Mr. President, On Managing Sexual Violence in Nigeria.
In reality, the Federal Ministry of Justice should have its Office of Public Prosecution fully developed with a functioning Sex Crimes Unit working closely with establishments like the Nigeria Police, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Youth Development and other related agencies in order to ensure the successful investigation and prosecution of all felony sex crimes as well as protecting victims fully.
The Sex Crimes division at the Office of Public Prosecution should be set up in way that will enable it work with several specialized private organizations such as the NGOs, Psychological service and medical providers, and other related providers who could offer assistance in the areas of forensic psychological examinations, victim assessment as well as counseling for victims.
Why do we need this type of joint effort?
In the last few weeks and in recent months, and at a time when the country is in great tension and stressed over religious, sectarian and ethnic violence; sexual offenses and predatory sexual behaviors are occurring and rising continuously.
All over the newspapers and electronic media we read and hear of reported incidences like that of a Police officer raping 3-year-old child, a 25-year-old man arrested for raping an 80-year-old woman, a video showing 5 men raping a woman at a Nigeria university while she plead with her violators to kill her, two men arrested for drugging and raping a friend's daughter, an Oba charged over the rape of Youth Corper, a 30-year old man arrested for raping a 96-year-old woman, two policemen and seven others arrested for robbery and gang-raping the victim's wife while one of the robbers raped a younger sister to his wife, a father arrested for castrating a man that raped his daughter, a father arrested for raping a 14 year old daughter, a man arrested for raping a 75 year old at gun point, a pastor arrested for allegedly raping a 12-year-old choir member of his church, and many others.
The Nigerian Constitution, by nature of its make-up in terms of Humans rights has existing laws in the area of rape but these laws although generally outdated, need to be enforced logically and in a common sense manner. Section 357 of the Criminal Code is very clear— “any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if consent was obtained by force or by means of threat or intimidation of any kind, or by fear or harm, or by any means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband is guilty of an offence called rape.” Under Section 358, the punishment for rape is life imprisonment.
In our society, where female humans are viewed as 'less than', the long existing, old-fashioned rape law and the legal interpretations of rape tend to put the weight on a female to prove that her reports of being victimized are genuine. What a burden.
The societal outlook which tends to view males as not really responsible for sexual misconducts even towards female minors generally perceive victims of rape which are mostly females, as inherently blame worthy in terms of participating in alleged forceful carnal knowledge of her body especially when she cannot produce a living witness or dressed sensually or being by herself. What? Yes, this is how it is, even though the sexual offence in most cases occurred with no living witness around as it is usually done in a hidden or private manner. And she should be a free human like everyone else.
In this type of environment or society, a sexual perpetrator is certainly going to be more energetic to commit more sexual violence in the face of loose, ambiguous and unclear rules on rape as well as the different stands of the common law, sharia law or customary law in sexual matters. But one thing that ties all of them together is for the female to prove herself in terms of righteousness, purity and integrity.
For the sexual offender, this inherent societal misunderstanding tends to support his personality styles in regard to his interaction with females of any kind.
As most psychological experts in involved in the psychology of sexual profiling and violence will testify to, a rapist notwithstanding his national, social, religious or economic background, comes with some well-known characteristics—he is not really concerned about sex, he is about ultimate power/control, he is moved by anger/violence, he is socially incompetent/miserable, he is sometimes very reserved/introverted, he enjoys humiliating/debasing females, and enjoys hurting/bullying his victim.
And among others, a rapist tends to have weak impulse-control skills, unusual mood disorders, has conduct disorder (as a child), bear biological dis-regulation, and have distorted attitudes/beliefs in regard to carrying a psychological profile consisting of deviant, bizarre or strange sexual practices.
In the face of these qualities the continued blaming of the victims of rape in Nigeria makes the rapists more out of control, unless we correct things in time to avoid rapists' continuing with targeting of the young and vulnerable.
The office of public prosecution at the federal ministry of justice and those of the 36 States will need to train lawyers in regards to becoming versed in all areas of sex crimes. Help them understand the importance of setting up sex offender register; teach them how to follow up on Internet child pornography offenses, and on how to be successful in the prosecution of sex crimes.
Certainly, there are cases of false accusations by some females who might be in a present or previous relationship with the offender, and this is the more reason for the creation of a Unit to aggressively separate authentic cases from bad ones, to assist with better legal representation for a known victim, to engage in full investigation, and learn what behavioral questions to ask an alleged sexual offender.
The sex crimes Unit as a specialized felony prosecution section in the office of public prosecution could be engaged exclusively on the preparation and prosecution of severe crimes of sexual assault, sexual battery, and child sexual abuse.
Within the Unit there should be a Victim Services unit with trained staff to advocate, and assist victims throughout the life and prosecution of the case, and help the victim with basic needs and protective services as well as financial assistance to victims.
The role of forensic-clinical psychological testing needs to be recognized in regards to the court attempting to get a better understanding of sex offense defendants. This type of evaluation could help to further determine levels of sexual offender risk, dangerousness, competency to proceed to trial, criminal responsibility, competency restoration, and whether the offender is being able to managing his violence.
There is need to understand different types of emotional and psychological effects of being raped as well as the accompanying physical and bodily injuries and financial losses incurred by a victim. A psychological evaluation, medical assessment and follow up medical treatment, surgical operations, and psychotherapy are very essential for victims. These services mostly follows sexual assault as a result of emotional trauma and its effects like fear, agony or anxiety, emotional numbness, decreased sexual drive and other unsettling emotions.
The physical wounds from a rape could include bruises, pain, irritation and soreness in the vaginal area, bleeding, and possible tears in the vaginal-rectal region.
Our laws whether in common law form or Islamic form should recognize the changing times as such updating our sex laws become very vital. There is need to study a more contemporary rape law in terms of levels of severity like that of the Lagos State which could be a guide to the federal Government and other States.
Our governments both in the South and all over the North must face the reality that sexual intercourse without valid consent which occurred between the offender and the victim requires no living witness as there is usually no other one—it is usually carried out in a hidden or private manner, except in the case of gang rape.
No matter how slight is the physical force in terms of coerced penetration to the vulva or anus, with the instrument of the penis, any body part, or an object; it is still a possible sexual assault. And even without penetration, sexually invading a female in a physical and coercive manner could be rape. And yes, it is time that marital rape or spousal rape be added to our laws as a non-consensual sex involving the two partners as in husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend is a form of violence.
The Nigerian Society's attitude toward sexual misconduct as in rape and child sexual assault must reflect current times in terms of protecting females. Our Common law and Sharia providers like judges, magistrates, Quadi, prosecutors and defense attorneys as well as concerned NGOs and other interest should find better ways outside some of these outdated traditions in order to save our suffering and yet to suffer rape victims.
These include but not limited to our infant girls, daughters, sisters, mothers, nieces, aunts, grandmothers, godmothers, and any other female across the nation.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D., is a Forensic/Clinical Psychologist and the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association (NPA), Abuja. [email protected] 08126909839