It is like a plague, the regular cases of reported and unreported rape in the country’s mass media as well as confirmed reports from different police stations across the nation’s geopolitical zones is daily threatening the essence of the society.
Rape and other sexual assaults cases are complex crimes to analyse in several parts of the world because it is rarely reported. Women in some countries rarely have their complaints recorded, due to the extreme social stigma cast on women who have been raped, or subjected to one form of sexual violence or the other and for fear of being disowned by their families.
Each day, the media and the social media are awash with weird stories of absurdity; from child defilement to the rape of both young and old women. Not even infants are safe from the evil rampage of these rapists these days. It has remained a recurring decimal across the country. Sometime ago, reports of the serial rape of elderly widows in their 70s and 80s in Opi, Nsukka, Enugu State by a band of thugs in the community shocked everyone.
Also there is the case of a 14-year-old girl who was raped by an unknown man in Agege area of Lagos and another raped inside a kiosk in Iyana Ipaja, Lagos.
There are more pathetic stories of a 24-year-old political science student of the Benue State University who raped his stepmother after he returned home from school and some men, who raped a 3-year-old and 15-year-old girl in Gombe and Taraba states, respectively. Or that of a 45-year-old man who murdered girls, aged 2 and 4, after raping them. The alarming rate at which such rape incidents are being reported without a whimper of rebuke from the authorities as a form of sanction is worrying. Sadly enough, all these reports went without prosecution or conviction. This only helps to encourage would-be rapists and child molesters.
In Lagos State alone, the Government said it recorded no fewer than 12,120 rape cases and other sexual violence matters in the last four years. And this must be a conservative figure considering unreported cases. According to the State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Ade Ipaye, government in the last one year also convicted about 140 sex offenders. The Lagos situation is not different from what obtains in other states of the federation. As a matter of fact, some states are deeper into rape crimes but little or nothing is heard about prosecution or conviction.
The basic truth is that many cases of rape and child abuse are actually not reported, thus making the culprits go scot-free in most cases. Even those that were reported are not prosecuted due to the attitude of parents and guardians who would prefer not to pursue the case for fear of possible stigmatisation. Most victims would rather live privately with the pain and shame of their experiences than report and risk the consequences of stigmatisation and the possibility of finding spouses.
While minors who are victims helplessly forge ahead in life with violated psyche, they are exposed to all sorts of dangers including the dreaded HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, psychological trauma and unwanted pregnancies. The odds are so many.
It is however sad to note that people prefer to suffer in silence, having been victims of such offences that have legal sanctions. The law has made provision for the prosecution of rapists and imposition of appropriate sanctions. Victims and their families should therefore be willing to come out to seek legal redress in their own interest and the society at large. The time has come for all and sundry to change their slipshod attitude towards rape and other sexually related offences.
Certainly, apart from commensurate punishment, these rapists need psychiatric help greatly to possibly rehabilitate them. However, we believe that the bulk of the work of prevention belongs to parents and guardians whose responsibility it is to protect these hapless victims, especially as the establishment has adopted a heartless attitude and unwillingness to enforce compliance with the law. Since most of these crimes are perpetrated by close family members, parents and guardians should be on the watch and not trust relatives and friends as they may eventually betray such trust.
We strongly believe that incidences of rape can be brought under manageable control with the appropriate attitude and response from government to sanction and repudiate such barbaric acts of violation. Considering that rape victims go through lifelong trauma arising from their awful experience, perpetrators deserve stiffer penalties. One way to deter rapists and reduce the crime is to pronounce tougher penalties on convicts under the law. Life imprisonment would suffice.