Criminals will continue to act with impunity unless they are severely sanctioned
Evidently because it is easy for rapists to get away with their heinous crime in the state, Enugu is becoming increasingly notorious for cases of sexual violence and assault on women and girls.

The latest was the confession last week to the police by no fewer than 30 teenage girls in some Junior Secondary School classes that they had been repeatedly gang-raped during and after initiation into some weird confraternities. The sad bit is that these bestial violations are not restricted to Enugu State; it is a national malaise that the authorities, at all levels, must find a way to deal with.

Following a tip-off, the police had raided some Enugu schools where they were confronted with the tragic situation. “Our parents didn’t know we are in the Viron Queen Confraternity,” said one of the girls, “We were threatened not to tell anybody. The irony is that at the closing hour of the school, three of the same boys who initiated us would come with bike and take us away to have sex with us.”

Cases of gang-rape and sexual assault on girls and women across the nation are assuming the shape of an epidemic. Statistics from NOIPoll, an organisation with specialty in conducting opinion polls on burning issues, has long established this fact. Last week, the Imo State Police Command paraded one Nnamdi Ogidi, a suspected criminal and a member of a gang with the record of kidnapping elderly women for ransom. “We derive pleasure in kidnapping elderly women and while their family members are running around for ransom, we will take turns to rape the women,” he said.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the growing menace is the high prevalence of child rape. Children, some as young as two years, are being defiled by their custodians. The trial of a private school supervisor who violated a two-year-old child in his care in Lagos is still vivid in many minds. So also was the case of a man arrested last month for defiling a five-year-old girl in his house in the suburb of Lagos. Thus, the question has become inevitable: Why are there increasing incidents of rape in our society? What could account for the spike in sexual assaults on minors, some by full grown adults? What is aiding this pervading culture? And more importantly, what could be done to control this social malaise?

Unfortunately, no study has been conducted to show the cause of this increasing deviant behaviour. But it is clear that the society has not come hard enough on the perpetrators of the crime. Despite the high prevalence of rape, Evans Ufeli, a lawyer versed on the wanton human rights violations, said in 2015 that only 18 convictions had been made in the country’s legal history. “Government agents who are saddled with checking sexual assaults, especially the police and public prosecutors, compromise their profession,” Ufeli said.

The insensitivity of the authorities and the fear of stigma 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. Yet, as we have repeatedly said on this page, diligent prosecution and swift sanctions would certainly send a strong signal to the perpetrators to desist from these acts. The only way citizens can feel safe and secure is where the response to crime is swift, efficient and effective. Our courts must be more proactive and stringent in applying sanctions. That is what the current situation demands.

No society should condone rape which regrettably is fast becoming a social epidemic.