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Because we treat rapists with kid-gloves

Were any regular reader of newspapers in Nigeria asked to mention few of the often-reported news, stories of rape would certainly...

Were any regular reader of newspapers in Nigeria asked to mention few of the often-reported news, stories of rape would certainly make the list. This is neither because the newspapers have no stories to report nor because they like reporting rape cases for the sake of it. The rate at which newspapers report the social menace, a criminal offence for that matter, simply explains its high prevalence. Within this week alone, the Daily Trust newspaper, for instance, carried separate stories on rape for two consecutive days. Even then, these stories do not include several rape cases that are never reported for reasons of stigma or threat.

Daily Trust reported on Tuesday June 13, 2023 that a total of 55 minors were sexually assaulted between March and May this year, in Zaria alone. Hajiya Aisha Ahmed, Manager of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre at the Gambo Sawaba General Hospital, Kofar Gayan, Zaria, made the disclosure when she led a team on a courtesy visit to the Area Commander of the Nigeria Police, Zaria Area Command, in his office. She said the centre had received 16 reported cases of sexual assault on minors in March; 11 in April; and 28 in May, this year.

This prevalence rate is relatively high. But why is Zaria always mentioned when the rape of minors is reported in the newspapers? Anyone who has been reading about rape incidences in the conventional media would know that Zaria had been notorious in the perpetration of this wicked act against the female folk. Even on this page, there’s hardly a time rape was discussed by this column in the past that Zaria was not mentioned while citing reported cases.

The same newspaper, Daily Trust, again carried a story on Wednesday June 14, 2023 in which the wife of the Kebbi State Governor, Hajiya Zainab Nasiru-Idris expressed concern over a report that says 39 cases of rape were recorded in the state in six months. She stated this when officials of the National Union of Kebbi State Students (NUKESS) and the Kebbi State chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) paid her a courtesy visit in Birnin Kebbi. The figure which was disclosed by the Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Women Affairs, Hajiya Aisha Muhammad-Maikurata, said the 39 rape cases were recorded between January and June, regretting that Gender Based Violence (GBV) had become rampant across the state. The governor’s wife who described the figures as alarming said rape remained an ugly trend, and thus, called for the support and cooperation of all to eliminate it.

Of course, rape could happen as it does in nearly all parts of the country. However, the statistics of the cases in the two recent reports cited above show how rape is assuming a centre stage in the social life of a people who in the majority are Muslims. Islam is the dominant and the most widely practiced religion in Zaria and Birnin Kebbi. Yet, it is in these same Muslim communities that rapists continue to destroy the purity of young girls. The high prevalence of rape cases in Nigeria with minors being the worst victims particularly in the Islamic region of the country, the north, is simply because we treat rapists with kid-gloves.

The menace of rape was extensively discussed on this page on Saturday June 27, 2020 after newspapers reported the gruesome rape that eventually led to the death of a 22-year-old 100 level Microbiology student of the University of Benin, Miss Vera Uwaila Omizuwa, on May 27, 2020. In that piece, the rising cases of rape was attributed to lack of severe punitive measures for offenders. It was also observed in the piece that the Penal Code in use in the country’s northern states had substantially lost the powers to deter rapists and other sexual offenders from perpetrating the act. A situation in which offenders have an option of paying as low as five thousand naira after conviction only seeks to encourage rape.

With a disturbing trend and its dangerous dimension on minors such as the one long assumed by rape in the country, one wonders why most governors of the nineteen northern states where the rate is high folded their arms all these years without sending bills to their state assemblies to enact laws that would prescribe stringent sanctions for deterring rapists from engaging in the act. If governors failed to present executive bills, what was it also that prevented the state houses of assembly from reviewing relevant sections of the Penal Code to make it functional?

A society that treats rapists with levity only encourages their breeding. Due to the degeneration in society’s value system, rape is now rather trivialized and blamed on victims. In past centuries, rapists were banished from their communities as a punishment for their crime. It is nowadays tolerated that offenders walk on the streets without shame. To apply the principles of Qur’an 24: 3, communities in which rapists live should collectively sensitize families against marrying out their decent daughters to those convicted of rape. Allah also states in Qur’an 24:26 that “Women impure are for men impure, and men impure are for women impure …”

To implement the above suggestion, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) which is responsible for keeping Nigeria’s Sexual Offenders Register should enlighten the general public, including the police and courts of law, to submit names of persons convicted of the crime for proper documentation. The register should be a document that is accessible to the public on NAPTIP’s website. Beyond this also is the need to enact relevant laws that would, for instance, require some groups of citizens such as contractors, job seekers, or aspirants seeking elective positions to obtain a clearance from NAPTIP confirming that they have never been convicted of any GBV. Failure to produce such a clearance certificate should deny the person some rights or privileges, which may include the right to employment, contracts, or elective position.

Rape, we suggest, should be listed among un-bailable offences in addition to denying persons convicted of rape the option of paying fines. May Allah (SWT) guide us all as individuals, parents, communities, and institutions to do what is right to protect and preserve the sanctity of women, amin.



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