The sudden surge in reported cases of rape/defilement of women/young girls in Nigeria is perhaps the second phase or another version of the ill-fated and rejected same-sex marriage orgy that was widely condemned as a sin against humanity by Nigerians, a few years ago.
Or, how else would one explain in clear terms, the ungodly admiration and urge by fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, cousins in developing an affection towards their biological daughters, sisters, nieces, etc; to the extent of forcefully engaging them in immoral sex, that would bring a long-lasting shame to such a family? One, however, needs not be told that women too occasionally engaged in immorality, but such counts are often very negligible when compared with those committed by beast-like men in human clothings.
Many individuals, groups and organizations have viewed the sudden rise in the criminal offence of rape, defilement and incest as satanic manifestations.
They reasoned further that those human beings who are able to control their inordinate urge towards the evil associated with rape, are those that can be addressed as men in the real sense of life evaluation, while the rest are to be called "advanced beast in human clothings.
For this category of people, the enlightened women groups such as International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Association of Women in Medicine Work, have since joined force with agencies on women advancement campaign to tackle all forms of illegal and insulting mannerisms of some men towards their fellow women in Nigeria and it is a fight to finish, as one of the groups boasted in one of their street to street campaigns in the city of Uyo, recently.
But who would not be infuriated on irked reading a headline like - rape: police parade 2 pastors, 5 others for defilement, as reported by a local newspaper recently. The story explained how Akwa Ibom State Police Command paraded two clerics, Apostle William Okon Bassey, and Pastor Anwanga Essien Udo along with five others over allegation of rape. Narrating the story about the so-called men of God to newsmen at Ikot Akpan Abia, police headquarters, the police spokesperson had hinted that a presiding pastor of Mount Zion Lighthouse Full Gospel Church, Obio Imo Lane in Uyo started defiling his own daughter from the age of 13 till the age of 20, under which she became pregnant on three instances, with the girls mother assisting in carrying out abortion of the pregnancies. The girl had disclosed to the crime investigators that her father defiled her initially in the church's vestry and consequently threatened to place a curse on her, should she revealed the "love action to people. To further dehumanize the girl, the father, continually demanded sex from her as an outright condition for settlement of the child's school fees and other fatherly obligations to the innocent girl child that he fathered.
The same goes for Pastor Anwanga Udo of the Restoration Bible Church, whom the police said had defiled his 10-year-old stepdaughter.
Mr Festus Okon and wife Ememobong Okon Eshiet were also paraded for conspiring to force an orphan to be having unlawful carnal knowledge with the intent of having children for the couple against the desire or consent of the girl. Such stories seem to be endless as the police further listed one Nsikak Udo for defilement of a 12-year old girl whom he dragged into his room to have carnal knowledge of her, even as Iniobong Okon Moses was accused of defiling a two-year old innocent baby. Similarly, Mr Saviour Imoh Ukpong was said to have defiled 15 years old girl, in addition to his antics of luring unsuspected female students numbering more than seven to his house for the business of defilement, which he is notoriously noted for.
Worried by this ungodly mannerism of persons who ought to protect and care for the little ones in the society, the wife of Akwa Ibom State governor, Dr Martha Udom Emmanuel, has since took the matter to the traditional fathers in the state, seeking their assistance to flush out such criminality out of the state, whose people are noted for making positive history, and not negative ones. This woman of virtue in a recent visit to the place of Oku Ibom Ibibio, Ntenyin Solomon Etuk, had spoken with pains in her heart when she suggested the need for traditional institutions to enact punitive legislation and engage in grass roots sensitization to eradicate violence against women and girls that has been reoccurring across the state in recent time.
Lamenting the appalling situation, Mrs Emmanuel said cases such as rape, defilement incest and domestic violence were on the increase despite her modest efforts through her pet project, hence the need for the traditional institution to intervene. "The urgency to end all forms of violence against women and girls has over time gained currency and we have been working assidously to ensure culprits are brought to book. I am here today with this delegation to seek the intervention of our royal fathers in curbing this ugly tide, she had emphasized.
From the foregoing speech by Her Excellency, she had spoken as a woman, mother and a religious person who is deeply touched by men's inhumanity to fellow human beings.
Certainly, those committing rape and defilement of young girls are not from the moon, but are residents of various communities across this state. They are Christians, some are educated ones, some are illiterates, majority of them are married people, sizeable percentage of the rapists are children from broken homes, yet others who are influenced by alcohol or drugs join to escalate the crime in the society with huge embarrassment.
Apart from making legislations by the traditional rulers as requested by Mrs Emmanuel and the regular assistance to law enforcement agents for arrest of perpetrators of rape, the traditional fathers can do more to solve the problem in the rural areas, using rural method/practices to flush out bad elements in the guise of human beings who continually pose criminal threats to women and children.
In the past, thieves in rural areas were often coated with charcoal and made to dance around the village, admitting committing the said offence publicly. Some were publicly thrashed in the village square naked. Above all, the exhibits of the said theft were always placed on the heads of the offender, while the youths sang derogatory songs for the offenders to dance. We may refer all these efforts as primitive. But they were useful instruments or measures that generated fear and apprehension, because of the shame they brought, not only to the offenders, but to their entire family as a whole.
If this could be reenacted as envisaged by the governor's wife request for the traditional fathers to evolve a legislation to curb frequent cases of rape in our state, much could be achieved. For instance, there was an era in this country when armed robbery was excessively high. It was a sudden policy that whoever is caught in armed robbery and proved to be so by the court should be shot to death in the full view of his family/village people before the corpse is handed over to the family for burial. Imagine if rape offenders are made to face this ordeal, such could force them to refrain from committing the crime against the girl child. Sending offender's family to take asylum elsewhere, burning their houses, may appear primitive too but they can remedy the situation immediately too.
Again, placing of a total ban on visitors and owners of the land from entering into marrital engagements with any family indicted of rape cases may do wonders too.
Though not trying to push words into Her Excellency's mouth these tough measures necessitated her visit to the traditional rulers for partnership to effectively, stamp out this crime.
Again, the so-called men of God who took delight in putting Gods name in disrepute, aught to be deroped and their churches delisted as worship centres in the land. Any father who defiles his child should automatically be forced out of his village and the family name erased from the village history books.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Justice in Akwa Ibom State, in its revised edition (laws of Akwa Ibom, Volume II, 2000, had pointedly prescribed punishments for the above listed criminal offences of rape, defilement and so on. For instance, Sections 366 and 367 sternly stressed that any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by inpersonating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.
Accordingly, the law maintain that any person who commits the offence of rape is guilty of felony, and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years with or without whipping.
Section 243 of the same law also has punishment for the offence of incest. Any female person of or above the age of 16 years, who with consent, permits her grand-father, brother or son to have carnal knowledge of her knowing him to be her grandfather, father, brother, or son, as the case may be, is guilty of a felony and liable to imprisonment for seven years.
If the punishment for the offence of carnal knowledges is mild enough, the defilement of girls under eleven, which is very common these, days, seem to correspond with the offence in its entirety. Section 219 of the law of Akwa Ibom clearly stated that any person who has unlawful knowledge of a girl under the age of 11 years is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without whipping. For those attempting the act of having carnal knowledge of a girl under eleven years, is guilty and liable to 14 years imprisonment.
In pursuance of the drive towards elimination of gender based violence, the State Ministry of Agriculture and Women Affairs, under the able stewardship of Dr Glory Edet as commissioner mounted a 16-day activities from November 25 to December 10 in remembrance of the assassination of three sisters in 1960 by Rafael Truyilo.
As a global activity, the programme which had as its theme Orange the World: Generational Equality Stands Against Rape, has no doubt brought succour to the women folks in all ramifications. Dr Edet in her interaction with newsmen on the task of elimination of gender based violence said her ministry partnered the United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA), to establish Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Response Unit, where cases of violence and other vices are reported for prompt action, noting that there were unreported cases of rape, defilement and violence as a result of the prevailing culture of silence, fear of stigmatization and intimidation.
Reeling out the successful story of the unit in figure, Dr Edet said over 180 cases had been received while she said 18 offenders involved in rape and defilement cases have been prosecuted so far.
The commissioner stated further how her ministry had taken care of over 800 children in five government homes with more than 25 of those children currently studying in institutions of higher learning. Even as one of them has since been called to the bar, with some currently doing their NYSC too.
It is without exaggeration that what need to be done by women, using available platforms to announce their anguish on the frequent molestations of their fellow women by some men in the name of sexual harassment, has been thoroughly executed. It is now left for the society to listen and refrain from rape, defilement and incest on women folks, since such actions can never portray the state in good light before foreigners who want to take the advantage of the government's outstanding performance in making the state investors friendly.
The various stakeholders like the law enforcement agents, traditional fathers, women groups etc. should not immediately go to sleep after the weeklong activities to eliminate the abuse of women, but should do follow-up exercise to have statistics of victims from police stations and other places to know how successful the campaign has worked out across the state. Female teachers in schools should be partnered to interrogate pupils/students on their relationships with their principals, family members, where there is suspicion, such parent could be invited to speak up.