Nigeria is under a scourge of rape. NOIpolls conducted a nation-wide public opinion poll revealing that 85 percent of participants believe sexual violence is on the rise.
Though this poll reflects the beliefs of 1,000 people, every day there are fresh examples reflected in the national news, disclosing alarming numbers of sexual violations.
The madness bears such bizarre imprints as rape of two-year-olds, three-year-olds, five-year-olds and all other unimaginable strange human regression occur. Some of the victims do not survive the horror and bestiality. Thirteen-year-old Elizabeth Ochanya of the Federal Government Girls College, Gboko, Benue state was raped to death in 2018.
Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) set up The Orogbum Health Centre as a special medical facility in the oil-rich city of Port Harcourt, Rivers State; located in the deep southern region of the Niger Delta.
The centre attends to rape victims and receives 120 cases each month. According to the MSF records, 70-80% of the victims are children under 15 years old. Though many of these crimes go unreported, cases that have garnered public outcry like the Abuja Police Raid, the Sex for Grade scandal, the Port Harcourt Secondary School abuses, and the tragic death of Ochanya Elizabeth Obanje, show that sexual assault, more specifically rape, is an ongoing crisis.
In 2019, 606 cases of sexual assault were reported in Sokoto state, northwest Nigeria, nearly doubling from 2018 figures. Three months into 2020 and 31 cases of rape have already been reported in the state.
A 2019 publication Child Rape in Nigeria, Implications on the Education of the Child reported a prevalence of child rape as a new twist in the bizarre acts. With 34.4%, Africa rates the highest on the global scale for child abuse.
The Salama Sexual Assault Referral Center in Kaduna reports “that 90 percent of all victims are sexually abused by people they know.” Over the past two decades, non-governmental and governmental bodies have studied the steady rise in cases of rape, concluding that women and girls are often more at risk of such violence than men and boys. The centre also reports that boys and men have become steadily at risk.
Chairperson of the International Federation of Women Lawyers in Kaduna, Zainab Aminu Garba spoke of the many cases her organization receives, saying “it’s an epidemic, and I pray and hope that the government will do something very, very fast.”
Rape is a security risk, specifically for children, and though there are laws like the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, the Nigerian Criminal Code, and the Child Rights Act, these efforts do not seem to ease public concerns over the alarming rate of sexual violence.
Recently, a rape walk was organised in Port Harcourt to raise awareness. Abuja-based organisation, Education as a Vaccine (EVA), in collaboration with the government with funding from the European Union, launched the National Sexual Offender’s Register, to develop a pathway for a sexual-violence-free Nigeria. A sexual and gender-based violence response team was equally set up in Abuja to provide counseling and referral to victims.
With the increase of sexual violence, there is a push for accountable legislation and enforcement. Letty Chiwara, the chief of the Africa Division of UN Women, argues about the need for government “to have laws and policies that not only are about prevention but are also about protecting and providing services to the victims.”
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