“Rape is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused. It is she who must prove her good reputation, her mental soundness, and her impeccable propriety”.
Recently, I read a report titled, “The World Most Dangerous Countries for Women’’, released by the Thompson Reuters Foundation. The global report listed those countries in the world that are considered unsafe for women. Experts from five continents were asked to rank the nations of the world on their overall perception of danger for women as well as six high-risk categories in health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, harmful practices rooted in culture, tradition and/or religion, lack of access to economic resources and human trafficking.
The report, however, listed five countries as the world’s most dangerous places to be a woman. Pakistan and India came first and second respectively. In India, for example, women have become endangered species, as it is said that a woman is raped every 20 minutes. To further cement that country’s infamy, its capital, New Delhi, is notoriously referred to as the “rape capital of the world’’.
From rape and domestic violence to lack of health care and education, millions of women all over the world experience daily dangers, but nowhere more than in the five countries identified by the report as the world’s most dangerous to be female: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia. The plight of women in the five countries as highlighted in the report is the big picture of the growing brutality women continue to face globally.
With the recent reported crimes against Nigerian women, how long will it take before our country is listed among those countries where being a woman is next to living in hell? Indeed, women continue to face growing dangers across the country. Hardly a day passes without one report or the other about domestic violence and rape committed against women and girls. What could be shocking is if there is any day a rape incident is not reported in the media. Rape cases have increased astronomically. It appears no woman is safe from being physically abused or raped in this country.
In Nigeria, women are being raped by their husbands. Girls raped by their fathers and uncles. Pastors have also been reported to rape minors. The PUNCH reported one that took place even in an orphanage recently involving a pastor. Women are still being raped by policemen in cells across the country. The practice is called sex-for-bail. The women often do not have any option. If they refuse, they are soon roped into crimes they know nothing about. Some of the reported cases have been mind-boggling.
First, let’s look at the figures. According to a recent data released in Lagos, in 2012 alone, according to the Ministry of Justice, 427 girls were raped. In Rivers State, the year 2012 recorded a shocking 1, 200. In Delta State, some policemen are currently facing trial for their role in the alleged rape of a woman in custody.
The reported cases also border on the bizarre. For example, what could have gone through the mind of a man who repeatedly raped his eight-year-old daughter over many days as well as his one month old baby? This strange tale was reported the other day. In Benue State, at the height of the devastating flood that wrecked havoc on lives and property in the state, about 19 women (both married and single) who had taken refuge in a camp for the homeless were raped by unknown men who invaded the camp. In Zamfara, a police inspector is under investigation for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl. In Bauchi State, a few days ago, a woman was brutally raped and stabbed in the presence of her two children by a commercial motorcyclist.
The police said they will not prosecute the case unless the offender owns up to the crime! It is the victim’s words against the rapist’s! Another reported case of rape happened in an orphanage home in Ogun State last week. The case involved the owner of the orphanage and a little girl. It is noteworthy that the owner of the home has been operating since 1986. How can a paedophile be given the licence to operate an orphanage? In Jigawa State, a gang of rapists was arrested for repeatedly raping a 12-year-old girl and infecting her with HIV.
The list of rape cases is endless. It happens in all the states of the federation. Even elderly women are not spared. In Opi, Enugu State, elderly women and widows are still being serially raped by unknown men since 2012. No one has been caught. Rape is a notoriously under-reported crime, thanks to the social stigma associated with the crime. In most cases, the culprits are known to the victims. Yet, of all the major crimes, the incidence of rape has registered the highest growth in the country in recent years.
In India, it took the gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl for the country to erupt in outrage. In Nigeria, the response after a brutal rape of a minor is usually a shrug of the shoulder, something like, God forbid! It has become normal to hear reports of rape. Nobody cares. Or so it seems. As long as the victim is not a relative, we often ignore and move on. It is sad. It is this same lethargic response to rape that is demonstrated by the government and law enforcement agents.
It is impossible to report an incident of rape to the police. The burden is always on the victim to prove that she has been abused. Most times, the victim is mocked by the same officers who are assigned to handle the cases. With the slow judicial system, victims often do not get justice.
Women have also been blamed for inviting rape. The victim of rape is often blamed for seducing the rapist as if any woman enjoys being raped. That line of argument to me is barbaric and unconscionable. Those in this school of thought believe that a woman invites the rapist when she wears a certain kind of dress. I consider this thinking warped that somebody would go out to rape a woman because he is enchanted by her dress.
The question I want to ask is, if certain clothing promotes rape, how about the increasing cases of rape of minors and one-month-old babies? Do those kids also dress to kill? This attitude of blaming the victim is one reason why women never get justice for being raped. The patriarchal nature of our society also negatively affects women.
In most parts of Nigeria, women are still viewed as the objects of pleasure. They are even considered as property to be owned. Consequently, rape cases are not considered a crime worth pursuing.
Too many rape cases have occurred without justice for the victims. In some cases, the parents of rape victims even seek to drop cases against the abusers. The lethargy and connivance of the police, the lethargy of the courts to diligently prosecute rapists have left our daughters, women and girls vulnerable. Ultimately, the failure to prosecute offenders has emboldened the potential rapist because he knows he will always get away with the crime.
This is one reason why the cases of rape have multiplied in recent times. Even with the threat of life imprisonment for offenders, rape incidents continue to grab the headlines.
The social stigma associated with crime also ensures that victims suffer in silence. The growing cases of rape in the country and the impunity with which the crime is committed should provoke our anger. Nigerians cannot continue to play the ostrich. That your relative is not a victim today does not mean she will not be a victim some day. Just like in India, we must all rise up to condemn the crime of rape.
The Police must investigate and prosecute all reported cases of rape to serve as a deterrent to others. Government at all levels and concerned stakeholders must work together to stop this growing and debilitating incidence of rape because a society that cannot protect its women and girls cannot claim to be a civilised society.