BY ADEWALE KUPOLUYI
MOST rape research and reporting to date have been limited to male-female forms of rape. In Nigeria, cases of rape have gone up from 12.5 to 84 per cent, as incidents of female-male rape are beginning to unfold.
Recently, three women were arraigned before a Higher Shari’a Court in Gusau for allegedly raping a 20-year-old man, Abdulrahman Sulaiman and in Ogbadibo Local Government area of Benue State, and a man; Uroko Onoja was allegedly raped to death by his six jealous wives.
However, almost no research has been done on female – female, though women can be charged with rape.
But why do women often get raped? Various reasons have been given, which ranged from the behaviour of women in terms of the indecent ways they dress, low self-esteem in men, drugs and alcohol, hatred of women, and the imagination of men’s hearts.
Another reason could be because most Nigerian states have no specific laws addressing rape, even though the nation has ratified the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW), meant to put an end to all types of violence against women.
The Nigerian Constitution, however, does not specifically prohibit rape. In addition, the laws that exist, such as the ones mentioned above, are oftentimes outdated, and not enforced.
However, the definition of rape does not follow the principles underlined by the country’s criminal laws, and does not provide sufficient protection or redress for women and girls who have been raped.
The issue of having to prove that the intercourse was not consensual further contributes to the culture of silence surrounding rape.
A woman who has been raped is also compelled to deal with humiliation by the police, as well as the “embarrassment” resulting from public acknowledgement because when a woman is raped, she and her family are automatically ostracised.
For instance in 2001, Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, a Nigerian teenage single mother was given 100 lashes for adultery. Bariya claimed she had been raped by three men but, in accordance with Sharia law, she was required to show proof that the men who raped her had indeed forced into sex.
Under Sharia law, Bariya’s rape was interpreted as fornication because she was unable to present witnesses who would confirm the veracity of her rape accusations, as fornication, a Hudud offence under Sharia law, can result into punishments as severe as death by stoning.
Sharia law, which applies mainly in the Nigerian northern states, is one example of such customary laws. Under Sharia penal laws, rape is criminalised.
In some instances, a woman’s failure to consent is not considered in criminal proceedings under the Sharia law. Victims are still burdened with proving the issue of consent. Moreover, a woman’s rape accusation can only be backed by eyewitnesses and no circumstantial evidence is accepted.
In fact, the way Sharia law works makes it very challenging to prosecute rape, once again, leaving the perpetrator unpunished and exposing the victim to yet another traumatic experience.
In some cases, Sharia law only levies a monetary punishment against a convicted rapist. For example, a rapist might be obliged to pay the victim the amount she would normally received as marriage payment, or if the rapist cannot be punished, he must pay the victim the amount equal to bride-money.
Under both legal systems, prosecuting rapists represents an extremely challenging task, spurring the suggestion that rapists should be incarcerated for extended periods of time while some people have even advocated for castration of perpetrators.
However, despite the demand for punishment, laws continue to turn a blind eye to rape but the reality is that rape terribly hurts women.
In order to eliminate rape, we must first understand it better. We must realise that it is not only caused by women’s behaviour.
In reality, rape is a weapon used to oppress women, especially in societies where they are less valued – when women’s value is framed in terms of their sexual purity – their status easily becomes more vulnerable.
In many African cultures, where virginity is what makes women honourable, rape is an easy tool to permanently demean them. Therefore, societies and cultures that view women and men as equally valuable are less likely to have rampant incidences of rape.The bitter truth is that rape is used to oppress and dehumanise women. Regardless of the governing laws, women in Nigeria—and around the world—need to be protected from such a terrible crime. Sadly, the laws in Nigeria appear to further victimise and humiliate women as they fail to bring any justice to them.
In the Indian case, the Congress has already put forward plans for chemical castration and 30-year jail terms for all rapists, as a draft Bill has been put together and will soon be handed to India’s chief justice.
All legitimate efforts should be deployed that the five men apprehended and charged for murder were given the deserved punishment, to serve as deterrents to others.
On a final note, girls and women should be wary of the cars and buses they board – to ensure that they did not enter into the trap of miscreants just like the Indian example – who could rape, harm and molest them.
Law enforcement agents should be above board and be up and doing to apprehend criminals whenever they infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens by embarking on regular patrols and intelligent gathering – to fish-out perpetrators of rape. The Indian police were blamed for not doing enough to apprehend the culprits.
Unholy practices such as honour-killing and domestic crime against women such as battering and widowhood practices, among others should be put to an end.
The assault has already forced the country’s higher education regulatory body, the Indian University Grants Commission, to review the safety of women in higher education institutions.
In a letter to 568 university vice-chancellors and directors of higher learning institutions, the UGC said institutions should ensure women’s security on campus and recommended that all universities and institutions set up a task force to ensure women’s security and keep it informed of actions taken.
This is a welcome development. Our girls and women must always be cherished and protected!
*Mr. Kupoluyi wrote from Federal Varsity of Agric., Abeokuta, Ogun State.