with Bola A. Akinterinwa
Telephone : 0807-688-2846
One critical issue in international relations and practice, to which undeserved little attention is paid, is rape, especially of the under-aged. Many people refer to it as sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexual abuse. This situation, most unfortunately, does not only violate child rights as provided for in various international conventions, but also threatens national security in many ways. When, for instance, there is a case of aggravated rape, characterized by wickedness, the attention of the civil society organizations cannot but be drawn to the case. Street demonstrations are organized and political stability is threatened. National security is also seriously threatened. By so doing, rape necessarily raises new problems for urgent attention.
The first and most important is consent and freedom, both of which constitute two major pillars of international politics in all ramifications. For instance, the outcome of any business, political or diplomatic negotiation, treaty-making and implementation, etc, requires the consent of the stakeholders to be engaged and obligated. The act of consenting involves expression of freedom to and not to give consent because the principle of sovereign equality implies that, at the level of international law, no country is considered above or superior to another. Consequently, in an attempt to engage any other country, the consent of that country is necessarily required and this requirement is a resultant of freedom of choice to engage or not.
However, the global community does not have the effective means of controlling consent-giving and how to limit the exercise of freedom, especially within the framework of democratization. It should be remembered that the developed countries of Europe have a very hostile policy attitude towards dictatorship of whatever kind. For instance, democratization was made a pre-condition for the grant of development assistance to African countries at the La Baule Conference in France. Sanctions are also taken against dictatorial regimes. Various international agreements are done to promote and protect expression of freedom, human rights and democracy, and particularly the rights of the child. This partly explains why kid soldiering, human trafficking, child abuse, violence against women, etc are internationally prohibited and why all the signatories to the various relevant international agreements are under obligation of strict compliance with the provisions of the agreement in the spirit of sanctity of agreements.
Besides, in matters of sexual assaults, very little impact of the United Nations there has been. It is mostly thanks to some Non-governmental Organisations that there has been serious international effort to deal with the problem. And without whiff of doubt, sexual abuse is not only increasingly becoming more complex an issue in international relations, it is also raising some critical questions of motivation, dignity of the African and Black man, and particularly the meaninglessness of some UN ethical values in the area of social interactions.
In other words, sexual assault, until now, is generally limited to human beings as main actors. The rapists are mostly male while the victims are female. Cases of women raping the men are not common. There are reported few cases of male-male and female-female sexual abuse but in most cases, the criminal codes of many countries define rape from the perspective of male-female aggression. What is important to note at this juncture is the new dimension to rape in international practice as evidenced in the experience of the Central African Republic (CAR)
Conventional Practice and CAR’s Experience
It is standard practice for the United Nations to send peacekeeping troops to places where violence has been allowed to reign. Following the ousting of the President of Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013, eruption of destabilizing political violence followed which prompted the United Nations to deploy peace keepers to the country in 2014. United Nations peace keepers are generally made up of troops contributed by willing Member States of the organization. Rather than have the peacekeepers limit their act of peacekeeping to avoidance of violence and peace-building, fundamental rights of girls and women are consciously abused in a manner that directly denigrates womanhood, African pride and black dignity.
Apart from the cases of three UN peace keepers (Congolese), who were accused of sexual abuse of minors and two of whom have denied the charges of raping minors, over one hundred people have reported their cases of sexual abuse by UN and French soldiers. In this regard, one advocacy group in the CAR reported last week that one French Commander made four girls to have a carnal knowledge of some girls. This is the new dimension to sexual rape taking place on African soil, and for that matter, assaults by the agents of the United Nations which is preaching the sermon of human dignity, as well as by the proponents of globalization and French ethical values of democratization, liberty, equality and fraternity.
Are the African girls having the same status as the dogs, in which case it is a case of dog eating dog? Did the dogs need sexual satisfaction to be used for intelligence gathering or for other military purposes and there is no female dog to oblige and it is the human being that has to perform the role of the dog? Why is it that it is the French soldier, or the commander, that is involved? CAR is a former colony of France and the French authorities have been having a running battle with the government of CAR. Is the action of the French commander an expression of protest and punishment? If it is so, is the French commander not supposed to act as an internationalist rather than as a French man? What precisely is the message that the French want to send to Africa by bringing a dog to have sex with Girls in Africa?
I am not unaware of the fact that dogs can be more important than human beings with the new or emerging civilisation in Europe and America: legalization of same sex marriage under the pretext of freedom and human rights. In fact, in 2015 a man went to the law court to celebrate his marriage to a dog in the US. This is nothing more than a manifestation of excesses of freedom which are being imported to Africa for possible cultivation by undiscerning black people. Is it to encourage more of dog-human being in Africa? Why is rape very common amongst soldiers in situations of war? Why do soldiers not go with their wives to war fronts if we all know that nature requires that they should have sex as normal human beings? Bearing in mind the hardships of war, why is there no provision for soldiers to serve briefly and return to meet their wives? Why is Africa always the terra cognita of all social ills and atrocities? Why are rape assaults on the increase nationally and internationally?
Law of Rape in International Practice
In Australia, for example, there are three types of rape: non-consensual sexual penetration, sexual assault, and sexual intercourse without consent. In all the three cases, the definition of rape is gender neutral and does not exclude marital rape. Again, as revealed in the UN Multi-Country Study on Men and Violence in 2013, Bangladeshi men were asked if they had ever forced a woman to have sex at any point in their lives. The answers are shocking: in rural Bangladesh, 14.1% of men and 9.5 % of men in urban Bangladesh said yes, in other words, 10% on the average. Additionally, 47.4% of rapists accepted having committed the crime more than once while 3.7% of them had four or more victims and 40% first raped their victims as a teenager. And perhaps more disturbingly, the reason for rape is ‘entitlement’ or self-given right as 82% of rural Bangladesh and 79% of urban Bangladeshi men gave this reason.
Thus, 61.22% of Bangladeshi rapists did not in any way feel guilty or worried. Most importantly, 89.2% of urban Bangladeshi strongly agreed with the UN questionnaire that ‘if a woman doesn’t physically fight back, it’s not rape.’ In other words, there can only be rape in the absence of consent. If this is so, how do we explain the argument of right or entitlement? If most of the Bangladeshi men believe that rape is their entitlement, how do we also reconcile this with the consent of the victim?
This situation is not different from that in China where 55% of the Chinese rapists have raped more than once, where 86% also gave ‘sexual entitlement’ as their motive for raping, and where 57% of them not only answered that they raped out of boredom, but also where 72.4% experienced no legal consequences.
In Belgium, Article 375 of the Penal Code defines rape as ‘an act of sexual penetration of whatever sort and by whatever means committed on a non-consenting person.’ The implications of this provision are clear: it cares less about whether it is homosexual or same sex intercourse. The manner of intercourse or instrument of the intercourse can be anything but the critical point of note is that the victim has not given consent to be engaged in the offensive act whatever is its form.
In Canada, before 1983, rape was defined under the 1892 Criminal Code as ‘an act of a man having canal knowledge of a woman who is not his wife without her consent or with consent which has been extorted by threats or fear of bodily harm, or obtained by personating a woman’s husband, or by false and fraudulent representations, as to the nature and quality of the act.’ Explained differently, consent still remains the issue: it is either freely not given or it is self-given fraudulently by the rapist. The victim must also not be the wife, implying legality of marital rape. Therefore, the use of force to compel consent is another important factor.
In 1983, this 1892 Criminal Code was reviewed and now differentiates amongst sexual assault; sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party, or causing bodily harm; and aggravated sexual assault. In other words, the differentiation is determined by use of intimidation and force. Sexual assault, simply put, does not mean much without relating it to sexual assault with use of weapon. In other words, ‘sexual assault’ is when there is no use of weapon. Aggravated sexual assault exists when there is use of more sophisticated weapons or great force.
France, in Article 222-223 of its Criminal Code, rape is ‘any act of sexual penetration, whatever its nature, committed against another person by violence, constraint, threat or surprise.’ Again, this definition is gender neutral. It is defined by the method of assault and does not indicate the type of sexual penetration: sexual penetration through the anus can be included. So can oral sex, but the bottom line is consent of the victim.
Generally, rape, in many parts of the world, raises the same problems: non consent; gender neutrality; and marital rape which African leaders will need to re-examine well because of the difference in cultures. Several legally married couples live separately in Europe and America. Even if rape is outlawed, it is not really a big deal in Europe and America unlike in Libya in Africa where rape is not only considered ‘worse than death’ but also a ‘serious dishonour’ for their families and communities, and eventually serious violence and ‘honour killings.’ In Egypt, marital rape is not a crime.
Without jot of doubt, court rulings on matters of rape can be funny to say the least. The Italian Court of Cassation ruled in 1999 that a man who raped a woman wearing tight jeans was not guilty arguing that it was impossible to forcibly remove tight jeans ‘without the collaboration of the person wearing it.’ Thus, for the court, the removal of the jeans is an expression of consent. But, what if the victim is under gun threat? What also about those raped and were still killed?
Even though this ruling was overturned in 2008, the ruling of the same court in 2006 in the case of a 41-year old man who raped his 14-year old stepdaughter is also worrisome. The court ruled that the rapist could seek mitigating sentence of the court on the basis of the fact that ‘the girl had been already sexually active and ‘since the age of 13, she had many sexual relations with men of every age and is right to assume that at the time of the encounter with the suspect, her personality from a sexual point of view, was much more developed than what one might normally expect from a girl of her age.’
This ruling necessarily raises two other problems. First is the evidence of virginity as at the time of the rape. In this regard, Bangladesh has a method of ‘two-finger test’ inherited from the British-colonial law of 1872 which involves a physical examination of women by a doctor who inserts ‘two fingers in the woman’s vagina to determine if the woman is ‘habituated to sex.’ All these archaic methods of dealing with rape, no matter how they are re-defined or re-packaged should not be exported to any other part of Africa as it had been done to the CAR. For a UN peacekeeper, and particularly for a French man, who is supposed to be an epitome of freedom, equality, fraternity, to have organized a dog to have sex with African girls, beautiful girls of Africa for that matter, is very barbaric and most unfortunate. It seriously tainted the image of France internationally and the whole of Africa should draw lessons for the future.
Lessons for Nigeria
Unlike cases of rape in Europe where the victims are essentially not relations of the rapists, victims of rape in Nigeria are close relations or educational guardians. Daily Sun of April 7, 2016 reported the conviction by an Ado Ekiti High Court of a school proprietor, Mr. Babatunde Ibitoye, who was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for defiling an 11-year old pupil of his school on June 10, 2013. Henry Okwuome, 33, was arrested for raping his 8-year old daughter (Daily Trust, April 7, 2016, p.16). Daily Trust also reported the following day the arrest of Wahab Abdul-Aziz, 20, who defiled a 10-year old girl inside an abandoned building in Sparklight Estate in Ogun State (p.4). In fact, an accused rapist in the custody of the police reportedly escaped in Ogun State (The Punch, April 8, 2016, p.4).
In most cases, it is the under-aged people that are involved in Nigeria. As noted by Mrs Iniose Sarah, the Lagos State Director of the Campaign Against Molestation of Young Women (CAMYM), there were 207 cases of rape in 2013 in Nigeria. 119 of them were aged between 12 and 17. 22 of them later died as a result of the assault. With the increasing cases of rape, Nigeria may soon become another Ethiopia now popularly known as land for ‘marriage by abduction.’ Girls are abducted, taken into captivity and impregnated and, on this basis, negotiations for possible marriage then begin.
Nigeria should not become a country of rape. The main lesson from the dog-human sex for Nigeria therefore is the need to condemn the act without reservation and seek maximum penalty for the culprits. The act is an aggression on all Africans. In fact, any manner of rape of children in Nigeria and making any animal to have sex with them ought to warrant death penalty. Nigeria should rise to this challenge of anti-Africa designs as shown with the dehumanization of four girls by dogs in the CAR.