When Rape Becomes Rampant- THISDAY

By The Citizen
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As we mark international women's day, authorities must ensure that sexual predators her kept at bay

Pastor Princewill Basil, the General Overseer of Mountain Movers Fire Ministry Church was last week arraigned before an Abuja High Court for allegedly raping three girls. According to one of the victims, the pastor committed the alleged offence under the pretext of casting out demons from her. 'I cannot remember the number of times he raped me. Papa (the pastor) told me it was a continuous deliverance, and he had to sleep with me to clean the dirt inside me and cleanse my future,' she told the court. As bizarre as that story may sound, it is just one in many of such occurrences in a society where sexual predators now use religion and all manner of manipulations to perpetrate their nefarious acts. From North to South, East to West, the tales are the same and the numbers of victims are daily increasing.

Just last week, a Fuji musician, Alhaji Abbas Akande (popularly known as 'Obesere'), was arrested in Lagos on a similar charge of rape and while he remains innocent until proven guilty, it is important for the authorities to take the case seriously, especially since the victim is already crying out about threats to her life. At a time like this, there is an urgent need to send a strong message that those who violate our women and girls don't continue to believe there is no consequence for such heinous crime. We also call on the relevant authorities to devise effective measures and strategies to checkmate the growing menace of sexual assaults across the country. As we have said repeatedly, rape is a violation of the most demeaning kind that scars many victims for life. However, we are also mindful of the fact that having created a society in which the seemingly strong are seeking ways to display their superiority over 'weaker' people, rape is becoming a more blatant manifestation of a deeper deviation in our social psychology. It goes without saying that when positive means of personal identification and legitimate expression are suppressed, the devil finds work. But no society should condone rape which regrettably is fast becoming a social epidemic.

In Nigeria, the insensitivity of the authorities and the fear of stigma (or persecution) help to discourage victims of sexual violence from formalizing the reports of incidents involving them. This reluctance, however, has only contributed to the rise in a culture of impunity on the part of the perpetrators. The need for a review of existing strategies and the strengthening of mechanisms, including for documenting these incidents, has therefore never been more urgent. The society also needs to be alive to its responsibility. A point of safe, protective and comforting recourse must exist for victims of sexual violence to address their immediate needs as well as to enable them summon the courage to pursue the ends of justice. While diligent prosecution and swift and exemplary sanctions would certainly send a strong signal to the perpetrators to desist, the media remains a necessary partner in sustained efforts to curb these wanton acts of evil.

Our Courts must also be more proactive and stringent in applying sanctions, as some of the verdicts, for the few that have actually been successfully prosecuted, are ridiculous. We must all be ready to stand up to fight this menace which violates the dignity of our girls and women. The message the society must send out is that on this issue, our women do not stand alone. While human rights violations of this nature occur everywhere in the world, as the sick, the evil and the deranged exist in all societies, the only manner in which citizens can feel safe and secure is where the response to crime is swift, efficient and effective. All those who take delight in rape must face the full wrath of the law.