Ladies and gentlemen, I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to write about this subject matter, because somewhere in my subconscious I hoped and prayed that the scourge of rape would have greatly reduced by now. I have also been reluctant to tackle this issue, because there’s no way to write about rape without feeling a good measure of anger and sadness – emotions I was shying away from. The rape epidemic in Nigeria has been increasing at an alarming rate daily. The virtue of the women folk in particular has become endangered in our society. It is virtually impossible to open the crime section of any newspaper nowadays without reading about one reported case of rape or the other. It is baffling, as it is very worrisome because many non-governmental organisations, groups and individuals have been quite active in the fight against this plague. Yet incidents of rape keep rising.
Just yesterday, the news of a 61-year old security guard who had allegedly been sexually defiling two sisters, aged 10 and 11 years old broke! The story has it that this man would give them N200 and threaten to kill them if they ever breathed a word about what he was doing to them to their mother. Now, how does this kind of story not make one shed tears? How it does it not make one want to resort to violence?
Uncles raping nieces, Guardians sexually molesting their wards, random men sexually assaulting a lady, a tenant defiling his landlord’s child, house helps preying on the innocent children kept in their care, and even father’s defiling their own daughters! A few days ago, it was reported that a 46-year old father was arrested for allegedly raping his own biological 11-year old daughter! This same man is also believed to have impregnated a neighbour’s daughter some time earlier! The story of a factory worker in Osun State, who raped his 14-year old daughter six times between April and September was also aired recently. When asked why he did it; he blamed it on the devil. I also read about the case of a 32-year old police corporal who allegedly raped and impregnated a 12 year old junior secondary school student. These are only a few out of the numerous cases that are reported daily.
The most troubling part of this epidemic of rape is that there appears to be no age limit to who can be sexually violated (not that anyone deserves to be raped, at any age or time in their life) as infants, toddlers, little children, and even the elderly who are 60 years and above are not spared from this evil assault! What by Jove, would push a grown man to rape an eighteen months old baby or a 70-year old grandmother? What is sexually alluring or provocative about the body of a baby or an old woman?
As annoying and distressing as it sounds, a school of thought have consistently opined that indecent dressing is a major factor that predisposes women to rape, while this may not be entirely untrue, I dare say that rape due to scanty dressing is infinitesimal in the scheme of things, as most rape cases that have been reported have absolutely nothing to do with dressing. Secondly, this view indirectly suggests that our men have a hard time controlling their libido. If it is really about being scantily clad, why don’t we have have a preponderance of women who pounce on indiscreetly dressed men, who sometimes dash out of their houses in boxers to get something across the road? Are babies and little kids who are sexually assaulted usually badly dressed too? The argument for bad dressing as a predominant cause of rape certainly holds no water and is at best a leeway of sorts for lecherous men with roving phalli to blame their insatiable appetite for sex on the woman. That being stated, there’s nothing wrong in encouraging everyone in general (and not just women) to dress decently.
Despite the fact that many groups, foundations and non-governmental organisations have taken it upon themselves to campaign against rape by sensitizing the public, creating awareness and even staging protests which have involved celebrities and prominent individuals speaking against this social malaise when necessary, this ugly trend of rape persists! And even though, there are no reliable statistics on the number of rape cases in a year, as most incidents of rape tend to go unreported, it is believed that there has been a significant rise from the 678 reported rape cases that were recorded between March 2012 and March 2013 in Lagos State alone.
Rape is a crime under the criminal and penal code in Nigeria; it is a clear violation of Chapter 30, section 358 of the Criminal Code Act which states that “Any person who commits the offence of rape, is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without caning.” Yet, I have never heard of any rapist who was sentenced to life imprisonment. Rather, convicted rapists only get at most a few years imprisonment – A sentence tantamount to a slap on the wrist! It is bad enough that cases of sexual offences are grossly under reported because of the stigma associated with victims, but it is worse that the few cases that are prosecuted end up with light sentences that are not nearly enough to serve as a deterrent to would-be rapists.
The government really needs to do more than just pay lip service to the fight against this despicable act. Castration may not be such a bad idea actually, even if it sounds barbaric. I honestly believe that the capital punishment should be imposed on anyone who’s found to be guilty of rape. Other states of the federation can also borrow a leaf of Edo and Ekiti States where registers have been opened to keep a record of convicted sex offenders.
After all is said and done, the fight against rape is the collective responsibility of everyone in the society. Parents in particular need to do more in ensuring that they do not abdicate the responsibility of bringing up their children to nannies and relatives.
Charity they say begins at home. Boys and young men should be taught from a very early age that the advantage of the physical strength they possess over their female counterparts should be deployed into protecting them, and not assaulting them. Victim shaming, character assassination and the social stigma attributed to rape will be a thing past if we are all more empathetic towards the plight of rape victims.