In Ibadan, Oyo State, 18-year-old Barakat Bello, a student of Department of Science Laboratory Technology (SLT), Federal College of Animal Health and Production in the state capital was gang-raped and murdered by unknown assailants. This is a sadly tale of one of the many incidents of rape occurring in our society today which is becoming not only alarming but outrageous.
Rape has been and still an issue of great worry through centuries and probably millenniums. The situation appears to have increased in proportions. A recent report by the Nigerian Police reveals that over 700 rape cases were reported between January and May 2020. This has created worry in the minds of many.
What possibly could lead to this increasing surge is the zero understanding of the word ‘Consent.’ It’s a known fact that sexual intercourse is an act that requires mutual consent between two adults. A toddler or underage cannot give consent as they are not deemed mentally capable of making sexual choices or even biologically fit to engage in such acts. It is also impossible to get consent from someone who is unconscious, mentally unstable or an intimidated subject. Anyone who rebuff these known fact is a potential violator and should immediately seek help wherever he or she can find.
The rape culture in this country and other parts of the world has seen a surge since the inception of the COVID 19 pandemic which has exposed us to two pandemics. While one attacks our body cells and restrict our movements, the other leaves survivors with trauma and possible health risk.
The same ugly scenario floods the media, particularly new media channels with tons of stories of girls and women sexually molested, with victims left in both physical and psychological trauma without possible help especially in the face of apparent enabling laws against such dastardly and inhuman crimes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports the consequences of sexual abuse as “Gynecological disorders, reproductive disorders, sexual disorders, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, miscarriage, sexual dysfunction, acquiring sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, mortality from injuries, increased risk of suicide, depression, chronic pain, unsafe abortion, unwanted pregnancy and more. The list is longer.
So worrying is the fact that victims are unwilling to report the incidents basically because of the stigma attached to victims of such incidents by the society. They remain silent because of fear of stigma and social discrimination in the society. The continued cover-up by families for fear of stigmatization is encouraging predators to move on to their next victims. The shame culture which should be dealt with covertly tolerates rape and also serve as an excuse for unreported cases.
There are other factors that encourage rape in the society which include unnecessary delays in the judicial system; Lack of due process; Family ties (where cases of are committed against victims by their close relatives);Intimidation and fear of attacks indecent dressing by girls and carelessness on the part of parents.
How then do we put an end to this surge?
I believe the society can work towards curbing the spread of this rape virus. In doing this, sex orientation should be introduced in schools and in the family. Young boys should be trained to understand the meaning of consent. Basic questions like: What is deemed as consent? Who can give consent? When can consent be withdrawn? What’s the importance of consent?’ As basic as these questions look, many people don’t understand the intricacies and how they can be mistaken for each other.
For the purpose of learning and clarity, let’s treat the questions.
What is deemed as Consent?
Consent is said to be an affirmation. An informed approval indicating freely given agreement to sexual activity. It may not be verbally but overtly implied by actions.
Who can give consent?
Consent can only be given by an adult and willing sexual partner.
When can Consent be withdrawn?
Anytime. Either the man or woman can withdraw consent at any point of intercourse.
More so, the society can work towards building institutions that aids and support rape victims. Survivors of these despicable act deserves better than stigmatization and what the society offers them. Survivors should be able to access psychological support and medical care at zero cost. This will rebuild their confidence in the society and encourage them to speak out and shame their perpetrators.
More importantly is Nigeria authorities should deal more effectively with rapists through the strict enforcement of existing laws and promulgation of tougher sanctions. Violators names should be publicly displayed for the public to see. The more severe the punishment, the less appealing it looks to the criminals. It shouldn’t stop at that, a state of emergency should be declared on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Nigeria.
We all have a duty in the society to keep our young girls and women safe, more so the male child from sexual predators. Don’t cover for a rapist if you know one. Report to the authorities. Let us also teach our close family members the importance of consent and ability to make informed decision. Let us do what we can in our little way to help alienate this pandemic of rape in our societies.
Muhammed Auwal Muazu is the Founder of Hausa Fulani Blog