Baruwa’s conviction holds lessons for rapists

The recent conviction of Dr Afeez Baruwa, a former part-time lecturer at the University of Lagos, who raped an admission-seeking 18-year-old girl was a strong message. That Baruwa, who ought to be a mentor to the victim, could molest his friend’s daughter, underscores the level of decadence pervading our society. But we are delighted that justice has been served. When he returns from the prison at the age of 66, Baruwa would have wasted 21 years coupled with the burden of shame and reproach that he would bear for the remaining period of his life. We also hope that the case would mark a departure from the past when rapists went scot-free after perpetrating their heinous crimes because victims were afraid of the stigma as well as the perceived impossibility in proving such cases in court.

More worrisome is that a recent survey conducted by Africa Polling Institute (API) on “Rape and Sexual Abuse in Tertiary Institutions in Lagos State,” revealed “that there is a high prevalence of rape and sexual abuse” on campuses. According to the survey, 61 per cent of students acknowledged that sexual abuse is prevalent on campus, while 56 per cent pin such abuse to rape. The study also revealed that 79 per cent of respondents identified female students as the main victims of rape and sexual abuse or harassment on campuses. Sadly, the study identified 21 per cent of rapists on campuses as lecturers; 33 per cent others as cultists and 29 per cent as fellow male students.

However, the heinous crime of rape is not limited to the universities. It is an act perpetrated in virtually all spheres of our national life, including in the Northern states where Sharia law is practiced. For instance, the Sokoto Hisbah Commission recently cried out over the activities of rapists in the state. According to the commandant of the commission, Dr Adamu Kasarawa, no fewer than 21 cases of rape were reported in January alone. That is aside several others that might not come to public knowledge. “The record of rape cases with the commission is alarming. The record jumped from 296 cases in 2018 to 606 cases at the close of 2019. More disturbing, in January 2020 alone, about 21 cases of rape were recorded. The issue of rape is rampant among teenage girls between the ages of five and 16,” Kasarawa said.

It is against this backdrop that we commend all parties who assisted the 18-year-old girl to bring Baruwa to justice. This kind of diligent prosecution will go a long way in relieving several rape victims in all parts of the country of their trauma and send strong signals to perpetrators that the long hand of the law will catch up with them. We also align ourselves with the recommendations of API on how to curb cases of rape and sexual abuse on campuses and within the larger society. Since a huge percentage of our women and girls are now at the receiving end of incidents of abuse, it is imperative that we make an effort to understand the underlying causes and dynamics of violence.

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. But the diligent prosecution of Baruwa would certainly send a strong signal to other 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. That is what the current situation demands.

The only way citizens can feel safe and secure is where the response to crime is swift, efficient and effective