trivialized, victims are being stigmatized and blamed for the act of the perpetrators.
This is one of the reason most victims or victim’s family keep mute and do nothing when it’s obvious that the society would stigmatize and mock them. In order to curb the menace of sexual abuse, society should be enlightened about the dangers of stigmatizing victims as it has led many to either keep mute or even commit suicide.
Another major thing is the issue of drug abuse. Drug abusers are more prone to be sexual abusers. Most of the perpetrators of sexual abuse are drug addicts, making them lose their sense of thinking. The federal government should work hard in eradicating drugs that intoxicate.
Also is the prevalence of ritual. Most of the perpetrators of sexual abuse are ritualists in need of female genitals, virgin blood etc. A man was arrested along Ebutte Meta for having intercourse with a 3 year old girl. He was reported to have used a white handkerchief to clean up the girl’s vagina for ritual purpose.
To curb this, the penalty for ritual should be spelt out clearly.
Job opportunities is also one of the ways out of sexual abuse in Nigeria.
An idle hand they say, is the devil’s workshop. Many of these atrocities are being committed by jobless individuals.
If the government could provide employment for the unemployed citizens of Nigeria, the rate of crimes especially sexual abuse will reduce greatly.
Lastly is the issue of gender inequality. Because women are considered weaklings, they keep getting violated by men, this believe should be stopped and shunned.
Nigerians should be educated on how the barbaric act of rape stands as a threat to our great country Nigeria and the need to work together to help the victims and make Nigeria a safer place for our women and children, whose well-being are tantamount to a progressive society.
Owolabi Kuburat Omobolanle is a Public Affairs Analyst.