By Adewale Kupoluyi
THERE is hardly any day that passes by without one getting unpleasant news of child defilement, especially against the girl-child. The truth is that child defilement has assumed frightening proportions that deserve urgent attention and is worth discussing.
This topic took a centre stage on Radio Law Clinic, a weekly programme on the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, FUNAAB, Ogun State radio station, FUNAAB Radio 89.5FM, where listeners are given basic knowledge of the law to become better citizens.
The co-producer and presenter of the programme, Mrs. Omobolanle Sanyaolu, in the introductory remarks, had observed that children are supposed to be a joy to their families and future leaders of the nation, but many of these children remain victims of different forms of abuse, violence, and exploitation.
The discussants who were drawn from diverse fields of human endeavour, reviewed the nature, causes, and solutions to child defilement. A legal practitioner, Clement Obasanya, defines defilement with reference to Section 218 of the Criminal Code Act, as the unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 while the offender that engages in the act is guilty of a felony and liable to life imprisonment.
For another lawyer, Oluwadamilola Fatoye, any child that had been abused sexually, physically, or emotionally, would always have negative reactions or counter-reactions in society. She added that defilement is traumatic and often associated with psycho-social problems in children.
Defiled children, more often than not, have negative outcomes in terms of poor academic performance, low self-esteem, depression, poor social relationships; they show cruelty to animals, have attention deficit, hyperactivity disorders, and teenage pregnancy, among others.
Fatoye said: “You can imagine all of these things happening to a child. I am sending it directly to people that have the tendency of defiling a child. The thing is that you were once a child and if your life was destroyed the way you are destroying another person’s life, you will not be the kind of person or you will not have grown up to be the kind of person you are right now.
Please, I am pleading to our conscience as mature people to desist from doing this demonic and devilish act. The government has the Ministry of Women Affairs and there is the National Human Rights Commission that people can go to lodge a complaint bordering on child defilement and can get necessary attention”.
Obasanya identified the causes of defilement to include carelessness of parents, improper dressing, drug abuse, absence of sex education, lack of cordial relationship between parents and children, inability to exercise self-control, and promiscuous lifestyles by parents. “At times, offenders are found to engage in the dastardly behaviour for ritual purposes because they have gotten themselves involved in what they should not get themselves involved in”, she added.
Another legal practitioner, Charles Ali, observed that there are certain provisions in the laws that are both adequate and inadequate and that one of the limiting factors associated with the criminal and penal codes is that they cover rape in general and not defilement per se. He added that there are other things that makeup child defilement that have not been covered by the act.
The counsel mentioned the issue of limitation of time at bringing up criminal allegations and charges against suspected persons in the court, explaining that the criminal code makes provision for only two months as its limitation period.
Before a complaint is made, an arrest is carried out; before an investigation is conducted, and a case filed in court, the two months must have elapsed. On the other hand, the Lagos State Criminal Law had singled out child defilement and goes further to make provisions as to tackle the statute barred barrier, Ali stated.
He reiterated that the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 makes provisions for the protection of a child when it comes to criminal sexual assault and defilement, but that the law has not been domesticated by a number of states in Nigeria, although many stakeholders are still calling on other states to speedily follow suit and ensure its implementation.
On her part, a school administrator, Mrs. Funke Akintaro enjoined families to protect their children against abuse, being the first agent of socialisation. She said: “The first thing a mother must do to prevent defilement is to make her child her friend.
A mother must be her child’s confidant for the child must be confident enough to tell you anything and everything that he or she is passing through. If you make your child your friend, you will know everything about that child.
A mother must have many tentacles to pick things to know whether her children are hiding things from her while exposure to pornographic contents, no matter how subtle they appear, should be prevented. This is in addition to watching things that can affect them psychologically through the censorship of they watch on television and the internet.”
Some Christian clerics gave their interventions from the biblical perspective. For Bishop Oluwatoyin Ige, Senior Pastor, Covenant Lifeway Church, the voice of men is the voice of God and what the law does is to establish God’s consent about a community, a nation, and a people. For instance, the World Health Organisation, WHO, and Nigerian laws look at child defilement as something bad, which makes the culprits liable to life imprisonment.
He described sexual abuse or molestation as particularly devastating and warned that sexual sins are frowned upon in the scriptures. “I want to take this (message) to all our adults and young adults, to please, have self-control for the problem of sexual defilement is the problem of the mind”, he stressed.
Pastor Gbade Akintaro, Presiding Pastor, Peculiar Peoples’ Palace Int’l Ministries, noted that child defilement remains a violation of the fundamental rights against its victims and that child defilement is seen as practice of harlotry, a serious thing against the Lord with destruction awaiting whoever defiles a child or minor.
Rev. Peace Toluwade, Lead Pastor, City Harvest Church described children as a heritage from one generation to another and arrow in the hands of a mighty man. He revealed that any sexual contact between a man and woman that are not married amount to immorality and when a child is involved, it is sometimes called ‘statutory rape’ and becomes more severe. He said it attracts great punishment from God because of the long term effects on the victim would cause anger and an addiction to sinful behaviour.
On his part, an Islamic cleric and teacher, Ustaz Abdulrasheed Opeloyeru, informed that the punishment for defilement is severe as permitted under Islamic injunctions. Ustaz Opeloyeru recommended good upbringing of the child, giving of sound education and morals, and regular prayer for our children.
In the final analysis, what it takes to curb child defilement is a combination of strategies and efforts by everyone in society. In specific terms, people must desist from engaging in devilish acts such as going into rituals, they should adhere strictly to Godly living.
Victims of defilement should be courageous to report their unpleasant experiences to relevant governmental and non-governmental bodies for rehabilitation and should expose perpetrators.
Parents should be closer and more sensitive to their children’s needs, they should also teach their children sex education and scrutinise what their children watch in the media and on the internet to be free from pornography and dangerous things.
Adults should have self-control and stop defiling children, while parents should avoid living promiscuous lifestyles that their children may want to copy, and available laws and legislation should be strengthened.
States across the country should domesticate the Child’s Rights Act and make its implementation easy while the bottlenecks militating against the smooth prosecution of similar cases in law courts should be removed to successfully fight child defilement in Nigeria.
Kupoluyi , a social commentator, wrote from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State.