Why Fight Against Rape In Nigeria Has Not Been Effective
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Fatima Sunday (not her real name), a nine-year-old, is currently battling hepatitis after a neighbour, who was simply identified as Aminu, raped her.
A lady who shared her story on social media told this writer that Aminu had attempted to rape Fatima five different times.
She said at the sixth time, he forcefully had his way and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about it.
Aminu has been arrested and is presently in the police station. But his parents begged Sunday’s mother to forgive and end the case, saying they may have to resort to influencing the case to ensure that Aminu is released.
Through the intervention of a non-governmental organisation, Aminu has been transferred to the state’s criminal investigation department.
Another teenager, 14-year-old Aina Godfrey (not real name) was coming back from school when it started raining. She took shelter in an uncompleted building six streets away from her house and a young man raped her there.
Aina’s aunt, who went to the police station on the day of the incident, was asked to go to the human rights centre, where she was told by a police woman to pay N10, 000 to fuel the vehicle that would be used to arrest the culprit.
When she told her she didn’t have the money, the police woman said she was not sure the incident happened.
“The police woman said she couldn’t even vouch that the incident actually happened because she didn’t examine the girl and that the case is void because when such cases happen, they would examine the victim to get the evidence,” the aunt said.
She explained to the police woman that the girl had been treated at the hospital and she could get a report from there. But on returning to the police station the following week, she met another police woman.
“I met somebody else and she was asking for N5, 000 that will be used to arrest the culprit,” the aunt explained.
She said because of what she was going through at the police station, she was asked to drop the case at the insistence of Aina’s mother.
The increasing report of rape in the society has become so worrisome and it is distressing to know that under-aged girls are not spared.
Despite the frequency of rape occurrences, the attitude of some law enforcement agencies is often cited as a major factor discouraging victims from making a report.
Jenifer Isiaka was raped by her uncle when she was about five years old. Seventeen years later, robbers broke into her room and she was raped again!
The robbery incident was reported to the police and when she was asked to make a report, Jenifer intentionally left out the rape incident because she didn’t want anything to keep reminding her of it.
“Going to the police station to make that entry will require me going every now and then just to say one or two things, to see how far they have gone in their investigation and I wasn’t ready for the back and forth. So I just let everything go,” she said.
With the rampant cases of rape and other forms of sexual abuse, how quickly are the perpetrators brought to book?
On July 10, 14-year-old Obiamaka Orakwe was raped and murdered by unknown men in her parents’ home.
Her killers gained entry into her room through her window after removing the burglary proof. Thereafter, she was stabbed several times in the neck and her head hit with a grinding stone, which was left beside her corpse.
Her mother, in a chat with LIB TV, explained that she went into her daughter’s room to wake her up for school, only to find her corpse in a pool of blood.
Sadly, her killers are yet to be found. Obiamaka’s case remains a shock to the nation and it revealed how terrible the issue of rape has become in the society.
Few days after Obiamaka’s death, a Facebook user, Chibuihe Obi, posted that his niece who was barely 13 years old was raped by two men.
Many believe that rape is on the increase because perpetrators are not punished, despite the law.
The Penal and Criminal Codes state that the punishment for rape is life imprisonment and attempted rape, 14 years imprisonment.
Sadly, a large number of rapists are not prosecuted properly or the punishment they are served seemed like a slap on the face of the violated.
Statistics on rape
According to Bola Tinubu of the Cece Yara Foundation, a Federal Government statistics says that one in four girls and one in 10 boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18.
The Cleen Foundation, 2013, shows rape and attempted rape incidents in Nigeria.
Experts speak on law enforcement agencies
For Seun Osowobi, the founder of Stand To End Rape, an NGO providing support for rape victims, law enforcement agencies have to do more in ensuring that the lives of women and girls are protected.
She explained that law enforcement agencies have a lot of complications and setbacks that hinder a victim from getting justice.
According to her, the legal system is evidence-based, and a medical report or a witness has to corroborate a story and the law is interpreted based on the judiciary’s or the magistrate’s understanding.
Osowobi said, “When a rapist is seen as a first-time offender, he may be fined for some small amount of money against imprisonment, making it easy for anyone to get away with rape.
“Some cases go as long as three years and sometimes, five years. And every time the lawyer appears, money has to be paid for court filing and most times, the victim has to appear at all times but all of that process is mentally draining for a victim,” she said.
So, a victim, who wants to seek justice, is discouraged by the challenges of the legal system and this stops them from continuing the case, Seun said.
According to her, the effect of not prosecuting rapists properly, or setting them free after a small fine, gives them the boldness to continue the act.
Using Obiamaka’s case as an example, Osowobi explained that the rate of rape now shows that the home, which is supposed to be a safe space to people, is becoming unsafe for young girls.
She said, “That the killers of Obiamaka has not been arrested is a message to prospective rapists that if they plan it properly, they will get away with it.
“If I know that a man will rape me and not be arrested, I’ll rather just let him have his way with me, as against going through the experience of being raped and murdered and not being able to speak up.”
Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode, a criminal justice psychologist, is of the view that law enforcement agencies are doing better than 15 years ago when she started advocating against sexual violence.
She said that the reason why rape cases were reported everyday was because many campaigns had been done to encourage victims to speak up.
She said, “When you go and report a case, the police officer would have to go to the scene of the crime to pick up the accused person. But if there is no vehicle available, the burden falls on the victim and family to provide one. This is not to say that the government or good-hearted Nigerians are not donating vehicles but they are not just enough to handle individual cases.
“A female officer confided in me once, that, police are not trained to interview victims; they are trained to interrogate suspects.”
Olufemi-Kayode noted that while many NGOs had trained police on how to respond to victims, some of them ended up not using the training because they may be transferred out of their department to go and head the traffic department in another state.
How the judiciary can stem the tide of rape
Olufemi-Kayode said the high courts are tasked with the responsibility of giving maximum sentences to rapists.
Citing the case of a girl who was raped at age four, she said the rapist was sentenced to only two years imprisonment seven years after the incident.
She said she wished victims would get justice on time because of adverse effect of the process on their mental health which makes many victims drop their cases.
Osowobi explained that a major part of the solution to the menace of rape is that the judicial system should hasten the process of prosecution.
She also noted that judges should be trained on questioning and interpreting evidences in courts.
According to her, people who work in the court of law, from the clerk to the judge, need to understand the best practices of prosecuting a rape case.
She said, “For example, you have victim that goes to court and the clerk says that, ‘At your young age, you want to send this old man to jail; don’t you have the fear of God? Can’t you forgive?’ That’s not their job; their job is to ensure justice not to teach religion.”
Osowobi is of the view that victims do not have to recount their stories all over again, advising that a video of them recounting their stories could be done and used when necessary.
She said the demand for a witness to corroborate the story of a victim may not be necessary because sometimes when they are raped, there is nobody there to bear witness.