June 16, 2009

Nigerians lament rising incidences of child sexual abuse

By Chioma Obinna &  Olayinka Latona
Concerned Nigerians at a 2 -day Consultative meeting of Media Concern Initiative for Women and Children (MEDIACON) in Lagos have raised alarm over the rising increase in child sexual abuse in the country, lamenting that most of the offenders go unpunished due to inadequate time frame for prosecution.

Speaking to Good Health Weekly, the Director  from the Office of the Public Defenders (OPD), Lagos State, Mrs. Omotola Rotimi said the law did not provide adequate time to prosecute offenders.

According to  Rotimi, the law only provided two months within which an offender should be prosecuted, this she said has made it more difficult for offenders to be brought to book.
Omotola in her paper entitled, “What does the law say?” disclosed that only five offenders have been prosecuted
out of hundreds of cases lying before the office due to so many constraints, ranging from timing and lack of forensic evidence, inability of parents to allow their wards to testify and social stigma.”

Her  words, “There is a loophole on the defilement. For instance, you must prosecute within two months the offence is committed. This has made it impossible to prosecute over 100s of cases standing before the office.  In the last few years we have only been able to prosecute five cases and these girls are all under 10 years.”

Stating that Lagos state has declared zero tolerance to sexual and child abuse, she identified some of the constraints to include; Social stigma, lack of DNA facilities in the country amongst others.
She advocated for the elongation of the two months period to five years in Nigeria in order to effectively pin the offenders down and bring them to book.

Also speaking, Executive Director of MEDIACON, Princess Olufemi Kayode who identified communication and massive awareness as a major tool in eliminating child and sexual abuse explained that the meeting was specifically to sensitize market men and women on the need to be more informed and educate their children as well as prevent such ugly situations around their young ones.

She however hinted that due to recent awareness many Nigerians are now coming out of their shells to talk about the problem unlike years back.

Kayode further disclosed that about 20 cases of child abuse were reported monthly to her organization, stressing that the situation has shown that long  silence about child abuse has been broken and awareness was coming up unlike before.

MEDICON Executive Director, said  parents and guardians needs to educate both boys and girls about sex.
“Some parents don’t want to talk about sex education and this is a subject that needs to be arrested. They have to teach them about issues of  sexuality, because these children are being expose to different images through the television and newspapers.

Parents have the responsibility of telling them the consequences of what they are viewing not being harsh or scolding such a child will save the situation.”

Some of the participants who spoke to Vanguard acknowledged the problem created by child and sexual abuse. Alhaja Risikat Abdulkareem, the Iyaloja General of Ojokoro Local Government and Alhaji Yusuf Adebowale who is also Vice Baba Loja Lagos State promised to pass the messages to their members during their monthly meetings as part of efforts to reduce the rate of sexual abuse.