Sexual Violence against Minors Surges in Lagos

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• 3,247 abused, defiled, raped in 2019 alone

•Child’s rights campaigners canvass stiffer penalties
Gboyega Akinsanmi

In what appears to be grim realities the Lagos State Government has been grappling with for years, the reported cases of sexual violence against minors have been on the steady rise in the state, statistics from the state’s Domestic Violence Response Team (DSVRT) has revealed.

DSVRT’s data, which THISDAY analysed year-on-year, showed that 3,247 minors were abused, defiled or raped in 2019 alone, constituting 63.58 percent of 5,107 incidents of domestic violence and sexual exploitation that were reported in the year.

DSVRT, however, said the rise did not necessarily suggest that the acts of domestic and sexual violence have significantly surged in the state, but obviously attest to the efficacy of the concerted approach to stemming the social vice by the DSVRT and its partners statewide.

With 3,247 reported cases involving minors, a class of children protected under the Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State, 2007, DSVRT’s data showed that sexual violence against children within the 0-1 age bracket constituted 8.22 percent with 267 incidents, suggesting that all children, irrespective age and gender, were targets of the violators.

Also, the statistics further revealed that the children within the 2-9 age bracket equally comprised 59.38 percent with 1,928 incidents in 2019 while those within the 10-17 age bracket formed 32.39 percent with 1052 incidents, a disturbingly grievously trend, for which child’s rights campaigners sought stiffer penalties.

In 2016, specifically, the statistics showed that the state recorded about 79.75 percent rise in the reported cases of sexual violence; 83.09 percent in 2017; slumped by 4.23 percent in 2018 and subsequently rose by 1,388 percent in 2019, representing the state’s highest reported cases in the last two decades.

Rising from 450 in 2016, on aggregate, the reported incidents of domestic and sexual violence grew by 218 percent in 2017 when 1,432 cases were reported; 39.60 percent in 2018 with 1999 cases reported and 156 percent in 2019 when 5,107 incidents were documented across both sexes statewide.

With about 34 reported cases in 2016, as the statistics explicitly revealed, the violence – domestic and sexual – against children between 0 and 17 years has been steadily on the increase, indicating an unprecedented rise of 9,450 percent in 2019 when the state recorded 3,247 incidents.

Also, astronomically, the reported cases of domestic and sexual violence increased by 300 percent in 2017 with 137 cases were recorded; 25 percent in 2018 when 170 cases were reported and 1,810 percent in 2019 with over 3,247 cases reported statewide.
More grievously, the statistics tracked the frequency of domestic and sexual violence against the adults within the 18 – 45 age bracket with an increase of 376 percent between 2016 and 2019, a time space of four years.

Consistent with DSVRT’s statistics, the frequency of domestic and sexual violence against adults between 46 years and above was relatively insignificant compared with the number of victims that fall within the 0-17 and 18-45 age brackets.

With 52 incidents reported in 2016, the statistics showed that the occurrence of domestic and sexual violence against adults above 46 years still increased by 65.38 percent in 2017 when 86 cases were reported; 103.48 percent in 2018 with 175 incidents and dropped by 26.86 percent in 2019 when 128.

In term of gender, the statistics showed that female residents were not only the victims of domestic and sexual violence. Also, as shown in DSVRT’s data, the rate of abuse of male children, mainly those within the 0-17 age bracket, has been on the rise with a difference of about 12,829 percent between 2016 and 2019.

With this ugly portrayal, the statistics revealed that the frequency of violence against male children had been steadily growing in the state, constituting about 3.11 percent cases of domestic and sexual violence in 2016; 6.63 percent in 2017; 7.95 percent in 2018 and 35.44 percent in 2019.

Disturbed by this ugly trend, Founder, Girl Child Africa, Bukola Shonibare explained the increase in sexual violence in Lagos State from an economic perspective.

She argued that poverty, low socio-economic status, unemployment, illiteracy, limited access to economic opportunities, unfavourable policies, and several others “are factors that obstruct the economic prosperity of women.
“Once women are not economically empowered, the chances of being sexually abused or staying in abusive relationships is high. That men are socially constructed to make decisions and control the family’s wealth makes this even more difficult.”

Providing more insight into the statistics during an interaction with THISDAY, DSVRT’s Coordinator, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi claimed that the state government paid special attention to reversing the ugly trend under the administration of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

Aside campaigns in the conventional and social media in 2016, the coordinator explained the impact of a six-month engagement, a door-to-door campaign, which the Ambode administration adopted to sensitise the traditional rulers, community leaders and religious leaders on their roles and responsibilities in the campaign against domestic and sexual violence.

Obviously, Adeniyi-Vivour pointed out that the intensive campaigns explained why the reporting of cases increased astronomically in the subsequent years, mainly with most residents “now see themselves as the mandated reporters. By implication, it is the increase in awareness and advocacy that translated to the increase in the number of reported cases.”

But the challenges associated with the frequency of domestic and sexual violence in Africa’s most populous city might indeed be graver than ever expected or grimmer than ever imagined just as implied in the statistics Adeniyi-Vivour referred to in a voice note she sent to THISDAY on WhatsApp.

For her, it is difficult tracking unreported cases statewide. But before the age of 18, she explained that one in every four girls “will be sexually abused in their lifetimes vis-à-vis the previous statistics that the DSVRT had collated. As it is the case in other parts of the world, 70 percent incidents of sexual violence actually go unreported or under-reported.”

On this account, Adeniyi-Vivour explained cultural, religious and social dimensions to unreported cases of sexual and domestic violence. In the case of sexual abuse, she cited the fear of stigmatisation as an impediment “to reporting incidents of abuse, defilement and rape.”

Rather than blaming and reporting the perpetrators, she lamented that the survivors seldom enjoyed empathy from the society, which she said, had discouraged the survivors from seeking justice or make formal report for fear of being stigmatised in their communities or neighbourhoods.

Apart from the societal constraint to case reporting, DSVRT’S coordinator cited institutional challenges, which according to her, some institutions might not be accessible to survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Also, there might be bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with responding to cases. This often discourages victims from reporting incidents.

In the case of domestic violence, she cited the instance of religious leaders or institutions intervening in or perhaps making efforts to settle the cases of gender-based violence, forgetting that such cases “are crimes against the state. And it is only the state that reserves the power to prosecute or not to prosecute the perpetrators of domestic violence.”

But Shonibare lamented that the growing incidence of domestic and sexual violence “has been an enormous challenge for the society at large. It often limits women’s productivity in all spheres of life, especially in workplace, businesses and even parenting.

When a woman is not so productive, according to the women rights campaigner, her participation and contributions to society’s development processes, economic growth, and stability will be limited.
Also, Shonibare noted that rising spate of domestic and sexual violence in Lagos State “will cause a huge burden on the governance systems, especially judicial and health.”

“It equally constrains women from responding to rapidly changing political, economic, and society changes. Countries are recording increased percentage of women in political and leadership positions, and while Lagos State is not doing badly in this regard, the gap is still too wide.”