Too much tolerance for child rapists
The other day, I watched an interview granted a four-year-old rape survivor. Narrating how ‘Uncle Elias’, her school proprietor continuously defiled her, the girl said: “He wide (sic) my leg, cover my mouth, tell me to shut up….he will lap me, sit down on the chair and be doing me.” As a result, her mother confirms she suffers grave injuries around her private part. These past few years, I have experienced serious disturbance over alarming reports of cases of rape and child defilements. But our laid-back approach in handling the cases dazes me more. I don’t regard cases of child defilement as rape. I believe it is worse. An adult can expressly deny consent. An adult can put up a fight, and might succeed in escaping. But a child is helpless. A child does not understand consent, cannot give, or deny it.
As a people, how have we been able to condone this evildoing? Could it be that we are more tolerant of child-rapists? We adopt religion and culture as modes of validating the defilement of the girl-child. We ignore their silent screams. Why do we protect these monsters in our space? Why is it impossible to end such occurrence? Why can we not make those guilty of these crimes ‘pay severely’?
Marta Pais, a United Nations envoy in an interview granted in The Guardian on March 20, 2016, puts the statistics of Nigerian children who experience different forms of sexual abuse at 25%. That figure should be higher, given the numbers of cases that go unreported. In 2015, the Executive Director of Project Alert, a Non-Governmental Organisation based in Lagos insisted that 70% of cases of rape reported have children between the ages of 0-months to 17 years as victims. A glimpse at few news headlines between last December and now corroborates these statistics.
Late December 2015, the internet awash with a video posted by the Dorothy Njemarze Foundation of a three-year-old recounting how her 30-year old uncle defiled her. In 2015, a UNICEF report states that the number of Child Brides in Africa will rise to 310 million in the next 35 years. Many of those girls, the report concludes, are in Nigeria.
Under Section 2-4 of the Sexual Offence Bill, the penalty for defiling a child between the ages of 0-month and 18 years is life imprisonment. Under section 31(1) and (2) of the Child’s Right Act, the punishment for defiling and raping a child is life imprisonment. These laws are even yet to be fully domesticated in all the 36 states of the country. There are several other international treaties to which Nigeria is a signatory, yet at the point of implementation, the laws are reduced to fantasies. Why?
Under Section 216 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP 77, 1990, indecent sexual dealings with a boy under the age of 14 attract seven years imprisonment. In Section 218, unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 is punishable with life imprisonment. Section 361, 362 and 363 of the same act defines abduction and spells out the penalties. The age limit for a victim is put at 16. Whereas, the Penal Code, under Section 282(e), puts the age limit for a girl to be a victim of rape below 14 years of age. We must resolve the contradictions by agreeing on who a minor is – a child below 18 years.
Children defilers should be kept away permanently, or eliminated. And the trials and conviction should attract massive media publicity, to convince other victims that justice will be served. It will also serve as deterrence to prospective rapists.
Meanwhile, victims’ parents could adopt the Angelina option. Angelina Kyomugisha chopped off the manhood of her daughter’s rapist, and a dog ran off with it. You could take other options as your anger leads. I am sure it would spur our laws to become more effective. Just don’t let the matter die. Do something, radical.
Adults, especially males, please negotiate your sexual urges with fellow adults, get their consents and allow our children enjoy the peace of childhood.
•Ajibola wrote from Lagos.