The state could do more to reverse the upsurge in the crime
No fewer than 20 girls were reportedly sexually attacked by hoodlums during the recent “free” music concert featuring popular Afro pop star, Chinedu Okoli, aka Flavour, at the Michael Okpara Square in Enugu. More troubling was that the gang rape took place despite the presence of the state governor, Mr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and his team of security forces. And with cases of rape in public places increasingly becoming rampant, the pertinent question remains: Why are culprits getting away so easily?
It is rather unfortunate that a public event with thousands of people in attendance could be converted into a theatre of rape by some morally-bankrupt young men. It is worrying because a similar concert held last year in the same state by another popular artiste ended with the same stories of gang-rape and sexual attacks. Predictably, nobody was ever brought to book for the crime.
Unfortunately, the police authorities are resorting to their perfect alibi: no victim has come to report even when they are well aware that in Nigeria, the insensitivity of the authorities and the fear of stigma (or persecution) help to discourage victims of sexual violence from formalising the reports of incidents involving them. This reluctance, however, has only contributed to the rise in a culture of impunity on the part of the perpetrators. The need for a review of existing strategies and the strengthening of mechanisms, including for documenting these incidents, has therefore never been more urgent.
The society also needs to be alive to its responsibility. 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 media remains a necessary partner in sustained efforts to curb these wanton acts of evil.
While we join other stakeholders in demanding justice in the instant case of Enugu on which the state government should show more concern, we are also calling on the relevant authorities to devise effective measures to checkmate the growing menace of sexual assaults across the country. Even when it is true that human rights violations of this nature occur everywhere, as the sick 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.
Against the background that rape is a violation of the most demeaning kind that scars many victims for life, no society should condone what regrettably is fast becoming a social epidemic. 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.
As we have said repeatedly, rape is a violation of the most demeaning kind. However, we are also mindful of the fact that having created a society in which the seemingly strong are seeking ways to display their superiority over ‘weaker’ people, rape is becoming 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 an epidemic.
While diligent prosecution and swift and exemplary sanctions would certainly send a strong signal to the perpetrators to desist, the media remains a necessary partner in sustained efforts to curb these wanton acts of evil