PREVALENCE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

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Cases of rape and related crimes should be prosecuted swiftly

The Lagos State Government recently disclosed that in the last one year it handled a total of 4,035 cases ranging from rape, child abuse, sexual assault, defilement, divorce, matrimonial issues, child’s custody and maintenance. The Lagos authorities have also vowed not to shy away from prosecuting perpetrators of domestic crime no matter how highly placed in the society.

The state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, who spoke on the activities of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) in the last one year, said government, through the agency, equally handled a total of 192 cases. Out of those cases, Kazeem said the government dealt with 89 domestic violence cases, 62 defilement cases, 18 rape cases, six attempted rape, 10 child neglect and seven child abuse cases, while 92 cases were presently being heard in court.

It is good that the Lagos authorities are devising effective measures and strategies to checkmate the growing menace of domestic violence and sexual assaults, but this is a malaise that is national. What is most disturbing about the report is child molestation which has become very rampant in our country. Hardly a day passes without one report or another about a grown man raping a child. But it is not only children who are victims; it is a challenge at every strata of our society. Even our university campuses ordinarily considered as sane and safe havens for the acquisition of knowledge and inculcation of character have been turned into hideouts for gang-raping, sexual gratification and sex hawking. Yet rape, as we have said repeatedly, is a violation of the most demeaning kind which leaves scars on many victims for life.

However, having created a society in which the seemingly strong are seeking ways to display their superiority over ‘weaker’ people, rape may be a more blatant manifestation of a deeper deviation in our social psychology. It goes without saying that when positive means of personal identification and legitimate expression are suppressed, the devil finds work. But no society should condone rape which regrettably is fast becoming a social epidemic across the country.

The situation is compounded by police insensitivity while the fear of stigma (or persecution) discourages targets of violence from formalising the reports of incidents involving them. This reluctance has only contributed to the rise in the culture of impunity on the part of the perpetrators. Therefore, a point of safe, protective and comforting recourse must exist for victims of sexual violence to address their immediate needs as well as to enable them summon the courage to pursue the ends of justice. While diligent prosecution and swift and exemplary sanctions would certainly send a strong signal to the perpetrators to desist, the press remains a necessary partner in sustained efforts to curb these wanton acts of evil.

Our courts must also be more proactive and stringent in applying sanctions, as some of the verdicts, for the few that have actually been successfully prosecuted, are ridiculous. Our private network providers should readily donate help lines with free calls for victims of violence, while our hospitals and the legal profession should be prepared to offer pro bono services to the victims. We must all be ready to stand up to fight this menace which violates the dignity of our girls and women.

While human rights violations of this nature occur everywhere in the world, as the sick, the evil and the deranged exist in all societies, the only manner in which citizens can feel safe and secure is where the response to crime is swift, efficient and effective. That is what the current situation demands from the relevant authorities.