The Internet has been trending with a video of a two year, 11 month-old pupil of a private school in Lekki, Lagos, who was allegedly serially defiled by the school’s supervisor, 47-year-old Mr Adegboyega Adenekan. It is presently a subject of litigation at the Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court.
The video recording marked as (Exhibit A1) depicts the child in the clinical psychologist’s office answering questions about the alleged defilement. What is troubling is that the case is not an isolated one.
On a regular basis, there are media reports of an astronomical increase in rape and paedophile cases in the country with an unprecedented upsurge in sexual slavery at the work place and at home. The strong, as if in an orgy, are just grabbing the weak, in this case women and the girl-child with the law looking on almost helplessly.
The effects and aftermath of rape on the victim include both physical torture and psychological trauma. Physical force may not necessarily be used in rape as the victim is easily subdued. But deaths associated with rape are known to occur, though the prevalence of fatalities varies considerably.
For rape victims, the more common consequences of sexual violence are those related to reproductive health, mental health, and social well-being. The stigma can and do last a life time. Causative factors are many and varied. One is the unhindered exposure to pornographic materials. This is in spite of the fact that there are laws prohibiting obscene publications.
Another factor is the sale and consumption of aphrodisiacs, sex performance enhancing pills, medicines and cream. These have so flooded the market in a manner that suggests that regulation is either weak or non-existent. Anyone, regardless of age or mental disposition, can access these products.
The third factor is the law. The criminal justice system is seemingly behind the criminals. The vogue now is that criminals not only rape and assault their victims, but also take pictures of the incident and publish same. One would have thought that if somebody publishes such things, it will be easy to trace the person. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It takes time before justice is done in the few that are caught and are subjected to the crucible of the law.
The Child Rights Act which Nigeria is a signatory to is, on paper, a beautiful legislation which criminalises sexual conduct with a child. It also prohibits marriage to an under-age child. However, as commendable as that law is, it is, to all intents, demonstrably ineffectual.
There are no rules or procedure for enforcing the right of a child under the Child Rights Act. That is why some of the cases brought to court under it are easily quashed. In one of the celebrated cases, a high court judge threw it away. Explaining why, the judge agreed that there were issues that can be ventilated under the Child Rights Act but lamented that because there are no rules for procedure, he didn’t know how to go about it. The case not only failed, the criminal also escaped justice.
It is from this perspective that we urge other state governments to emulate the example of Lagos in reviewing most of its obsolete laws. Recently, the media were awash with the report of a paedophile who got away with just a slap on the wrist for raping a two-year-old in one of the northern states.
There’s need for advocacy to enlighten the public on the ills of rape especially as it affects children. Parents must also begin to be alive to their duties of teaching their wards what they ought to know and do so as not to expose themselves to the criminally-minded. We commend the professionalism in the police particularly with the new Inspector General of Police who is putting measures in place to deal with the situation. But a lot more work is yet to be done. For instance, the government needs to establish DNA centres so that if somebody is assaulted, samples can be taken for verification. Above all, in our opinion, what is urgently needed is public awareness. Injustice to one is injustice to all. There ought to be a collective action against crimes that target the weaker sex who also happens to be someone’s mother, wife, daughter or sister.
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