After allegations of rape made by Busola Dakolo against Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of COZA, the media space is awash with tales of many cases of sexual assault and pedophilia. While we must be careful not to condemn the accused to guilt until they are proven guilty by a competent court of law, it is however evident that we are a nation with so many victims of sexual assault.
Hardly would you go through the dailies without reading of sexual assault. However, nobody is bothered as the victims are those without connection and the social media coverage to punish and bring their assaulter to the court of public opinion. Had Busola Dakolo lacked the celebrity connection, her story would have been one of the several cases thrown to the dustbin.
While sexual predation in our university system is gradually being exposed by several sex-for-marks scandals, two major sources of sexual abuse are continually being swept under the carpet; sexual abuse by family members or religious leaders are continually covered and the victims forced into silence. It seems we are a people who value family stability and religious comfort over justice for victims.
Day after day, tales of young girls and boys defiled by family members are exposed. However, little progress is made in getting justice; often, it is after several occurrences that the mother of the victim would be forced to talk and when they do, most of the cases are not followed to the logical conclusion of the perpetrators are sentenced. There seems to be a routine in most of the cases settlement out of court after pressures from family members and the reason is the same; the ‘precious’ name of the family must not be dragged in the mud. In the twinkling of an eye, the victims are sacrificed to protect the name of family pedophiles and criminals.
The religious centers have also become a hotbed for sexual abuse. The religious leader-member relationship is a very deep one as the average member sees the leader as a god who is to be revered. This automatically presents a loophole for any criminal on the pulpit to exploit. In a state of continued illusion of their members in them, cases of sexual assault are seen just like a flash in the pan. Many women facing challenges believing that religious leader as a solution to their problems are lured by the preacher to the bed. In some cases the religious leader forces himself on his victims and after the act, cajoles and threatens them with spiritual propaganda. The “touch not my anointed” chorus is chanted and the victims, fearing a spiritual backlash and the fear of going to hell, go into eternal silence.
As a country, the law protecting minors against sexual abuse is weak. Not many Nigerians know that the age of consent is 18 and sex with anyone below 18 is a crime. In contrast to the law, anything goes in the Nigerian society. As the revelations and confessions of sexual abuse rages on, we must know that a rapist or pedophile left off the hook because of family connection or religious position would never show remorse but he would become bolder in perpetrating the act on other innocent victims.