Still On The Issue Of Rape
Lately, the Nigeria public space has been buzzling with rising public concerns about the issue of rape and other sexual violence arising from the rape and murder of two females of tertiary institutions, Uwa and Barakat in Benin and Ibadan respectively.
Sadly and unfortunately, one is disturbed that it took the simultaneous rape and murder of these two innocent girls for the society to rise up to the menace of the epidemic of rape and sexual violence which has been with us from time immemorial. But the crucial question bordering one's mind now is that, as concerned as a lot of us seemed to be, about the menace of rape in our society, are we prepared to go the whole hog in tackling this epidemic of which we are all guilty for what our society has become?
One is intrigued by the concerns raised from certain quarters and beg to disagree that rape has assumed an alarming proportion of late. This is far from the truth which is that the rampancy of rape has been with us for a long time, only that a number of factors which will be dissected later have been responsible for the low or non official reportage in the public space.
This writer can vividly recollect the menace of rape among secondary school students in the eighties, most especially during inter school house sports competition when students (boys) formed rape gangs and moved from one inter house sports competition to another raping girls as though it was a competition for medal. At the end of the day, these cases of rape go unreported because of the fear of stigmatization by the victims, notably innocent school girls, hence my disagreement that rape has assumed an alarming proportion of late.
It is important to mention that the menace of rape will be better appreciated if we can sincerely and holistically take the pains and time to understudy how this crime against humanity occurs on a per second basis at an alarming proportion in our heavily populated neighbourhoods of face me, I face you residences, then perhaps, one's submission that the menace of rape has been with us for a long time, will be better appreciated.
As we go further in our concern to stem the tide of rape and other forms of sexual violence in our society, it is important to situate where the problem actually lies, with a view to proffering lasting solutions.
First and foremost, the primary cause of rape is the failure of the family to instill discipline in the male child just as we strive to do with the female child. The boys who later become men and indulge in this crime are a product of the dysfunctionality of the home. In most homes, the focus is on preventing the girl child from becoming wayward, while abandoning the boys to become menace to the society as a result of lack of parental upbringing.
Another cause is our warped judicial system. Rape cases take donkey years to prosecute and it is technical, thus subjecting the victim and her family to negotiations for out of court settlements by offenders family who are ready to go any length to settle out of court, even if it requires compromising the prosecuting agency, the police.
Also, the society is not helpful to the travails of the victim and her family who are often subjected to abuse and intimidation by state officials who see the victim and the family as being careless to have allowed the rape to occur as though it took place with their consent. A lot of times, victims and their families undergo physiological and mental torture, which goes a long way to discourage them from seeking justice and hence they go away, licking their wounds and the society is the worst for it.
The culture of silence and stigmatization is a big negative in the fight against rape and sexual violence. The society stigmatizes the victims in such a way that the scar becomes permanent. The society treats the victim as the one who invited the rape rather than condemning the criminal for violating the laws of the land.
Ignorance and poverty is another factor constituting to the menace of rape in our society. A lot of our citizens in our heavily populated neighbourhoods, due to ignorance and poverty, are too afraid, poor and ignorant to seek justice in view of their perception of the security agencies who are very unfriendly to the plight of victims of rape. Education and sensitization is key to unlocking the door for people to seek justice.
Having analysed the causes of rape, rather than just jumping on the ephemeral bandwagon clamour of social media activism which does not address the surface of the issue, what are the concrete steps that needs to be taken to arrest this crime if we are to have a safer society for our girls and mothers?
One, we need to rework our judicial system, such that there should be a time frame of say 3 months for the trial and conclusion of rape and sexual violence cases. In that way, we would have reduced the trauma of the victim and her family and also reduced the chances of the society not getting justice due to the compromise of both the victim and offender's families settling out of court.
There is the need to make it a criminal offence punishable by law, for families who try to circumvent the law, by not reporting rape cases and settling it outside the scope of the law.
The need for advocacy on education and sensitization on the effect of rape and sexual violence on the victim and the society at large is very important. The culture of silence and stigmatization must be aggressively addressed.
The state can mitigate the shortcomings of the fight against rape and sexual violence by creating a desk for that purpose at police formations in collaboration with civil society organizations.
The security agencies need to be mobilized and empowered with the necessary tools and resources to cultivate their buy in into the fight against rape and sexual offences rather than what presently obtains.
While one commends the efforts of the media for bringing this menace to the front burner now, one must not forget those who have always been working to arrest this menace by proffering realistic solutions and those agencies of state who are now reworking the laws to deal with this epidemic, with the hope that by holistically examining the issue, we will be able to once and for all, frontally confront and subdue this epidemic to the glory of God and benefit of humanity.