Editor's note: Writer Godspower Iheanacho, in this piece, lends his voice against the increasing cases of gender-based violence in Nigeria and offers possible solutions on how to tackle the menace in the country.
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According to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, there have been over 717 rape cases this year, resulting in one rape in every 5 hours. For a nation where the women are already battling with the specter of terrorism, social inequality, police brutality and coupled with the fact they are currently contending with the menacing grip of rape, I cannot begin to wrap my head around the socio-psychological impact this will have on them. They live in constant fear due to the fact there are rapists out in the open who might rape them. With the news of Vera Omozuwa Uwaila, a 22-year old, 100 level UNIBEN student who brutally met her end after she was inhumanely raped and murdered in a church in Benin city, Edo state. A place deemed safe, sacred and devoid of distractions. This has left everyone short of words and wondering what would have triggered such a beastly act.
At the time of writing this article, I still feel the surge of pain erupt anytime I struggle to lay my eyes on the gory pictures of badly bruised Uwa. A girl full of hope and basking in the euphoria of gaining admission to the University after five years of trying, only to have her dreams cruelly quashed with a fire extinguisher by these sexual urchins. This is just one of the numerous rape cases that scrolls across the national news desk be it against grandmothers, mothers, young ladies and infants.
However, for a country living at odds with the notion for a harmonious society, it is quite reassuring seeing men and women using their various social media platforms to speak up and protest against this negative trend of rape rather than folding their arms like pretzels in silence and watch these monsters among men get away with their hideous crimes.
Nevertheless, in order to prevent sexual violence from becoming a new norm, the fight against this menace should not be left in the hands of keypads warriors and social media avengers alone but preferably all hands must be on deck starting from the family members, security operatives, religious leaders and down to those at the helm of affairs.
Measures for curbing rape
Before I delve into the crux of the matter, permit me to throw some light on what rape culture truly means.
Rape culture has to do with normalizing, trivializing and justifying sexual violence in a community. Rape, as we know, is a war crime born out of the need for perpetrators to exert dominance and pain on their victims and also satisfy their sexual urges. Below are the various ways in which we can curb and reduce this menace to the barest minimum.
Proactive response from the government
Due to the rise of sexual violence in the country, there is a need for a proactive response from our leaders towards the effective prosecution of anyone found guilty of rape.
Though the recent outrage against sexual violence meted on women seems to have yielded dividend, as the governors of Oyo, Anambra and Ebonyi have all domesticated the Violence Against Persons (VAAP) Act(2015). This means anyone found guilty of rape will be sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison in these states. We hope in the coming days' governors from other states will take a cue from them but that should not be the game, as there is an urgent need for the government to beef up the police force by creating a specialized team in each state that is equipped and trained to handle sexual offences whilst they should not be used as a tool for oppressing victims. In addition to these, there should be a register for sex offenders which should be accessible to the public, this will go a long way in naming and shaming rapist.
Creating the right environment for victims to speak up
Those in the law field can agree with me that sexual crimes are very difficult to persecute due to the absence of third party corroboration in most cases. So it is imperative for rape victims to voice out immediately they are violated. Speaking up might not necessarily involve taking issues to the social media but rather meticulously and quietly gathering important evidence that the appropriate authorities will need in order to persecute such criminals.
In a situation where rape victims summons up the courage to speak, members of the public should try not to create a caricature out of the whole thing. Rape victims should not be a source of comic relief. They should not be laughed at, blamed or even suppressed from telling their stories. They deserve to be heard and given the much needed legal and psychological support. Just like other social vices, silence will not put a stop to this trend but instead, it will only encourage the perpetrators to continue their barbaric act.
In addition, parents should create an environment where their children can freely open up to them whenever they feel their right is being trampled upon and also they should resist the urge of blaming them when the case of rape arises.
Embracing the use of technology
CCTV cameras should be installed in public buildings like schools, churches, mosques and markets etc this will curtail the spread of rape and also aid the police in the investigation of rape crimes. Tracking apps like TrackAm SOS should also be used. This app will alert friends and parents of the location of their ward when confronted by a rapist.
Public enlightenment on consent
The first port of call in regard to the enlightenment of the public against sexual assault has to be the family, based on the premise that “charity begins at home.” As we all know, the family is the foundation of society. In the grand scheme of things, the family is the true reflection of the larger society. Though, parenting in this part of the world seems to be limited to just education and spirituality of their wards, leaving out sexual orientation.
This negligence on the part of the parents has led the children to seek advice from their friends who may, in turn, give them the wrong sexual orientation. The onus of sexual education should not be placed on school teachers alone. There is a need for parents to teach their kids right from a young age about sex. They can go as far as teaching their sons to respect the bodies and emotions of their female counterparts.
Also, the ministry of women affairs in conjunction with Non-Governmental Organisations should take it upon themselves to use various platforms like newspapers, social media, television etc to enlighten the public against sexual violence. It is also important they involve religious leaders and the education sector in order to educate the males that the time of the day, location and the dressing of a girl should not give them the right to be entitled to a girl's body. The boys need to be taught in schools about consent and how to value their female counterparts.
As a nation, we are currently tilting towards a state where sexual assault is being normalized. But we have to decide whether to embrace this new trend or put a stop to it. We have failed the likes of Vera Uwa, Barakat Bello, Ogbanje Ochanya and the list goes on. Their lives mattered, yet they suffered a devastating coup de grace in the hands of rapists. But we can still salvage the situation by doing the needful hence, protecting our girls against sexual crimes and creating an environment where they no longer have to live in fear in the future.
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