Nigeria: Fighting the Rape Epidemic in a Pandemic

opinion

"I'm sorry mummy, he said he was going to kill me if I told anyone."

That was Gift, a nine-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by the son of her mother's friend who had come to live with them.

Gift was lucky to have come out alive to tell her story, but girls like little Khadijat, Omozuwa and Barakat Bello could not live to tell their stories.

What a wicked world! The rape of a lady is not just the abuse of her body and sexuality; it is the abuse of her mind and spirit which halts her mindset, poisons her soul and alters her future. For some victims, it is the complete lockdown of their existence and shutdown of glorious ambitions which eventually drives them to a premature end.

Recently, rape is everywhere and it is gradually becoming an everyday phenomenon which has resulted to an epidemic we must collectively fight. Rape is a heinous crime that every culture and society frowns at. Some countries like Cuba and Saudi Arabia equate it to murder.

Many rapes are facilitated by drugs, alcohol and other substances and the victims can be incapacitated and thus unable to consent because of the drugs or alcohol. Rape victims suffer physical and mental trauma which may include humiliation, embarrassment, and stigmatisation which sometimes leads to depression and eventually death.

It is very unfortunate that rape has become the order of the day and most of the culprits are still walking as free men on the streets. Our daughters are no longer safe at home just like the case of Barakat; they are not safe at places of worship just like the case of Omozuwa, and they are not safe to walk freely on the streets just like the case of Khadijat.

According to the Director of FBI, Robert Mueller, rape is the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without the consent of the victim. In essence, this definition posits that both sexes can be at the risk of being raped, although the female is more vulnerable, especially minors.

The human race needs a place it can call safe, and this can only be gotten through our collective effort.

In Nigeria, government must rise up to our defence by also equating the punishment for rape to that of murder. The law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to bring every perpetrator to book no matter their position or how influential the person may be.

The society also has to stop stigmatising the victims as this may prevent so many of them from speaking out. Parents have the greater responsibility of protecting their children by encouraging them to speak out, and most importantly, to be careful and watchful.

Let us report any suspicious persons or actions, especially in this trying time.

Deborah Phillips wrote in from the Department of Mass Communication of the Bayero University Kano (BUK) - (debbiephils4@gmail.com)

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