WHAT COULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE INCREASING REPORTED CASES OF RAPE ACROSS THE COUNTRY? IS IT BECAUSE THERE IS AN INCREASE IN THE CRIME AGAINST WOMEN? HARDLY A DAY PASSES WITHOUT A REPORTED CASE OF THIS VIOLENCE AGAINST THE FEMALE GENDER. HOWEVER, WHILE SOME EXPERTS ARGUE THAT THE CRIME HAS BEEN WITH US, OTHERS SAY IT'S ON THE ASCENDANCY. WHAT COULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS? ROLAND OGBONNAYA WRITES
At times it sounds bizarre, but true, which makes a normal human being to begin to think why a father will rape her biological daughter or why a 70 year-old man would defile a six or seven year old girl child. They happen and are being reported daily across the country.
Richard Odo, a 45-year-old man from Enugu, was recently arraigned before an Nsukka Magistrate's Court for sexually abusing his 12-year-old daughter. Mr. Odo, who hails from Akabuluyi village, Obimo, in the Nsukka local government area of Enugu State, was alleged to have had several carnal contact with his daughter since July last year.
He was charged with committing incest, punishable under Section 222 (1) of the revised criminal code law of Enugu State. The accused was also said to have, by the act, abandoned his paternal responsibility. No plea was taken as the magistrate, Mr. Alex Amalu, said the court did not have powers for outright trial of the case. The magistrate said that Section 226 of the criminal code of Enugu State (2004) required the court to obtain the consent of the state's Attorney General before hearing the matter.
The accused, which was not represented by a counsel, did not show any remorse in his actions and was ordered to be remanded in prison custody.
The offence carries a maximum seven-year jail term, while the girl (name withheld), her mother, Mrs. Theresa Odo have continued to live in shame and the trauma of the violence against her.
Recently, a seven-year girl was acting and walking funny in the house. For several days the mother watched her go through pains and when asked what was the problem, she would lie and tell the mother that she wounded her leg in school. One day, the mother decided to birth her and the cat was let out of the bag. She confessed that her uncle has been having canal knowledge of her with the warning not tell any body.
In the last couple of years, there have been documented rape cases reported by newspapers and electronic media like a police officer raping three-year old girl, a 24-year old man arrested for raping an 80-year old woman, a video showing five men raping a woman at a Nigerian university while she pleaded with her violators to kill her, two men arrested for drugging and raping a friends daughter, an Oba charged over the rape of a youth corps member, a father arrested for castrating a man that raped his daughter, a father arrested for raping a 14-year old daughter or a choir master allegedly raping a 12-year old choir member in the church and many others.
Kidnappers and armed robbers would not see their mission accomplished until they rape their female captives and there are several cases of kidnappers and armed robbers gang-raping their victims. Perhaps, one of the rape cases that have attracted wild condemnation in recent times, and which is still in the Enugu State House of Assembly, is the gang raping of 60 to 80-year-old women in Opi, Nsukka, Enugu State, by young boys.
One of the women that was a victim in the Opi rape told journalists, "This is a strange development and I don't think it is for nothing. I suspect these boys are involved in moneymaking rituals because, what can anybody say is left in me for which the three boys would pounce on me and rape me repeatedly. They didn't even consider my age. I am no longer a young girl. My last daughter is about 16 and my husband died some years ago."
The victim said the ugly development began like a rumour, when an old woman complained that the boys who raped her in turns invaded her residence. "The woman", according to the victim, "wept bitterly, showing injuries she sustained in her vain attempt to resist the boys".
Another victim told journalists, "They came to my place around 2.00pm. I asked them what they wanted and that I did not have any money. I opened my room and asked them to take whatever they wanted, but they held me on the throat, threw me to the ground and started raping me," she said, weeping and cursing.
Rape can be described also as sexual violence, which is defined as any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances to a woman. Consequences of coerced sex or rape reduces a woman's ability to see her sexuality as something over which she has control of. In such situations of coerced sex or rape, women are not able to negotiate safe sex or contraceptive use and thus are at increased risk of infection. In a situation of rape, the victim may experience bleeding and tearing of the genital area. This can create passageways for HIV to enter the bloodstream.
Rape, according to experts, can have significant harmful and lasting physical, psychological and reproductive health consequences for victims, families and communities. It can also cause severe physical injury and trauma-related psychological disorders that may affect the victims for years after the assault amongst others.
In a retrospective study on rape by UNAID between 2003 and 2006, there were 306 rape cases in the country, meaning that there were one out of every thirteen gynaecologic presentations at the hospital. And the age range of the survivors was one to forty-five years, while assault was penile 86 per cent or finger, 14 per cent. Results showed that children, one to nine years were the most affected (41 per cent), followed by those aged 10-14 years (31 per cent). More than one third (37 per cent) of the survivors presented with sexually transmitted infections, while 21 per cent presented with varying degrees of injuries in their genitals.
In first quarter 2011, Ogbozala Autonomous Community in Opi, Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State was in the news for wrong reasons following the strange emergence of a cult of randy youths who had delight in raping women old enough to be their grandmothers. The phenomenon baffled a lot of people as several schools of thought who tried to provide answers for the bestial acts of the youths adduced many reasons for this anathema.
Until the intervention of the famous Umuada Igbo, a socio-cultural organisation of eminent Igbo women led by Mrs. Kate Ezeofor, octogenarian women in the beleaguered community, which has qualified for modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, lived under constant fear of being raped by youths who serially assaulted their hapless victims.
There was, however, respite after the intervention of the Lady Ezeofor-led women organisation until the youths arrested for the heinous crime were discharged by the court for what the presiding magistrate called; "want of diligent persecution." So, the town was peaceful and grandmothers had their peace until the boys who were charged to court were discharged.
Soon after their return, the rape of grandmothers started again, as some bewildered citizens who tried to unravel the reason for the strange phenomenon in the once peaceful Opi attributed it to another kind of mental sickness that has diminished the sense of decency of the promiscuous youths.
Others say the gang belonged to a cult that demands that every member must rape 25 old women as pre-condition for benefit. People for the unnatural behaviour of the Opi youths have advanced other bizarre reasons. However, President General, Ogbozala Town Union, and Chief Ugwu, said: "After the incident of last year, no rape of old women had occurred in our community." There was a lone case of a girl, who was raped at Ibeku autonomous community, but the victim is from Ogbozala, the rape did occur in Ogbozala, he was reported have said.
They might once have been beautiful and desirable, but at 60, 70 years and more, such beauty must have diminished, their once comely faces, now mirroring their toil over the years. In other climes where fear of God, respect for the elderly and common decency reign, those women, now mothers, grandmothers and even great-grandmothers, stakeholders in a recent conference on reproductive health and sexual violence against women, should be honoured and highly-respected.
But in Ogbozalla Ibeku communities in Opi, Nsukka Local Council of Enugu State, boys young enough to be their children and grandchildren were raping the old women.
Though there have been some semblance of serenity, before now, elderly women in the communities lived in fear that their doors may be the next the randy youths would knock on to gang -rape them from mid-night till dawn. Those who resist were beaten to submission, while investigations revealed that in about three months or thereabout, over 20 women were, either in their homes, on their way to farm or the market, fallen victim to the boys who beat up, threaten to kill and cause bodily injuries on any who attempted to resist them.
Scandalised by the act of these young men, Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, described the attitude of the boys as 'madness' influenced by factors other than sexual pleasure.
"Otherwise, tell me the kind of pleasure a boy of 18 will derive from sleeping with a woman older than his mother, a woman as old as 60 or 70. Tell me what to attribute this to, other than madness, " Chime said.
Worried by this sacrilege, Umuada Ndigbo, the umbrella body to which all Igbo women in Nigeria and the Diaspora belong, stormed the Opi community. Led by Lolo Kate Ezeofor, they held a prayer rally at the St. Charles Catholic Church, to condemn the act and seek God's intervention in the development, which they said could bring curse to the communities and Enugu State at large.
Ezeofor said: "We are here today to pray to God not to visit this sin on the entire Opi people. Opi women no longer sleep with their eyes closed as many now leave their homes to sleep elsewhere. They are forced to lose their dignity to some youths of 14 to 17 of age young enough to be their children.
"Youths raping their mothers or grandmothers are evil. We pray that evil should stop, as we pray God to forgive and cleanse this land. The worst is the raping of 70-year-old blind woman, who died after the incident. We plead with the traditional rulers, leaders of thought and residents of Opi to put this abomination to an end," they pleaded.
Not satisfied with the way the issue was handled, the state House of Assembly swung into action. Two weeks ago, precisely on November 27, the seven-man ad-hoc committee constituted by the Assembly on June 8 to investigate incessant rape of elderly women in Opi, submitted its report. Presenting the report on Tuesday during a plenary, the committee chairman, Chief Michael Oyeze, said the committee recommended that the Nsukka Divisional Police Officer (DPO) should re-arrest the alleged rapists earlier bailed and prosecute them accordingly.
They recommended the establishment of a Police station in Opi Town for quick intervention of Police in criminal activities such as rape and armed robbery. "The Police should commence immediate surveillance of the Opi community and this should be sustained for a long time in order to curb the excesses of these criminals. The chairman of Nsukka local government should ensure that adequate logistics are provided to the security agents to enhance their operations," he said.
Other recommendation was that the four traditional rulers of Opi town in collaboration with their neighbourhood watch groups should assist the Police and other security agents to identify and arrest those engaging in India Hemp business because it was found out that there was the existence of illegal arms, Indian hemp dealers and smokers in Opi, while the rapists so far arrested were granted bail through the assistance of some politicians and prominent indigenes of the community.
According to him, the committee during its several meetings held at Nsukka Local government headquarters, invited no fewer than 27 persons, groups and stakeholders to make inputs. Some of the lawmakers present during the session commended the committee for a job thoroughly done while the speaker, Eugene Odo, noted that the committee's recommendations was to put corrective measures and invoke the law where necessary.
Beyond these measures, stakeholders in a reproductive health and anti-sexual violence against women that met in Owerri, Imo State recently, said there was now need to strengthen laws against rape. That's why the need to support the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (VAPP), which is in its third reading in the National Assembly, is imperative. Key provisions of the bill seeks to abolish all old laws relating to the subject matter such as rape, assault and bringing them into consonance with present realities. It also redefines rape to include penetration of any orifices by any person unlike the penal code, which defines rape to mean penetration of the vagina without the consent of the woman.