By: Ademola Orunbon
It is no longer news that the Nigerian girl-child has suddenly become an endangered species. No thanks to the daily assault and all forms of abuse directed against her especially rape, violence, child labour, ignorance, disease, malnutrition, maltreatment, you name it.
The media is replete with cases of these violations of the girl-child and women. More disheartening is that they are perpetrated by those who supposed to protect them. One wonders what had become of the society, a place now ruled by depravity, abomination, sacrilege and immorality.
Or how else would one describe the animalistic behaviour of randy fathers, uncles, cousins, nieces and male adults who daily defile their own daughters and turn them into sex slaves in their own homes?
Of all the crimes against the girl-child, rape is among the most heinous. This is because it causes social problems such as deaths, unplanned pregnancies and abortions, Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV) on those affected, leaving them emotionally disrupt.
In some countries like Nigeria, Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is estimated to cost them up to 3.7 percent of their GDP – more than double what most governments spend on education. However, worried advocates in the campaign say cultural and harmful practices including ignorance are major factors fueling the trend.
According to a United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) all forms of violence and harmful practices against women and girls are of epidemic proportions in Nigeria. Today, Nigeria is one of the countries where gender-based violence is highly prevalent.
Indeed, this shameful act has become a major societal issue in Nigeria as cases of rape continue to happen in different places, location across the nation and these societal vices remain unchecked, due to our cultural and religious belief, rape in Nigeria use to be a matter that was regarded as taboo and an abominable act as such was discussed secretly and in low tones that a third person that is not part of the discussion will not and cannot discover the content of the discussion.
Although, according to the super design of God Almighty, sex is beautiful, sex is desirable; sex is pleasurable and enjoyable with the consent of your partner. Sex is one exercise that one looks forward to in a relationship. God Himself knows its important as such created it to serve as a bond for salvaging a drowning relationship as well as for procreation. This act (sex) keeps the world in existence. Don’t forget, that for sex to be pleasurable, enjoyable, desirable and beautiful, it must not be done in duress, violently or forcefully. If this becomes the case, it will certainly loss its importance and as such will be called RAPE.
Over the years, rape has become major trend and a societal problem that is causing more pains, agony and trauma to the survivor and those in authority that are supposed to salvage the situation are even aggravating the issue the more due to the way rape cases is been handled in Nigeria. Talking about rape, it is the illicit sexual affairs with a woman without her consent, usually produced through force or deception. According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of current English, rape is defined as a crime of forcing sexual intercourse on a woman or girl.
With increase in the cases of raping minors in the country, that is the reason why Ogun state government deem it fit to open sex offenders’ register, in order to bring whoever culpable of offence to the book and deal with him according to the rule of law, and we should all know that a sex offenders’ registry is a system in which various countries designed to allow government authorities to keep track of the activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their criminal sentences. In some jurisdictions, where sex offender registration can, registration is accompanied by residential address notification requirements. In many jurisdictions also, registered sex offenders are subject to additional restrictions, including housing. Those on parole or probation may also be subjected to restrictions that do not apply to other parolees or probationers.
The vast majority of sexual offense victims are known to the offenders – including friends, family or other trusted adults, such as teachers. This is also contrary to media depictions of stranger assaults or child molesters who kidnap children unknown to them. Thus, despite the public awareness of the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, there has been little evidence to back the claim that mandatory registration has made society safer. In fact, only in the states/countries that utilize empirically derived risk assessment procedures and publicly identify only high risk offenders, has community notifications demonstrated some effectiveness. It must always show that residency restrictions increase offender’s recidivism rates by increasing offender homelessness and increasing instability in a sex offender’s life.
Now, given how deeply rooted misogyny and rape culture in Nigeria, it comes as no surprise that there has never been an official sexual offenders’ list in Nigeria. Indeed, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that 1 in 4 Nigerian girls are victims of sexual violence before they turn 18, and according to a National Survey carried out in 2014, only 38 percent of those who experienced sexual violence as children told someone about it, and only about 50 percent sought help. Also, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in persons is the law enforcement agency charged with administering the provisions of the violence against persons (Prohibition) Act. Currently on the website, there are 7 incidents reported, 10 verified reported cases and 5 convicted cases. Although, this numbers do not represent the vast amount of underreported cases, it is a first step towards proper documentation and accountability.
In 2015, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that one in four girls and one in ten boys had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18, and an estimate of at least 2 million girls in Nigeria reportedly experience sexual abuse every year. Unfortunately, the majority of these cases go unreported as a result of social stigmatization and victim blaming. This results in an increasing numbers of sexual abusers and repeat offenders. The new database aims to name and shame them.
Even, before the National register was launched, only two states in Nigeria, Lagos and Ekiti, kept registers of sex offenders. The register in Lagos state was opened in 2014 while a “Black Book” for sexual offenders was opened in Ekiti state in 2013. Unfortunately, these registers are not updated regularly, defeating their purpose. Hence, the need for a national registry that will be monitored and updated frequently is required for the country.
With the growing raping of minors which not scarcely to one state or the others but censored across the country, the Ogun state reckoned with federal government in opening the sex offenders’ register so as to bring the culprit to the book and stand as deterrent to others in society, that is why the Ogun State Ministry of Women Affairs, in collaboration with the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), launched a sex offenders’ list to ensure culprits are brought to book, the Permanent Secretary in that Ministry of Women Affairs and Social development, Dr. Oluranti Oladehinde mulled that the move was part of efforts to curb incessant violence against women and children, and ensure a violence free society.
Though, with the present move by the Prince Dapo Abiodun-led administration, it is now cleared that the rapists has no abode in the state, as far as their names will be written in ‘black book’ upon conviction by the court and will be circulated on all Ogun state owned media, by making sure that the name and conviction of the convict is known to the general public, in doing this it will not only promotes the safety of the general public, but also instill courage in victims and their family to come forward and access justice. Because, most of the victims shame of being stigmatized and felt that it was obvious disgrace to be raped, and also nobody is ready to fight for their course in the society but with the new trend in adoption of sex offenders’ list, it will abate the raping of minors in our society.
Indeed, the Permanent Secretary launched the offenders’ list before the state Commissioner of Police, CP. Kenneth Ebrimson, which promised the command’s supports for total eradication of violence against women and children in the state. Though, there is no gainsaying that many violence against women in the country were not fully handled with disciplines it deserved but now that offenders’ list had been launched there will be a zero tolerance for violence against women in the state and any violence against the vulnerable also will not be condoned in the state anymore.
Now, the offenders’ register had been handover to the State Commissioner of Police, CP. Kenneth Ebrimson by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dr. Oluranti Oladehinde, with the CP promising to partner the state government and the people at ensuring a society void of violence and any form of threat against women and children; therefore, everyone needs to speak out and report any case of violence, by making use of Police suggestion box in the state, in case of not wanting to disclose your identity.
Though, the objective of the Child Rights Law 2003 is to ensure that the rights of children in Ogun state are protected. However, majority of the victims in this category are the downtrodden like housemaids, wards, orphans and the weak. But, the state is confident that the opening of sex offenders’ list, the cases of raping minors and violence against women and children will a thing of past. Mind you, as we all know that ignorance of the law is not an excuse of breaking it and as good citizens, we all have a collective responsibility to obey and abide by the rules of the law.
*Adenola Orunbon, a Journalist and Public Affairs Analysts, writes from Federal Housing Estate, Olomore, Abeokuta. Can be reached via: email@example.com or 08034493944 and 08029301122.