Evidence shows growing concern over increasing sexual violence against girls nationwide in the COVID-19 lockdown.
Cases of rape reported to the police from the beginning of the year totalled 631 while 799 suspects have been arrested, police authorities have said.
The police have pressed some charges and secured several convictions for rape within the period, one of which was the sentencing of one rapist to death.
A few of the victims of sexual violence are said to have been killed by their attackers while the fear that rape can cause shame and stigmatisation is preventing victims from seeking help and justice.
Some experts say the stress and sense of helplessness that characterise the COVID-19 restrictions are to be blamed for the rise in rape cases.
Some university lecturers have dwelt on the causes of sexual assault against girls and proffered the way forward.
A lecturer with the Psychology Department, University of Jos, Associate Professor John Dokotri, said the reason for the rise in rape cases were situational and social factors.
He said the mental state of the culprits also mattered, adding that research had shown that the use of alcohol was highly responsible for some rape cases.
According to Dokotri, pornographic videos and pictures commonly watched by youths due to loneliness, peer influence and arousal were contributing factors to the rise in sexual assault.
He called on parents to be more serious with monitoring of their children, saying that familial values were losing ground and that the society had failed to impress social norms on individuals.
He said in the past, girls hardly stayed outside the home beyond 5pm, but that nowadays they returned home late at night and parents hardly scolded them.
Therefore, he said, when parents inculcated good values in their children generally, it would go a long way in reducing rape in society.
Also speaking on the issue, Dr Maikano Madaki of the Department of Sociology, Bayero University, Kano (BUK), said a number of factors were responsible for cases of rape, one of which was the lack of moral education.
He said rape of minors, otherwise called defilement or statutory rape, was fundamentally linked to spiritual reasons in most cases.
“So people who are looking for power, influence, wealth or other social relevance commit such acts through the influence of spiritualists or other perpetrators,” he said.
Other reasons, according to him, were indecent dressing, poor learning environment as well as the undue influence enjoyed by teachers having total control of students’ grades and marks, which they used to abuse their victims.
He said for the society to fight rape, there was need to strengthen moral education and provide the mechanism to check the excesses of teachers over students. On his part, a public commentator and a former Commissioner for Agriculture in Jigawa State, Hon. Yusuf Maigari, attributed the increase in cases of rape to youth unemployment, lack of parental care and congestion due to population explosion, among others.
He suggested that effort must be made by governments and the private sector to engage the youth to have something to aspire for, and that parents must be alive to their responsibilities.
Dr. A. B. Yusuf, a lecturer at the Department of Religions, University of Ilorin, said rape had been a recurring decimal in Nigeria.
“More than in the past, rape cases as now being reported in Nigeria, involving the commission of another horrible crime, namely murder of victims.
“Usually, perpetrators of rape in Nigeria tend to go scot-free and victims always concealed their ordeals from the society for fear of stigmatisation and are thereby denied justice,” he said.
He said government at all levels, as well as civil society organisations, continue to reel out lamentations and condemnations but without practical solutions and that rape thrived in a society where nudity is a virtue rather than a vice.
He said there are “notorious TV shows in which the most morally corrupt participant is rewarded with a huge amount of money.”
He added that rape recurred where the law did not prescribe punitive punishments against serious crimes, including rape.
Dr Yusuf stated that the victims of rape were also involved albeit inadvertently saying, “They facilitate the perpetration of the crime against them through their indecent dressing. To a large extent, they imitate alien lifestyles of the so-called celebrities in the entertainment industry seeing them as role models. “Students of secondary schools have been exposed to partying at night in hotels. When these lads get to the tertiary institutions, they become adults with illicit experiences even before marriage,” he said.
He said the society had a great role to play in stemming the tide of rape. He recommended as solution that, “Government should censor the media, especially TV and radio. This way, anything that could corrupt the minds of the youth will not be allowed to get to the public domain.
“More so, the government should put in place stiff penalties against the perpetrators.
“Islamic law has various penalties that are effective enough to deter people from committing the crime. The ultimate goal behind this seemingly harsh punishment is to scare the people away from committing the crime.
“If sincerely and properly adopted, this criminal justice system would in no small measure rid the society of social ills such as rape,” Dr Yusuf stated.