RAPE is a serious challenge across the world and this has been the situation over the years. But the rate at which the crime has been increasing, lately, especially in Nigeria is a cause for concern. The fact that every religion condemns rape has not stopped it from happening. It is a heinous crime that even the law condemns.
The widespread condemnation that trails rape due to its negative impact on the victims and the society has not curbed nor eliminated it from the society. Even the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act of 2015 and the Violence Against Women Law which has been domesticated in many states across, the federation has not helped?
Why is this so? It is basically due to the fact that we are a society that condones rape and our belief and attitude grossly affect the implementation of all laws to punish offenders. In Nigeria, rape victims are blamed for being raped. They are asked questions like what did you wear? Why did you go to his house? Why were you walking alone on that deserted road? It is so bad that women that go through rape would rather bear their pain privately than become the butt of jokes in Nigeria.
Factors that make it difficult to get justice for rape are diverse. Often, many rape cases do not get conviction in court mainly because investigations are shoddily handled by the police. It is a fact that a case that was handled poorly during investigation cannot get a conviction before any court. What do we say about a policeman that asks a rape victim, Why are you crying, didn’t you enjoy it? After all, you aren’t a virgin? Or a policeman that tells the rapist to just find small change for the victim and send her home? What of police officers that even rape women that go to their station to report harassment?
Rape is a criminal offence and should not be treated like a family issue that can be resolved over the counter. The orientation of many officers of the Nigeria police needs to change on the issue of rape.
The police need to follow the model provided by the laws on rape in terms of comprehensive investigation, handling and rehabilitation of victims and prosecution of offenders. The belief of many people, including law enforcement officers, that any woman that suffers rape must have done something or dressed in a particular way leaves thousands of Nigeria’s rape victims at the wrong end of the justice system.
Also, some police officers have not evolved to keep abreast of new standards and provisions of the law and still hold on to the obsolete view that rape is only when there is penile penetration of the vagina. Even when the new laws state that penetration of any orifice in the body with an object or any part of the body without consent is rape and when consent is given based on false representation, it is also rape.
Though the law exists to ensure victims get justice, agencies responsible for implementation have all put Nigerian females in a disadvantaged position. The way questions are asked by enforcement agents usually add to the trauma of the victim as officers are usually brazen and are said to put victims in a situation described by psychologists as mental rape, a situation that does more harm to the already traumatised victim.
Religion and culture are also big issues militating against justice for rape victims. Religious leaders are quickly employed to talk to the family of victims on the need to forgive and let go. Some blackmail victims emotionally with spiritual injunctions and make them feel they are offending God when they ask for justice.
To be continued
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