opinionBy Aisha Umar Yusuf
She gained global notoriety or fame (depending on which side of the argument you are on) when she cut off her husband's genitals to protest his abusive behaviour in 1993. He became known as the man with 'the most public privates' when the severed organ was found and stitched together during a nine and a half hour surgery. These are Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt, the young American couple whose troubled marriage ended after the impromptu home surgery led to a court case which ended in divorce.
As was to be expected, most women were entirely on Lorena's side because they felt what she had to go through in the form of physical and sexual abuse justified the punishment she eventually meted out to her husband; with her bare hands. In fact on that fateful night of June 23rd 1993, according to Lorena's statements in court, John Bobbitt had returned to their home dead drunk after a night out partying, then he raped her. Deeply hurt and angry Lorena had gone from the bed to the kitchen for a drink of water but she grabbed the kitchen knife instead. She walked back to the bedroom where her husband was deeply asleep and proceeded to cut off nearly half of his manhood.
Leaving him in his pool of blood, Lorena took out the severed organ and went driving, till she reached a field. She rolled down her car window and threw it there. Overcome with guilt or pity she later stopped by a phone booth and dialled 911. 'After an exhaustive search, the penis was located, packed in ice and taken to the hospital where John was being treated. It was re-attached by Doctors James T. Sehn and David Berman during a nine and a half hour surgery' according to media reports. Lorena's trial in 1994 won her quite a bit of support from ordinary women and women groups in the US, but her assault on her abusive husband soon began to inspire other battered women to go for that one offensive 'weapon.'
When some Nigerian copycats dealt their husband's similar treatments not too long after the Lorena Bobbitt case, I remember watching Frank Olize of NTA's Newsline fame actually asking aloud 'What do women have against the local government headquarters?' Such was the power of Lorena's crusading example. I was forced to recall all this recently when I read a news report that Osun state government had sent a bill to the state assembly seeking stiff penalties for rapists, which will include cutting off their manhood. The state's commissioner for women affairs, Mrs Mofolake Adeboyega, who spoke to news-men afterwards, disclosed that the bill recommended, among other penalties, chopping off of the 'third leg.'
As someone who has been greatly disturbed by the rampant cases of rape happening all over this country, I was greatly pleased to hear this. There is no week that will begin and end without one reading about rape cases in parts of this country. It is a truly national but unfortunate phenomenon. And like the commissioner observed the more worrying aspect is the fact that minors are now the greater victims of this dastardly act. Even infant girls in some reports have been indecently assaulted by grown men. Another disgusting side to this ugly problem is the trend where young men are caught raping old women, sometimes old enough to be their grandmothers.
In the face of this national calamity, nothing short of Osun State's 'Violence against Women and children Bill' can arrest the situation. It is obvious that increasing moral decay in our society is fuelling this evil. For instance pornographic films and books are known to be available and within the reach of whoever likes to buy them; and so are drugs and alcohol. When idle men combine two or all these three, it is anybody's guess what they will do to the first female they see, whether young or old. This is why I applaud Mrs Mofolake Adeboyega's programme in which her ministry has embarked on an enlightenment campaign against this evil in public places. Hear her: 'We are going to schools to talk to children on how to conduct themselves, so they will not play into the hands of men who are out to abuse them.'
This is truly laudable because prevention is ultimately the best way to save potential victims. Rape is a scar a victim bears for life. The pain and trauma of being violated can only be imagined. It is much worse when a little child is the victim because she has her whole life ahead of her and is too young to understand why she had to go through such pain in the first place. Above all there are the twin disasters of losing her priceless virginity to someone so unworthy and the possibility of being infected with a sexually transmitted disease now that they are so common. Truly, the dangers of rape are endless, so the earlier we give rapists the severe punishment they deserve the better for all concerned. Giving them prison sentences and releasing them back into the society is like giving them another licence to strike again. The best all-round solution will be to dispossess them of their dangerous weapon - their precious manhood.
The story of battered American wife Lorena Bobbitt clearly shows that as long as a rapist has his weapon intact or back in place, as was the case with her former husband, he will move on to the next victim. For instance after she was found 'not guilty' by the court and was ordered to undergo 45 days of psychiatric evaluation at the Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia, John Bobbitt was left free to continue the life he knew. After their divorce in 1995, he got convicted of 'misdemeanour domestic battery against his former fiancée Kristina Elliot and sentenced to 15 days in jail.' Then he went through another two trials for domestic abuse against his third wife, Joanna Ferrell in 2004. One trial ended in a conviction while the other ended in acquittal. Now tell me whether John Bobbitt would have had the chance to marry twice again and gone ahead with more domestic battery if that severed manhood had remained in that field and not been reattached?
Obviously, the incidence of rape, with all the force and violence it requires is the product of a depraved mind. The rape of minors even more so. Such an abhorrent state of affairs can only be stopped through the most severe deterrents possible. But the knives and razors of Osun should not be the only ones busy trying to fight this insanity. Every state of the federation must enact this castration law in order to fight this scourge. Our young and old women; and our little and infant daughters all deserve to live life free of this menace. We need real drastic measures to achieve this. In the case of incestuous rape where fathers and uncles are said to be the culprits, the punishment should be doubled; loss of manhood and banishment from the community. A third option will be to do like the Osun commissioner said, 'We have approached traditional rulers on how rapists can be brought to book, including placing a curse on them.' A curse will be just fine if it will be effective. After all unholy acts deserve unorthodox solutions, don't they?