By LAJU ARENYEKA
Twenty something year old Cynthia Moses (not real name) finds herself attracted to young women like herself. Only a few days ago, she learned that she could be sent to jail for engaging in a sexual relationship with another woman.
Like most Nigerians, she condemns homosexuality but can’t help but wonder whether the urges that were awakened during her secondary school days will not one day land her in prison.
At the all girls’ school she attended as a child, a senior student invited her to her corner one evening and began to touch her in sensitive areas.
Little by little, the touching became more intense, and in a short while, she became the senior student’s ‘babe’. They began to have sex on regular occasions. When Cynthia became a senior, she also introduced some other junior students into the act.
Quite a number of Nigerians are in Cynthia’s position; many children now have the experience that she once had.
An advocate against child sexual abuse, Dr. (Mrs) Princess Olufemi-Kayode, has worked with a number of such children at the Media Concern Initiative for women and children (Mediacon).
Speaking to Vanguard Learning, she said: “It is not my belief that children grow up wanting to be gay. But a large percent of children and adolescent who have some sort of same sex orientation were themselves molested by adults or older children.
“That’s why when they go to school they introduce younger kids into it. The challenge we face in this country is that all the emphasis is on criminal justice; we strive to put the perpetrators of rape and molestation behind bars, but very few people really pay attention to the children except when they want them to testify in court. They need psychological and psychometric counseling. People just assume that when kids are sexually abused, they will forget after a while, but that’s not true. Children never forget.
“There is a case of a young man we counseled who had been abused as a child by another man. As a result of that, he found himself being drawn and attracted to other men. The first time he had sex with another man he was so disappointed. He no longer has such feelings now, but it took a lot of counseling to get him to this point. There is another case we worked with, even though the matter went to court, and the abuser was sent to jail, the victim regressed drastically.
There are different arguments all over the world by different professionals researching ways to justify that people are born gay. But what I know is that majority of the cases I’ve worked with here, in Africa, people who of homosexual orientation were abused as children. In the past 5 or 6 years, there has been an upsurge in the reports of sodomy; men raping boys. It’s very rarely that a boy speaks out when he has been raped.”
Advocate and child psychologist at the 05 Centre for Children, Dr. (Mrs.) Ololade Hector-Fowobaje, also decried the rate of same sex activity amongst children in Nigeria. She said: “We get calls from schools when they have sexual abuse crisis and a heavy chunk of that involves same-sex children; as young as 6 year olds. The school toilets have become a den of child sexual abuse involving student with student and staff with student.
Recently two girls in primary four were caught in a private school having a sexual relationship. They would either use the toilet or an empty classroom after school. Two primary boys were also caught in the school bus having oral sex. For teens, it is more common with those in boarding schools; though day schools are not exempted. It is an issue that calls for urgent attention.”
Although she believes that sexual abuse is a reason for this, she also believes that pornography and masturbation have a large part to play.
In the light of these, one question begs to be answered: “What will be the future of the Nigerian child who is introduced to same sex orientation early in life? Will his urges go away when he grows up or will he spend time in jail as a result of a habit he innocently picked as a child?
“Now that there is a law that criminalizes homosexual relations, nobody is going to listen to you when you say that you are gay because you were abused as a child. This is why children who are molested whether by persons of the same sex or the opposite sex should speak up. Not all who are abused by members of the same sex turn out to be gay; some of them turn suicidal, become extremely depressed, and digress drastically. That is why counseling is so important.
There is a lot of rubbish going on nowadays. We had a recent case of a 12 year old boy sodomizing another with soap in the bathroom. Obviously he himself had been abused. Such children must speak up, and their parents must insist that they get professional help. We must start now and begin to schools and teach children about sex and sexual urges. We do not believe that anyone is born gay and our culture does not agree with it, but we must start now to educate and protect our children from such negative external influences.”
Hector-Fowobaje also attempts to answer these questions.
“Such must be exposed to long term counseling and therapy,” she said, “Child and clinical psychologists must be available to do this in at least every state capital in Nigeria for starters; consulting for general hospitals and private hospitals as well. It is important for parents and all child handlers to know that sexually abused children need professional counselling; especially those involving the homosexual extremes. A lot more is at stake than the fear of stigma.
The idea of homosexuality is more of sociology. It is nothing genetic. Many parents are not ready to take the socialization of their children seriously enough and so they buy easily into the error of lesbianism and homosexuality.”