The prevalence of sexual assault in Nigeria has been alarming to say the least.
According to HumAngle Media , there were 335 reported cases of different forms of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in the first four months of 2022 across Nigeria.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund says six out of every 10 children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical, or sexual abuse before the age of 18, with half experiencing physical violence.
According to a survey by Positive Action for Treatment Access, over 31.4 percent of girls said their first sexual encounters were rape or forced sex of some kind.
Numerous cases have been reported across a number of states in the country with lives lost in the course of the assault ; the epidemic has led to the declaration of state of emergency on rape and sexual violence in the past.
Despite certain interventions, a culture of rape persists, making it difficult for victims to hold their abusers accountable.
Victims unwillingness to report cases simply because they lack faith in the Nigerian legal system is another reason for the low conviction of rape.
Even though the federal government has frowned on the scourge that is sexual assault; questionable judicial policies offer little or no protection for victims as they sometimes get stigmatized and humiliated which has brought about a habit of silence among victims.
Rape devastates the lives of the victims and their families, causing severe physical and psychological pains and sufferings, including death, sexually transmitted infectious diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
The need for more facilities to help victims through psychological trauma is paramount.
One of the high profile cases where justice was served was the sentence of Popular Nollywood actor, Olanrewaju James, alias Baba Ijesha, on July 14, 2022, to 16 years’ imprisonment by a Lagos State Domestic Violence and Special Offences Court for the defilement of a 14-year-old girl.
James had defiled the minor when she was seven years old and committed the same offence seven years later.
Again, on July 4, 2022, a nurse, identified only as Ebele, was excited that she finally got justice for her daughter and niece, who were aged six and seven when they were defiled by a housekeeper, Bright Izuchukwu, whom she employed to look after them in her absence.
Another incident involving two brothers said to be 10 and 15 years old, were said to have had carnal knowledge of their neighbour’s four-year-old daughter but the police did not disclose their identities because they are minors.
The two brothers were arraigned before a Yaba magistrates’ court in Lagos for raping a four-year-old girl.
Speaking on the way out, a member of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, Mrs. Philomena Nneji, said the increasing rate of domestic violence in Nigeria was psychologically devastating and worrisome.
She noted that domestic workers were one of the major perpetrators.
She described this as unfortunate because most homes relied on domestic help to keep up with the home front while trying to make ends meet through their careers or businesses.
Nneji said women and children are among the most vulnerable members of society and require extra care.
She advised that parents should be proactively responsive instead of reactive, live up to their responsibilities to care for their children, and plan better towards that.
According to her, there is an urgent need to take action and teach children about what I refer to as abusive touch at a very early age of two years old and tell them that everyone is a suspect.
Adding that,Children should be fully enlightened and equipped against this social menace. Taekwondo should be introduced into the school curriculum; teaching them how to be very defensive and open up to their parents at the right time. Parents should make their children their best friends and teach them sex education without any reservations.
Another parent who preferred anonymity said, the unpalatable reality of the issue of rape in our society could not be talked about enough. He also blamed society for the reluctance of victims to come out .
He stated that if the government truly wish to address the pandemic of sexual violence, the nation wil have to contend with the facts and change course, adding that many women find that attitudes and misconceptions about rape, result in the victim being blamed for the crime
“Yes, friends, family, police, doctors, judges, and—those who should be helping the victim, often share misconceptions and hurt the victim nearly as deeply as did the rapist.
“Also, the lackluster response of justice administrators and absence of an institutional supportive system to help the victims is worrisome. More worrying is that a good number of suspected rapists move freely on the streets after committing the heinous act.”
Another parent simply identified as Ijeoma, said, “As a parent, whenever I hear about the incessant cases of rape in society, it gets me thinking about the safety of my teenagers. I always pray that no child should experience such a fate but you cannot keep them from going out so I talk to them to be conscious of people they meet outside.”
There are countless cases , reported and unreported , where perpetrators walked free leaving victims to carry the shame forever .
The war against sexual assault epidemic must be fought on all fronts , more awareness must be created and every well meaning Nigerian , both individuals and institutions must play active role, most importantly, the federal government must take charge and ensure sterner judicial policies on offenders which in turn should tame the scourge.