‘Parents should give their children sex education’
Mrs Toyin Ndidi Taiwo-Ojo, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ‘Stop the Abuse Against Women and Children Foundation’ and a human rights lawyer, who was violated by her uncle at the age of five-spoke with LAOLU ADEYEMI on issues associated with the crime of rape in the country.
Why is the incidence of rape on the increase despite the fact that the society frowns at it?
I don’t think it is on the increase. It has always been there but many people don’t speak out. Many are now encouraged to speak out. I was also defiled at age five by one of my uncles but I couldn’t speak out because I didn’t even understand what he was doing then and then the culture of silence.
But now we are beginning to give our children sex education so as to know the difference between bad touching and good touching. Our children now know that an uncle is not supposed to touch them anyhow and that an aunty is not supposed to carry them anyhow. They now know that they can speak out and they are encouraged to speak out.
In those days, the mantra was that children were to be seen and not to be heard, which encouraged the culture of silence.
The only divergence from yesteryears is the depth of the crime itself. We now see children of six months, nine months, five years, etc, being violated. I don’t think it was that bad in those days.
I observed that people are now being exposed to pornographic movies on the internet, which consequently expose them to temptations. Naturally, human beings have the tendency to be deviants but it now requires the self-discipline to control their minds and environment.
Do you think rape culprits are appropriately punished in Nigeria?
I don’t think so because rape is a crime against someone’s soul. It could be likened to killing the soul of a man; it’s a form of murder. If you steal somebody’s property, the property can be restored. But in a case of rape, the victim’s dignity is on the line and it can’t be restored. Even when a death sentence is placed on the culprit, the soul can never be restored. So, there is no enough punishment.
But the question is: Is justice being done? I will say no and yes because we have a justice system that is full of delay. A situation whereby you filed a case since 2006 and the matter has not been concluded in 2019 is not encouraging. There is a case where the accused person has been imprisoned for good three years, awaiting trial, and the case has not even got to the trial. Is that justice to the accused person and the complainant? Justice has to be tangible.
Don’t you think there are loopholes in our legal system that rapists exploit to their advantage?
Our legal system has loopholes. First of all, a crime has to be proven beyond doubt before a verdict can be arrived at. Now, most of these perpetrators understand this and most times, evidences are destroyed before they even get to court. Another thing is that some of those Investigating Police Officers (IPO’s) never transfer duplicate files of crime to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to give advice.
In the North, however, a private individual can actually go and file a criminal case directly but in the South, the matter has to be through the police or Ministry of Justice, depending on the case. The police do most of the preliminary investigations and it will be charged to court.
If it is an offence of misdemeanour, it doesn’t require DPP’s advice but a major crime like rape requires it. The case file has to be duplicated and a copy has to be sent to DPP in the Ministry of Justice. Based on the investigation done by the police, the DPP will now advice that the trial should commence because a crime has indeed been committed. But sometimes, the DPP will say that the crime was not committed. By then, the complainant will be left with no other option than to appeal the outcome of DPP’s advice and this makes the process of getting justice slow.
Even if the law prescribes seven years imprisonment for the rapist, the victim would feel relieved if justice prevails. But if at the end of the day the criminal is left off the hook because of silly technicalities, then the blame is on the system.
Another issue is that some of our police officers still charge rape cases to court under the Criminal Code, which defines rape in relation to woman and not in relation to a man, even though the criminal law now has what we call the Offence of Sodomy. So, these are some of the legal loopholes.
What is the difference between pressing a rape charge under the Criminal Code and Child Right Act?
Child Right law imposes life imprisonment on the rapist as punishment while the criminal code prescribes seven years imprisonment or more depending on the judge.
Many human rights lawyers now advocate for the adoption and usage of the Child Right law while treating a rape case of a minor. For instance, Criminal Code defines rape as sexual defilement, while Child Right law defines rape as rape and prescribes life imprisonment as the punishment.
What are the necessary steps a rape victim can take to get justice?
Whenever it happens, parents should not clean up for the victim but should proceed to police station and file a report. Parents should then request for the Nigerian police medical form and go to a General Hospital for a medical test.
For evidence sake, a General Hospital’s report is preferred to that of a private hospital. But if there is no General Hospital in that location, they can approach a private hospital. However, they must ensure that the Chief Medical Director of the hospital signs the medical report and take it back to the police station for necessary action to be taken against the accused.
Parents should avoid settling such matter out of court because the victim would live with the pains forever.
As a mother and activist, how can parents protect their minors?
The best protection against rape and other social vices is intentional parenting. Regardless of the economic situation of the country, parents need to make deliberate efforts at relating to and raising their children. We all need to give our children sex education, spend quality time with them and encourage them to speak up anytime they feel violated. Equipping them with some self-defence skills also helps to build the children’s confidence against any paedophile and other prospective rapists.
What can government do to check this menace?
I learnt NAPTIP is introducing the offender’s register for traffickers and I also heard that Lagos State government is toeing the same path for sex offenders. I also think the nation needs to adopt sex offenders’ registers. Let schools, the local councils, churches, mosques and every other public place have this register. This would make anyone with such intent to think twice as there will be no hiding place for any sex offender in the country.
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