Of Romance Between Justice System And Rape Epidemic

Opinion

By Rasak Musbau

Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre once observed that words such as ‘beast’, ‘monster’ and ‘sex fiend’ are commonly used to describe the rapist. Yet, we rarely see the simple word ‘man,’ which rapist invariably is. Marilyn French, U.S. novelist and feminist, went further to posit that, ‘all men are rapists and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their code”. Susan Griffin, U.S. poet and writer, considered the act of rape as a form of mass terrorism. And to Freda Adler, U.S. educator, it is little wonder that rape is one of the least reported crimes. Perhaps it is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused and, in reality, it is she who must prove her good reputation, her mental soundness, and her impeccable propriety.

Today, the rape epidemic in our society reflects the extent to which women’s human rights are threatened. Our laws and collective attitude toward this weapon of domination and repression calls to question not only our sense of justice but our civilization. Like a scourge, the regular cases of reported rape in the country’s media and confirmed statistics from some states are threatening to smother the essence of the society. Each day, the media are awash with weird stories with varying degrees of ludicrousness; from child defilement to the rape of old women. Nobody, not even infants, is safe from the evil rampage of these randy felons on the prowl preying on their victims with relish.

Of deep concern is that who can perpetrate it, how and where it could take place is no longer restricted as it has happened in virtually all places inclusive of places hitherto considered as sacred. From lowly armed robbers, cult gangs to hitherto respected authorities like clergies, traditional rulers, teachers and security agents among others, rape incidences in our society has proven that every man has a wild beast within him.

Curiously, age is no barrier to who can be a victim. We could recall vividly a case of a 2-year-old raped by a 25-year-old in Somolu, Lagos; and the 3-year-old raped by a 35-year-old in Dolphin Estate, Lagos. A 23-year old student of Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), apart from being raped by a soldier serving at Bonny Camp, Lagos, almost lost the use of her left eye.

On Tuesday, October 29, an officer of the Ogun State Vigilance Service, identified as Lawrence, was reportedly arrested by the operatives of the Nigeria Police, Ibara Police Station, over alleged rape of an ND 1 Banking and Finance Student of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Ojere Abeokuta. Also, a 45-year old man was arrested by the police in Ogun State for allegedly raping his 16-year-old daughter.

In Ibadan, an ‘Alfa’ was alleged to have raped an 18-year old girl on the pretence of conducting spiritual cleansing exercise. And a Deeper Life Pastor was also paraded by the Police in Edo State for allegedly raping some children of his church members. The Benue State Police recently confirmed the arrest of a medical doctor who allegedly raped a patient while on ward round at a hospital. And the police in Zamfara State recently commenced investigation into an allegation of rape levelled against one of its men, Abdullahi Ibrahim, attached to the Maradun police division. Also, 30-year old security guard at a private school in Lagos, forcefully had carnal knowledge of an 18-year old when she went to the school to attend a tutorial class in preparation for her Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination. Lagos alone reported 678 cases of rape in 2012, which is an average of two cases per day.

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In our country, rape has truly become a monster growing everyday, and poses a serious threat to our national development. But in all these, there is nothing as ominous as the fact that our ineffective justice administrative system is grossly permissive of the act or put in another words, our law is anti-rape victims. This explains why an oba, the Alowa of Ilowa-Ijesha, Oba Adebukola Alli could go scot free in a rape case that involves the youth corps lady that served in his domain. The Osun saga was a clear case of how law is used to rape women.

Rape culprits are having a field day because the onus of proof lies only with the victims. The victim is the one that must provide the bed sheet used to rape her. She must provide her pant and not wash herself before going to the police station and the hospital even when it is sure that there would be delays in getting and presenting the report of medical tests because of nature of our health facilities. She must not urinate, drink liquid or take any other bodily action as these could threaten her evidence.

Digging into the provisions of the law on rape and sexual abuses, it is clear that a lot still has to be done if we must achieve a rape/sexual abuse-free society. Another major way the Nigerian government is failing in this obligation is the several federal, state, sharia, and customary laws definition given to ‘rape’, which makes it rather complicated. Isn’t it possible to have one nationally accepted holistic definition of rape, so that it eliminates any form of complexity, ambiguity, and misinterpretation?

The Penal Code opines that: “A man can be held guilty of rape if he has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, or with her consent, if consent was unlawfully obtained” and Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP 77, LFN, 1990 opines that: “Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of false threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false or fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in case of a married woman, by impersonating her husband is guilty of an offence called rape.” The Criminal Code further adds : “when the term ‘carnal knowledge’ or the term ‘carnal connection’ is used in defining an offence, it is implied that the offence, so far as regards that element of it, is complete upon penetration.” The Criminal Code, in its explanation of ‘carnal knowledge or ‘carnal connection’, has simply emphasized the restrictive impression that rape can only be established when it is a penile-vaginal penetration.

Another bothersome issue is the idea of giving culprit option of paying fine of such amount as ridiculous as N250,000 which can be easily afforded by the culprit and his family. Of what use is the fine compared to the damage caused the rape victims?

It is imperative, therefore, that other than sensitizing relevant stakeholders, it is important that the provisions of the Nigerian Law and other practices be reformed to accommodate present-day realities, as well as ensure Nigeria’s conformity with international Human Rights laws as it borders on rape, molestation, defilement, incest, and other sexual-related abuse; without which we will only be trying to kill a lion with a razor blade. Rape is a crime, let’s stop it now!

•Musbau wrote from Lagos.