The National Council of Arts and Culture, NCAC recently organised a one-day capacity-building workshop for journalists on reporting rape, which saw the training of over 25 journalists. It's Director-General, Otunba Olukayode Runsewe said the training opened up a new chapter in the country and the council, which is presently focused on changing the Nigerian narrative to a new one.
Since its outbreak, reports say the Covid-19 pandemic has only intensified violence against women and girls, particularly in the domestic sphere, causing the UN-Women to refer to the phenomenon as the "shadow pandemic."
While the world's attention is focused on containing Covid-19, this other scourge is growing, exacerbated by the very measures put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus such as lockdowns, social distancing, and other forms of restrictions on movement.
According to UNICEF data, 1 in 4 Nigerian girls are sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Despite an increase in activism, justice is rare: Nigeria, a country of 206 million people, had 32 rape convictions between 2019 and 2020, according to data from Nigeria's national anti-trafficking agency.
The global cost of violence against women is estimated at approximately $1.5 trillion according to a 2020 UN Women report on Covid-19 and ending violence against women and girls.
That figure will only rise as violence increases in the aftermath of the pandemic. As a result of this, experts call for greater investment in prevention, to stop violence from occurring in the first place. This means investing in whole-school approaches to VAWG, community mobilisation, working with men and boys on transforming harmful masculinities, and promoting more healthy and equal relationships.
Attributing the rise in rape cases to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown which led to an increase in sexual and domestic violence; the cost of silence on reporting rape for fear of stigmatisation and the increasing loss of morals and cultural values, the council noted that the media via its agenda-setting and awareness-creating roles has the responsibility and capacity to ensure the eradication of rape.
Acknowledging, however, the need for the proper reportage of rape cases to avoid further victimisation of victims while preventing avoidable legal implications for the media, the council in collaboration with the Omni Media and the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, organised the one-day workshop.
The workshop's facilitators were NTA's Health programme Producer and Rape activist, Rabiu Abdallah; member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and Programme Director, Daily Trust, Theophilus Abbah; Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Premium Times, Musukilum Mojeed; ex-journalist, Professor Abiodun Adeniyi, Prominent Legal Practitioner, Dr Kayode Ajiloh and Founder of News Investigator, Idowu Bakare; empowering over 25 journalists with the skills and resources required to report with "tact and skill," follow up on cases, and ensure justice is achieved for the victims.
Abdallah, who screened a 2013 report of a two-year-old rape victim, Chinwendu who suffered genital infection and is yet to receive the damages payment of N10m from the police as ruled by a Nassarawa court eight years after, stressed the need for medical intervention for rape victims.
"We must ensure administration of post-exposure prophylaxis. And this should be done within two days to prevent HIV and other infections. No story dies until you decide it dies. The story of Chinwendu is not dead. Follow up."
Responding to the case of Chinwendu, legal practitioner, Kayode Ajiloh announced his private practice is offering pro bono services to achieve justice for the now 10-year-old victim. Speaking to our reporter, he relayed further steps and possible legal restrictions to the cold case.
"The first step is to contact her to find out what has been happening. There are some issues that have statutes of limitation. All we want is to ensure justice is achieved for her. We need to revisit the case file to know what happened, to overhaul it."
Should there be a statute of limitation on the case, Ajiloh said: "The law is always the law. I want to believe that in Nassarawa State, that is not so. Until we review the case, know when and what happened, then what else to do."
Urging the journalists on the need to raise awareness on rape and encourage women to speak up, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa said: "Test the law and make it better. There is a lot to do to encourage rape victims to speak out. It's your role to report the story and report what happens after that."
"Having participated in this workshop, go out and use it. We wish there'll be no rape cases but when it happens, report it with a human face, ethically and properly. If you don't report rape well, you can destroy the life of the victims," said the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media, Femi Adesina.
As part of its war against rape, NCAC is incentivizing rape reports through its 'cultural awards.' Participating journalists who report rape cases get a fully sewn cultural attire.
The council is also publishing a resource book on the subject. Raising Voices Against Rape will feature the thoughts of Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, Chairman/CEO of NiDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa. The foreword of the book is written by First Lady, Aisha Buhari.
"Every rapist is an animal who is meant to be living in a zoo, not within society. Journalists need to start to change the story of Nigeria. After rape, we'll be starting another war on drugs. Drug barons are ruining the lives of the youths of this country. The time has come for us to be our brother's keeper. We must allow Nigeria to carry another title, a new title to bring about change," said Runsewe.
A survey report published last August by The Conversation on newspaper rape reporting in Nigeria shows that over 90 per cent of reported rape victims were females and 99 per cent of the rapists were male. A third of the female victims were aged between 1 and 10; those between 11 and 20 years constituted 46.1 per cent of the victims and victims aged 21-30 made up 8.4 per cent.
The survey also found that rapists were mainly people that victims knew.
Authors said the research echoes findings in studies done in India and the US. The pattern of the vast majority of women being victims of rape has been established in a range of research and the #MeToo movement. Also, our finding that victims are attacked by people they know has been shown to be the case in research in Nigeria.
Characterising victims and offenders of rape enables us to know that the perpetrators of rape were mainly "familiar foes." Few were strangers.
The findings showed that the younger females were more susceptible to rape than the older females.
"Age was also a factor in the profile of perpetrators. Young men aged between 18 and 35 years constituted 43.5 per cent of the rapists. Those between 36 and 55 years constituted 30.2 per cent of the offenders. The perpetrators, we found, were people in key positions of trust such as fathers, step-fathers, uncles, friends, family friends, cousins, grandfathers and the clergy," the report said.
Sexual Assault: DVRST assures students of justice
Meanwhile, following the arrest of the proprietor of Megaland Comprehensive School, Lekki, Mr Emmanuel Madueke for the alleged sexual harassment of a female student, by the Lagos State Police Command, the Lagos State Domestic, and Sexual Violence Response Team, DVRST, has assured the victim and students of the school of justice.
The coordinator of DVRST, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi gave the assurance while noting that the case is already in court.
She explained that the Directorate of Public Prosecution has requested a duplicate case file to be able to pay attention to the details of the case and advise appropriately.
It will be recalled that the proprietor of Megaland Comprehensive School, Madueke, 62 years old man was reported to have sexually assaulted and harassed a Senior Secondary student of his school.
This act was said to have contravened the Child's Rights law 2015 as well as the Criminal Law of Lagos State, particularly, sections 135, 'Indecent treatment of a child' as well as 263, Sexual Assault.
According to Vivour-Adeniyi, a team comprising officers of the Office of Education Quality Assurance, Ministry of Youth and Social Development, and the DSVRT visited the school, based on the State Government's Executive Order on Safeguarding and Child Protection Programme, 2016.
It was gathered that the alleged perpetrator had developed a cordial relationship with the student before perpetrating this heinous act.
In an interview with the student by the team, the affected child disclosed that the school proprietor on May 26th, 2021 which happened to be the school's children's day celebration, made advancement towards her, kissed her on her lips but she was able to push him away and ran out of his office.
She added that since the incident, she has made every effort to distance herself from the proprietor. Reacting to the allegations, the alleged perpetrator claimed that his action was an innocent gesture on the student's cheek.
Further investigations revealed that the affected child may not be the only student to have fallen victim to sexual harassment at the hands of the alleged perpetrator.
Vanguard News Nigeria