A member of the Federation of International Women Lawyers ( FIDA ) and a director in the Borno State ministry of Justice, Barr Habiba Gana, has disclosed that one of the challenges faced in the prosecution of rape perpetrators is inefficiency at obtaining evidence from the rape victims by police.
To this end, Barr Gana called for training of police personnel assigned to handle rape cases to avail prosecution with adequate evidence that would facilitate speedy trial of offenders.
Barr Gana made the disclosure, yesterday, at a workshop on “Protection, Empowerment and Resilience Building of Women in Northeast Nigeria (PERD),” organised by the Search For Common Ground ( SFCG ) Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation, with support from UN Women and Government of Japan, in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
Speaking further, she said another challenge hampering prosecution of sexual violence perpetrators is the society and sometimes, parents as well as relatives of the victims.
The FIDA woman narrated how she once handled a rape case where the victim was stigmatised after her team secured a 25-year-jail-term against the perpetrator of the rape, but when she went back to her area at Federal low-cost housing estate in Maiduguri, other children began to mock her, describing her as the girl who had been raped, thereby subjecting the rape victim to psychological trauma.
According to Barr Gana, following the condition of the girl, she advised that the girl be relocated temporarily to some other place to save her trauma, and based on this advice, the relations relocated her to Yola in Adamawa State where the victim’s sister lives.
“So, here, people are afraid of reporting because of fear that if they report, their children would not get married again. One major challenge frustrating the prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence offenses is the police. There is need for most police personnel handling rape cases and other gender-based violence to undergo training of taking down evidence.
“Sometimes, evidence they take work against us in court and sometimes, they don’t take the actual report they ought to have taken thereby, hampering prosecution of perpetrators,” she said.
On her part, the secretary of FIDA, Borno State chapter, Barr Zara Umar Yakub, raised concern over silence on the side of victims of sexual-based violence and members of their families, warning that non-report of the crime has implication on the survival and future of the victims.
“Most cases suffer at the early stage because of non-reporting and evidence. This is because being a sexual-based violence, the early medical reports gotten from the hospitals where the victims are treated form formidable evidence in the court during prosecution, but if not reported early and the bruises or injuries resulting from the violence heal, it would be difficult to obtain evidence since most times, the perpetrators deny committing the crime.
The FIDA Secretary called for early reportage of sexual violence cases to the police and referral centres established by FIDA at the Professor Umar Shehu Ultramodern Hospital in Bulunkutu for counseling, treatment and possible prosecution of perpetrators of the crime.
Apart from rape cases, Barr Yakub decried the rampant cases of homosexuality in the city of Maiduguri, saying that the irony of the crime is that even the highly placed individuals in Borno State including some mallams indulge in the shameful act.