Friday, 27 November 2015

Convicting The Rapist In Nigeria

Despite the stringent punitive measures designed by law on sexual offenders, in Nigeria, rape cases are among the most difficult to prosecute and achieving convictions of sexual offenders is less common than those of theft or drug trafficking.

Taking media statistics for instance, out of the crime reports by newspapers in a week, rape cases take bulk of the crime bounty. In the US, only 3 in 100 rapists are convicted. The remaining 97 walk free and will never see the inside of a prison. In the UK, nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted each year. Conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator.  Only 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police. A study showed that out of 10,000 victims of rape, only 18.1% report the offence to the police.

The Nigerian sexual offenses act 2013 stipulates life imprisonment as punishment for rape and 14 years for attempted rape. This punishment is without parole. One would have thought that given the severity of punishment for rape, it would  deter and discourage this act of inhumanity; but that is not the case.

So, why is it difficult to successfully prosecute a rapist and consequently convict him or her for life? Why are our learned friends …the lawyers unable to see through to it that victims of sexual assaults get the maximum prison sentence for their crimes? Or is something wrong with the legal requirements to prosecute such?

Every single day, babies as little as 3-6months, young ones of 3-11, teenagers to adults are sexually assaulted  and raped by pseudo-beasts who walk around scot free for lack of evidence or other flimsy reasons. Those who are apprehended are left in detention for years without trial not to talk of conviction. The sad thing is …our loved ones, the victims are left to carry this unwanted mark of brutality every day of their lives. Some are left maimed for life.

There is the case of a baby who was sexually assaulted by her father. It took the timely intervention of doctors to stitch her rectum which got punctured as are result of the assault. Doctors were unsure if she might be able to give birth ever when she grows up. Of course, she intermittently passes stool involuntarily as consequence.
What angers me most is the stand usually taken by families in such cases. Prosecutors always encounter Jericho's wall by immediate family relatives. If you imprison my husband (who raped your daughter), who will take care of us?.. The wife will undoubtedly face immense pressure from her husband’s family not to “spoil the name of the family”.

I have heard about (unconfirmed) instances where the police reluctant to pursue the case will advice activists ready to take the matter up by saying “it is a family matter. What is a family matter? I don’t understand. Will “family matter” prevent the man from repeating this inhumane act on another innocent child? How does “family matter” correct the damaged life on a less-than-a-year-old baby girl? How would “family matter” explain to this innocent sweet little baby girl when she grows up from “teenagehood”  to being a lady expecting to be married someday…with faeces leaking down from under… condemned to wearing pampas.. with the knowledge that it was her own father..her daddy that caused her unbearable ordeal? How does "family matter" atone for any of these? There is no justification whatsoever for this. Little boys and girls are suffering in silence and no one..NO ONE is doing something.

I attended a Report Every Sexual Abuse Club(RESA) sensitization program in Ibadan, October 30th. I expected the place to packed full with fathers, mothers, young men and women, teenagers and all. That hall had the capacity to accommodate minimum 400 persons. But to my greatest amazement, we were barely 100 in attendance. The quality of information I received that day was unspeakable. Maybe those invited thought they didn’t need any information or sensitizing on sexual abuse so it wasn’t just their thing. Yet whenever I browse the net for news, and read newspapers, Oyo state among forefront states for reported rape cases.

A little over a month ago, a lady youth corp member was raped and killed along a bush path just 2weeks to her wedding. It was on a Sunday. That was the day she and her fiancé were presented to the church as intending marriage couple. She is dead! Gone! The rapists... murderers? Still strolling chest-out!
When I was in the Oyo state high court three weeks ago as part of my training as a forensic scientist, a case was called were a man not less than 60 years raped an 11-year-old girl. This happened in April  2013. April 2013? The case is still  dragging in May 2015. 60 minus 11 equals 49. She has been under that trauma for more than 2 years. Do you think she will ever forget?

You will have to forgive my temperament in this article and you will understand my position when you hear what I hear and see what I see. But someone has to start saying something.
 We need to demystify the shame and the so-called cultural taboo in speaking of these things if we are to succeed in the war against sexual abuses…even when it involves someone we know. Someone close to us. Because it didn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it is not happen. I have talked with lawyers, prosecutors and law enforcement agents who have complained about the difficulty in prosecuting sexual assault cases and consequently achieving convictions.

You will agree with me that if one two three to ten persons are successfully prosecuted and sentenced to life imprisonment,  people will be begin to first calm down…think twice before they allow their whims to get the better of them.

That is why in my subsequent articles in this case, I shall be proffering possible solutions and advices to curb this menace: successfully prosecuting and achieving convictions of sexual offenders in Nigeria.
Be sure to keep in touch. Thanks.