Perpetrators of the crime must be severely and swiftly sanctioned

It must worry the Nigerian authorities that rape has assumed epidemic proportions. In school premises, hospital wards, places of worship, corporate and government offices and playgrounds, no place is sacred for these predators. While rape, the act of sexual assault against a person (male or female) comes in different forms, the most common in our country is against girls and women.  

Rape is a violation of the most demeaning kind that scars many victims for life. But having created a society in which the seemingly strong are seeking ways to display their superiority over ‘weaker’ people, rape may be a more blatant manifestation of a deeper deviation in our social psychology. But no society should condone rape which regrettably has become a serious social problem today. 

Accurate statistics of victims are difficult to come by, essentially because in our country, insensitivity, and the fear of stigma (or persecution) discourage targets of sexual violence from formalising the reports of incidents. This reluctance, however, has only contributed to the rise in a culture of impunity on the part of the perpetrators. The policy brief of the National Crime and Safety Survey once highlighted the prevalence of sexual violence and the fact that our society seemed to be living in denial about the issue.  

The study particularly revealed that victims of rape hardly lodge reports for fear that their cases would not be treated seriously, that they would be stigmatised or that corruption would hinder effective investigation by the police. Even though human rights violations of this nature occur everywhere in the world, as the sick, the evil and the deranged exist in all societies, 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 from the relevant authorities.  

A non-governmental organisation, Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), in collaboration with the United States Consulate General, Lagos, recently called for an end to rape, sexual violence and trafficking of women through a three-kilometre walk along the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge. “Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a human rights violation with detrimental impacts on victims, survivors, families, communities, and societies,” says WARIF founder, Kemi DaSilva-Ibru. “In Nigeria, 33 per cent of women and girls aged between 15 and 49 have experienced physical and or sexual abuse in their lifetime.” 

To effectively tackle the menace, our courts must be more proactive and stringent in applying sanctions, as some of the verdicts, for the few that have been successfully prosecuted, were ridiculous. Our private network providers should readily donate helplines 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. However, 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 to summon the courage to pursue the ends of justice.  

We call on the relevant authorities to devise effective measures and strategies to checkmate the growing menace of sexual assaults across the country. While better training on a wider scale, 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.  

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