Once again, the dreadful subject of rape in our society has been brought to the fore as Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbaje, a 13-year-old girl who was raped by a lecturer and his son in Benue State, recently passed away. The young girl reportedly fought with Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) and other related medical problems at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, before her demise. Autopsy report affirmed the cause of her death to be sexual molestation of a minor.
According to reports, Mr. Andrew Ogbuja, the 51-year-old lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Benue State, and his son, Victor Inalegwu Ogbuja, a final year student of Animal Production at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, had allegedly molested and raped little Ochanya since she was eight years old.
Ochanya was living with the family as a result of her relationship to Mrs. Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja, the lecturer’s wife who is her cousin, before she was turned to an object of sexual pleasure for both father and son. Reports had it that though the girl usually took ill, it was really hard for the hospitals in Ugbokolo to discover precisely what was wrong with her.
However, after severe grilling, the deceased disclosed how she had been sexually abused by the sexual predators but could not confide in anyone because she was threatened with death by the murderous duo if she ever told anyone about their escapades. The poor girl further revealed that she was often drugged by the twosome.
Andrew Ogbuja had allegedly jumped bail and is currently at large. Angered by the repulsive and disgusting event, Nigerians are demanding for justice for the late girl.
Though a global phenomenon, the appalling issue of rape in our clime has to do with recklessness of the perpetrators, lackluster response of justice administrators and absence of institutional supportive system to help the victims. More worrying is that a good number of suspected rapists move freely on the streets after committing the heinous act. Also worrisome is the fact that not much is being done in respect of strengthening our weak laws to incisively deal with the problem.
Rape victims suffer a sense of abuse that goes beyond physical injury. They may become sceptical of men and experience feelings of embarrassment and disgrace. Victims who suffer rape trauma syndrome experience physical symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbances, and fatigue. They may also develop psychological disturbances related to the circumstances of the rape, such as intense fears. Fear of being raped has social as well as personal consequences. For example, it may prevent women from socialising or travelling as they wish while worried and un-enlightened parent can use it as excuse of limiting educational progress of girl-child.
Rape takes away from the victim human rights such as right to life (as it led to death in some instances), right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty and security of person and right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It is a crime against basic human rights and it also violates the victim’s most cherished of the fundamental rights – the right to life.
Sadly, occurrence of cases of rape calls to question not only our sense of justice but our civilisation as a people. Now, let’s attempt to examine why some men engage in the heinous crime of rape. According to experts, rape mostly occurs as result of a violent craving to control the victim rather than an attempt to achieve sexual fulfillment. They deem rape an act of violence rather than mainly a sexual encounter.
It needs to be, however, stressed that besides the desire to control, rape also underscores the sorry state of the mind of perpetrators. The blatant way rape is often committed shows that perpetrators still operate in a distorted mindset of women as assets to be used and dispensed with at will.
In our country, the weak stance of the law towards rape needs to be seriously addressed. Women and girls who are raped have little hope of obtaining justice and reparation. Victims are sometimes pressured into withdrawing the case or parents of victims prefer financial settlement out of court to a criminal prosecution. Where cases are brought to court, prosecution sometimes fails because police refer cases to a court lacking appropriate jurisdiction and progress is then obstructed by the slow administration of justice. In some cases the alleged perpetrator is charged with a different and less serious criminal offence.
Sadly, perpetrators of rape have continued to enjoy the crime because the onus of proof lies only with the victims.
Digging into the provisions of the law on rape and sexual abuses, it is clear that a lot still has to be done if we must achieve a rape/sexual abuse-free society. A bothersome issue is the idea of giving culprit option of paying fine of such amount as ridiculous as N250, 000 which can be easily afforded by the culprit and his family. Of what use is the fine compared to damage caused the rape victims?
Tayo Ogunbiyi, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Lagos