Often, people have
criticised government for the lackluster response to rape cases in the country. Many are worried that despite the increasing cases of rape, culprits are hardly punished, making the victims not to have confidence in the justice system in the country.
Some critics have argued that should the various female professional groups, gender based non-governmental organisations (NGOs), female law makers and indeed the entire Nigerian women take up the fight against rape, the menace will be curbed.
Incidentally, some women are more interested in quarels between well placed politicians, perhaps for some material gains, than fighting for their fellow women who are abused, victimised, violated and have nobody to speak for them.
That is why the prompt action of the Nigerian’s Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State Chapter, and the International Federation of Female Lawyers, (FIDA) over the death of a 10 – year old rape victim in Port Harcourt few days ago must be commended.
The girl, Felicia Opara, who lived with her sister at Rumuiibekwe Housing Estate, was allegedly defiled by one Mallam Bashir Alagori, a kiosk owner, when she went to buy a sachet of milk from him around 8.00 pm. Right from the moment the rape case was reported about two months ago, NAWOJ, FIDA and some other NGOs in the State got involved in it. And when they got the information that friends and relatives of Bashir were making efforts to get him out on bail, they embarked on campaign against bail until he is tried.
That is indeed an exemplary step to take towards ridding our society of criminals who derive pleasure in violating innocent women. When rape culprits face adequate punishment, it will serve as a deterrent to others who may be nursing such evil plan.
Before now, rape used to be a matter that was mentioned in whispers or rumours because it belongs to the realm of forbidden acts and was indeed uncommon. Even our folklore are full of stories of how the gods visited any man who violated a woman through rape with incurable diseases or sometimes death. Today, reports indicate that rape cases in the country have reached an alarming proportion.
Of all reported cases, the most worrisome is the raping of innocent children by adults. The social media and national dailies are awash with stories of kids being raped by men old who are enough to be their fathers and grand fathers, in different parts of the country.
The growing cases of rape can be considered a consequence of parents’ neglect of their roles to their children. Many parents have abandoned their duties of imparting morality to their children and wards. They are so busy with material pursuit that they don’t know the kind of company their children keep. Some even close their eyes and ears to whatever their children do or say.
A marriage counsellor once attributed the rampant incidents of the criminal act to the attitude of parents towards sex. According to him, some parents no longer consider sex as sacred. He said sex is supposed to be a secret act but some parents, particularly those living in very tight accommodation, make public show of the act even in the watchful eyes of their children.
He cautioned that parents should know the right time and place to discuss sex or engage in the act in order not to corrupt their children’s minds, emphasizing that children copy more of what they see not what you tell them.
Parents should also show more interest in the affairs of their children, especially the company they keep; monitor as much as possible what they watch, educate the girl-child on damages of rape, the places to go and the proper time to go there so that they are not caught up in the menace.
Proper, decent, responsible dressing is also strongly advocated especially among the teenage and young women if they must avoid the danger of rape.The menace could also be curtailed if children stop parading streets and communities in the name of hawking pure water, oranges, minerals and all manners of commodities.
As earlier stated, some experts have blamed the rising cases of rape on lack of effective implementation of Nigerian law against rape. They say the entire evidential burden placed on victims makes it difficult for them to pursue the part of justice; hence the law should be reviewed. In a recent presentation, a female activist observed that the laws against the menace should not remain only in the statute book, but be made more efficient and effective as great number of Nigerians know little about government laws on rape.
Federal, state and local governments, ministries of women affairs should therefore, take a cue from NAWOJ and FIDA, and see the issue of rape as a challenge which they must face in order to restore the dignity of women in the land. They should take up rape cases and offer all necessary assistance to the victims.
Parents, teachers, religious institutions, the media, and indeed every individual must rise up in condemnation of the socio malaise and take positive actions to curb the menace. Felicia’s case should be an example of how together we can fight for justice.