New Telegraph

Walking against sexual, gender-based violence

The pandemic of rape in the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) and the rest of the country has been of great worry to several individuals and organisations. REGINA OTOKPA reports on some recent protests

Sexual and gender based violence is not a new crime in Nigeria. However, it has grown in recent years to a pandemic, which if not checked urgently, would become another major issue in addition to the myriad of problems the country is already struggling to deal with.

Over the years, many women and girls especially housemaids, have been raped and sometimes killed in their parent’s houses, husband’s homes, workplaces, school hostels, in the open field or in forlorn places.

A day hardly goes by without a series of reports on sexual and gender based violence on the social media and national dailies.
On April 27, 2020, 18-year old Jennifer was gang raped by five men in Narayi, Kaduna State. Not long ago, an 11-year old girl and a 11-year old girl were gang raped in Ilorin, Kwara State.
On May 27, 2020, Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year old 100 level student of University of Benin, Edo State, became a cruel addition to the long list of Nigerian women and girls who have had their body privacy desecrated and their lives destroyed by rapists.

Sadly, these trends seemingly showed that girls and women are not safe anywhere any longer. It is as if the life of girls and women are the cheapest commodities in this part of the world.

According to a national survey sponsored by the United Nations Women (UNWomen) in 2014, one in four women in Nigeria had experienced violence during childhood, with about 70 per cent of the affected girls and women reported that it happened more than once.

Out of the number of affected women, only five per cent sought help and only 3.5 per cent received any help, such as medical assistance and counselling. This is because majority of sexual and gender based violence are not reported by victims due to various reasons, which includes fear of stigmatisation, threat to remain silent by perpetrators as well as fear of mockery by peers and relatives.

Disturbed over the alarming increase of rape cases, a Civil Society Organisation, Wanda Adu Foundation (WAF) in collaboration with the International Centre for Investigating Reporting (ICIR) and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), recently took to the streets to protest against rape and all forms of gender based violence. The protesters demanded the enactment of a law that would ensure rapists and child sex offenders undergo chemical castration.

President WAF, Wanda Ebe, explained that chemical castration does not involve removing a person’s testicles. Rather, it entails the injection of a hormone blocking-drug that would render the testicles irrelevant and decrease libido to its lowest level.

Ebe, who further advocated death penalty to curb the menace, insisted that only a harsh penalty would send strong signal to deter perpetrators from carrying out the heinous crime.
“Death sentence is what we ask for. There is a case of a four-year-old child who was raped and all her internal organs gushed out from her private organ. Look at the cases of Uwa and other several rape and murder cases. Rape is a murder; it is killing. Even if you are not dead physically, emotionally or mentally, you are dead. So, there should be death penalty or chemical castration for every rapists,” she said.

While lamenting the manner in which rapists and child sex abusers were being treated with kid gloves, Ebe said it was highly disappointing that many offenders were walking free on the streets.

She urged both federal and state governments to live up to their responsibilities of protecting the citizenry. She pleaded with the government to give women the opportunity to decide the penalty on sexual crimes.

“The government should have a consistent sanction, consistent sentencing, not that in a whole year, we have 1,000 rape or child sexual abuse cases and we get justice for only three or five. It means that it is okay to rape; it means it is okay to sexually abuse children,” she said.

Director of Communication and Advocacy, Make A Difference Initiative, Lemmy Ughegbe, who raised concerns over the mental health issues connected to rape, called on the National Assembly to legislate on a Victims Compensation Bill to aid the protection and rehabilitation of rape victims.

He also urged the lawmakers to strengthen the existing law in order to make life imprisonment the least punishment for perpetrators of rape.
Ughegbe also advocated that the onus of proving an allegation of rape should be on the accused and not on the victim.
While calling on state House of Assemblies yet to domesticate the Violence Against Persons (VAP) Prohibition Act to do so without delay, he advised mothers to be more vigilant to ensure their daughters were protected from failing victims to rape.
“The Nigerian government, civil societies, Nigerian people and all stakeholders must rally round the law, strengthen the law, so that we can insist on life imprisonment for rapists.
“To prove the allegation of rape is difficult, so we need to shift the onus to the person who has been accused because the victim is stigmatised, the victim suffers double tragedy because you are suffering from great psycho-social consequence, you have social and psychological problems after you have been raped.
“Government needs to make Compensation and Victim Rehabilitation Act possible so that the victim is not just protected but rehabilitated because the mental health challenges that the victim undergoes based on rape is not quantifiable.
“Beyond the physical assault, the person has been wrecked emotionally and psychologically. Most rape victims do not have a life even when they are alive because they are walking dead. So, we must begin to legislate on a bill to be passed in the National Assembly; Victims Compensation Bill particularly for victims of rape,” Ughegbe said.

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