By Prisca Sam-Duru
The rising cases of rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence especially against women and girls, have remained a major issue of great concern in the society. It’s been discovered that the spike in the number of heart-wrenching cases recorded on a daily basis has been due to silence fuelled by stigmatisation of victims as well as the compromised state of most law enforcement officers.
Rape of Justice, a docu-drama produced by Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection, CEEHOPE, a non-governmental organisation, is a bold and modest effort through the art, to end the menace. The movie, which aims to ensure justice is served, captures the true-life account of a rape case in a community in Ogun State with particular emphasis on how police officers who handled the case, denied victim justice.
The movie begins with a narration by child rights activist and CEEHOPE Director, Betty Abbah, on how the little girl is gang-raped by four boys after which she becomes unconscious for about four to five hours. The rapists drag her to the front of her father’s house and leave her for dead. “In April 2014, I got wind of the rape case in a community in Ogun State on a border area with Lagos. One of our volunteers, Jacqueline James called to say that a girl has been gang-raped in Agbado Oja. What got me agitated and I tried to ensure there was justice, was the manner in which the case was being handled by the law enforcement agents, especifically the police. They were totally siding with the culprits/suspects, and in such a blatant manner and I said, this was completely unacceptable,” Abbah narrated.
The girl is taken to the hospital with her parents hysterical. Surprisingly, parents and relatives of the suspects are clearly seen, exchanging pleasantries with the police officers; an indication of the height of compromise. In a twist, the rape victim’s father is seen being handcuffed by two policemen in front of his house; the same place the girl was dumped after the incident. Again, the mother goes berserk as she watches her husband being dragged to the police station. The officers try to force him to sign an undertaken that he will not pursue his daughter’s rape case.
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This is being done by the same law enforcement agents that are supposed to fight for justice for his daughter. The father of the girl tells the officer that he must get justice as it is his only daughter that was raped. Unbelievably, the officer calls him a wicked father and tells him that he, the officer, is only trying to respect the white hairs on his head. “You cannot take care of your only daughter. You allow her to walk around the streets naked. What was she wearing before she was raped? If you are not a careless father, will you allow your daughter to be raped?” were silly questions from a supposed policeman. Subsequently, he orders the release of the boys.
Continuing with the narration, CEEHOPE director shares how she got wind of the latest on the case and gathered her crew who also brought in the Baale of the community. The parents of the boys also begin mounting pressure on the Baale to drop the case, after beating up and intimidating the girl’s father to stop him from pursuing the case.
Kudos to the Baale who is completely adamant, insisting that justice must be served. The Baale walks them out, rejecting the huge bribe money. The girl’s grandmother’s hostile attitude towards the caregivers who visit to intimate her of the plight of her son and granddaughter is an evidence of how terribly the girl’s family has been intimidated. This makes a terrible statement on the state of law enforcement in Nigeria.
Another serious issue revolving round domestic violence, springs up in the movie. A battered woman comes to the police station requesting her abusive husband is arrested. Rather than be sympathetic, she is made fun of and extorted by the officers on duty. Even the policewoman tells her to go home because wife battering is no longer news. She’s told to go home after all she’s not the only woman beaten by her husband and that they will settle in bed. Bizarre!
Back to the rape case. There’s also a failed attempt to influence the doctor treating the girl. She gets beter and while at home, the same police officers try to force her to sign same document that her father had refused to sign. When it becomes impossible to get to talk to the police, Abbah narrates that she decided to use the power of the pen. The article was published on premium Times. She also got legendary activists like Dr Joe Odumakin involved and people were outraged over the compromised state of the Nigerian police. The situation forces the poor girl to flee her village. “The suspects should be the ones on the run for violating the sexual rights of the girl”, Abbah says, adding that “This got Mrs Peju Osoba, State Coordinator of Child Protection Network, in Ogun State really outraged. After reading the article in Premium Times, she takes copies to the Commissioner of Police and other stakeholders in the state”.
The boys are rearrested and tried for about six months in court and because the family of the girl has been so intimidated, they fail to appear in court. The boys are released after some time. And because there case has been blown open, they also flee the village. The cheery news from the entire episode is that the community became relatively calm and devoid of violence.