Rape is an offence against humanity and it is condemned in all societies. Amby Uneze captures the activities of a non-governmental organisation in Enugu State fighting to stop the scourge
When the Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL), a non-governmental organisation that champions the rights of women, children and windows with base in Enugu State, decided to initiate and champion the campaign to stop rape which is another horrible act perpetuated against women and children, it knew that it was an initiative that was not going to be easily achieved. However, the challenges did not deter the organisation that is globally known for her astuteness, doggedness, and result-oriented body.
TAMAR SARC, which is an acronym of Sexual Assault Referral Centre is a joint initiative of WACOL in partnership with the Enugu State government represented by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Gender Affairs and Social Development. It is also supported by the Justice for All (J4A) programme of the Department for International Development (DFID).
The centre is a gender justice responsive project set up to provide rapid holistic and high quality free medical, counselling and other support services to victims and survivors of sexual assault in Enugu State and beyond. The one-stop centre has a team of passionate women and men rendering professional services to victims/survivors of sexual violence.
Its goal is to render without discrimination confidential and high quality medical, counselling and other support services to victims and survivors of sexual violence, especially women and minors, by supporting their recovery and encouraging increased reporting of rape and other sexual assault cases.
As part of her campaign to enlighten the society and the need to press for urgent end to rape and other child sexual abuses, WACOL/TAMAR SARC on March 8, 2016 as one of the activities to mark this years’ International Women’s Day unveiled a giant billboard mounted at a strategic location at the centre of Enugu city, precisely at Ogui Road, as well an arts exhibition at Alliance Francaise, Enugu. All these activities/programmes were to promote gender equity and eradication of rape in the society.
While unveiling the billboard, the Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Barr. Cecilia Ezeilo, commended the effort of the founder/initiator of WACOL/TAMAR SARC, Dr. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo for championing the cause and welfare of women and the widows in the society. The deputy governor expressed satisfaction on the achievements so far recorded by the organisation in her quest to stop rape in the society.
Ezeilo enjoined everybody to imbibe the discipline of protecting women, especially the minors from rape, urging those who may have the tendency to involve in such wicked and deadly action to have a rethink and avoid anything that would lead them into such embarrassing and shameful act.
Speaking, the Executive Director of WACOL/TAMAR SARC, Dr. Joy Ezeilo, said that there is need to mobilise the communities both the older and younger generations to be part of the sensitisation so that the message of stop rape today campaign could permeate into the psyche of people. “Rape is a felony against the state, so people should be discouraged from settling the case outside the police. Rapist should be meant to face the law, and the punishment for rape is life imprisonment”, she stated.
She however, encouraged the victims not to be blamed themselves: “you should break the culture of silence, don’t allow the stigma to weigh you down, you should speak up. We have to report the perpetrators of this crime, you are not to be ashamed. It is the perpetrators that should be ashamed when they are reported. Don’t allow the criminals to go unpunished.
“We are telling people to stop blaming the victims, to stop stigmatizing them. You should encourage the victims to speak out, you should join hands to break the culture of violence in order to end this sexual violence”, she advised.
In her submission, the Regional Coordinator of Justice for All (J4A), the organ funding WACOL to implement the TAMAR SARC project, through the partnership of DFID, Mrs. Josephine Onah said the unveiling of the billboard was aimed at sensitising the public to come against rape in the society.
According to her, this is just one programme to conscientise the public to join in the kicking out rape in the society.
The unveiling of the billboard was graced by the Enugu State Commissioner of Police who was represented by ACP Michael Odo, Margareth Magboh of the Child Protection Network, Enugu, Dr. Lizzy Oji of FIDA, Ebele Okiche of FIDA, Mrs. Olachi Chucks, Regional Coordinator of DFID, South-south and South-east, and Kobi Ikpo, State Coordinator of Voice for Change.
However, hearing the victims/survivors lament their ugly and horrifying experiences, one can only but have empathy on them.
One of the mock trials from the office of the TAMAR SARC reads thus: On the 23rd day of April 2014, client Number 005 came into the centre accompanied by the brother at about 9:40am with a complaint of being raped on the 18th day of April 2014 on her way back from the market.
In her narration she said she went to the market on the 18th day of April which was on Good Friday to repair her phone that was given to her by her brother as an Easter gift. On her way back she met one of her town’s boys with his friend who offered to give her a lift back to her house. She agreed to the offer not knowing that the boys had bad intention. She got on the bike and instead of going home they moved through another route, but she did not complain because the route still leads to her house.
The unimaginable happened when they got to a school and her town’s boy stopped the bike, the next thing she saw was that she was being dragged into an empty classroom. She started pleading with them to let her go but they refused insisting that they have gotten hold of her today, all the while she has been feeling untouchable and would not yield to their request.
She pleaded desperately with them to let her go, they dragged her into the classroom, the other boy held the door telling the second person if he needs help he should let him know and if she refuses to yield to their request they will be left with no option but to kill her and do away with her dead body. They also threatened to deal with all her family members if she ever reports the incident to the police.
Leaving the client with no other option she started screaming for help unfortunately help was not forth coming as the path was lonely and schools were on holidays for the Easter celebrations. She fought and struggled with the boys as her strength could carry her but they beat her up leaving her with a lot of bruises all over her body. When they saw she was not giving up they decided to tear off her pants and her clothes, one person held her while the other took advantage of her. When he finished the second boy was warning up to take his turn when she got space and took to her heels screaming for help. A passerby took her to the police station and she reported the case.
The brother took her to a hospital in their town where she was referred to TAMAR SARC for treatment and psycho-social support.
These other two stories below are so touching because one involved life while the other was also a matter of life and death. A nine-year-old Evidence Ode met her untimely death on the 8th of August 2014 in the hands of a security man (Mr. Gideon) who leaves two compounds away from theirs. Mr. Edwin Ode, the father of the deceased could not hold back tears when he walked into TAMAR SARC office in company of a friend to narrate the ugly incidence.
Mr. Edwin, a gardener was working across the road on that faithful day when his sons came to tell him that Evidence was missing. He did not believe it because he said that the little girl was playing with Gideon that afternoon when he was going out to do his menial job. He rushed to their compound and asked Gideon about his daughter’s where-about but he (Gideon) replied that he finished playing with the girl long ago and she went out.
He became apprehensive when after a long while there was no sign of the daughter returning home, he went in search of the little girl all to no avail. He reported to the chairman of the vigilante group who joined in the search and thereafter to the Abakpa Nike Police Station, in Enugu. The search intensified until fall and yet the little girl was nowhere to be found.
The next morning he got into an empty plot of land close to his house, there he saw the lifeless body of his daughter lying with stains of blood on her legs, injuries on her face and neck and worst of all the body was already infested with ants. He could not bear the sight of what he saw, he ran to his house brought a bottle of disinfectants and sprayed it on the corpse to chase the ants away and then called for help.
He alerted the police who came and took the corpse away to the morgue. When confronted by Mr. Ode, the security man accepted he defiled the little girl but he had no intention of killing her. In his words ‘I no know say she go die’. He said he dumped the girl there to cover up for his deeds when he saw that she was no longer breathing.
With the help of TAMAR SARC, an autopsy was carried out on her and the case brought to the attention of the Commissioner of Police who took it over immediately and handed to the Assistant Commissioner of Police. The case was later charged to court and the perpetrator remanded at Awaiting Trial. Unfortunately, little Evidence has since been laid to rest in her home town Benue on the 23rd August 2014.
The other story was a 14-year-old girl raped and infected by an HIV positive man. It was not easy for the little girl of 14 years when it was reported that an HIV positive man raped her. The blameless girl lost her father while the mother remarried and abandoned her and the younger sister. The guardian was devastated and by the time she brought the girl to the office, five days for administering of prophylaxis drugs had elapsed. As usual the centre intervened and the man was arrested and arraigned in court. He is awaiting trial at the moment.
With the various programmes mounted by the WACOL/TAMAR SARC over the kick out rape in the society, it’s therefore expected that the NGO is gradually winning the war. What is left now is for individuals and governments to ensure that everybody assists in spreading the message, while governments at levels should accord it top priority in making sure that the society at large imbibes the culture to kick out rape.