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Sexual exploitation and rape of women and children

By Afonta Chizoba

Rape as horrific as the phenomenon is, has become one of the commonest crimes committed in Nigeria. Rampant cases of rape are being reported often in the news. But more horrifying is the fact that most victims of rape are young children under the ages of 4-13 years defiled by men who have lost all sense of decency and totally lack spiritual base and conscience.

With such incredible tales of sexual depravity perpetrated by some Nigerian men against innocent children, sometimes by close relatives, is it not fair to ask what these little girls have done to deserve such terrible shameful act?

What is so wrong with the society that some men find it pleasurable to defile little children who know nothing about sex and cannot comprehend the meaning of what is happening to them beyond the unimaginable torment? What has taken control of our moral fabric that a father or an uncle could easily defile his daughter or niece when he is expected to be the custodian of her virtues and protect her against other men?

Regrettably, the shame and stigma that follows rape victims have led many to commit suicide. An example was the mysterious death of Tokunbo  Ajayi, a vibrant broadcaster of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) who confirmed reports say committed suicide after she was gang-raped by armed robbers.

Recently, a rape case was reported on the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) where an uncle who is a teacher in one of the primary schools in Abuja raped his four year old niece. How terrible this could have been to the mother of that four year old child? Instances where children and women have been raped are numerous and uncountable.

Some people give different reasons why men engage in such a terrible act. To some, rapes are for ritual purposes; where men are advised by herbalists to co-habit with little girls to get cured of certain diseases and also facilitate quick wealth. To others, rape is seen as evil. Whatever reasons might be adduced, rape is evil and most condemnable.

It is the incessant cases of rape that have perturbed most women rights organizations in the country to agitate for a review of the punishment mechanism for rapists in the Nigerian laws.

According to those for strict sanctions against rapists, the present jail term of about two to five years for a rapist is inadequate to serve as deterrent to offenders. They argued that such punishment would do little or nothing to curb the occurrences of sexual harassment and damages inflicted upon rape victims. Some have even advocated death sentences as punishment for rapists. But death sentence for rapist according to some individuals and human right groups could be too severe a punishment. Others say death penalty is okay, even Islam and Christianity allow it. While Christianity according to Deuteronomy 22:28 and 22:25, advocates that a man who commits rape be forced to marry the victim as the only succor for the victim if she is a virgin, but that the culprit must be put to death if the victim is a married woman. Islam on the other hand prescribes stoning to death of a rapist. Saudi Arabia has strictly followed the latter, yet it has been met with severe criticism.

As a matter of deliberate policy, the Federal Government should review the present penalty for rapists contained in the Nigerian penal code.

No doubt, the much debated “Sex Crime Bill” when eventually passed into law would help curb the growing cases of sexual harassment and child rape throughout the country.

* Afonta Chizoba, Department of Mass Communication,  University of Jos


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