The Orakwue’s buried their 14-year-old daughter at the Berger cemetery in Lagos amidst pain and anguish because some street boys felt they had a right to what she had initially refused to give them.
On the 17th of July, neighbours apparently noticed a number of men scaling the fence around Obiamaka’s home in Abule — Afo, Lagos, in an attempt to run away. This prompted her mother, Akuoma’s urgent return — as they neighbors suspected something was off. Akuoma found her daughter gasping for air, as her blood her made an Island of her. She had been collectively raped and choked.
Why? The rapists had apparently made advances at Obiamaka at different times and she had told them off continually. She even informed her mother about “those boys “ troubling her but nothing tangible came out of it. From the horrifying turn of events and Akuoma’s account, the boys felt pained and decided to ‘teach her a lesson’.
They stalked the movements of the Orakwue’s and decided to strike on a day they were convinced Obiamaka was home alone. Her parents were at work and her siblings were at their Uncles’ place in Lekki for the holiday. These irresponsible and wretched rapists invaded the home, raped Obiamaka multiple times and left her to die.
One cannot begin to imagine what this poor child had to go through continually on her way to and from school. Getting an education and having to deal with everyday (sexual) harassment from hopeless and hoodwinked louts.
This tragic story is one of many that remind us as a society about our deeply entrenched rape culture. This rape culture is why women are constantly policed and men are allowed to walk around freely without looking over their shoulders. It is why the men that killed Obiamaka felt that they had to be indulged. They sense of entitlement was so much that such simple rejections made them violate and murder her.
Many of us have normalized sexual abuse, rape and even murder that stems from abuse. We are doing a great disservice to the society at large by letting our sons get away with rape and sexual abuse. If anything we need to educate them on the importance of consent and make it stick that they do not have a right to the body of any body. We need to stop telling our daughters to be “submissive” and start protecting them from perpetrators. What hope does a society where women are asked to comply and face the consequences, as far as their male counterparts are concerned have?
Asides from it being a strain on the fundamental human rights of a woman or girl child, it is unfair and dreadful to always be on the receiving end. Of course a swift change in the perception surrounding rape is not going to happen overnight, especially because it is deep rooted in a patriarchal society like ours — but we have to start from somewhere. It is important to do out essential part in remedying this cancer that is rape culture by constantly speaking against it. Speaking against it is great, as it will slowly make obvious the dangers of misogyny and the ills, which women suffer socially to more people.
Another important aspect of shoving aside this revolting culture of rape is making sure perpetrators are punished to the full extent of the law. This is where the justice system comes in. There’s a need to ensure that cases like that of Obiamaka gets to the police so that the rapists are made an example of. So, what does the law say?
The administrative criminal justice law (ACJL) functioning in Lagos state for example, explains that rape is when a man has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent or incorrectly obtained consent i.e. force, intimidation of any kind, threat etc. Therefore, the law considers the case of Obiamaka rape and is liable to imprisonment for life.
Section 220–264 of the ACJL act look into Murder & rape. And even though the desired outcome of their act may not have been death, they should have foreseen death as a likely consequence of their action (multiple rape). Deaths associated with rape raise the issue of murder/manslaughter. As the present case involves the death of the rape victim, justice requires that the ongoing investigation focuses on both the death and the sexual assault aspects of the incidence, respectively. This will ensure that the perpetrators do not escape justice on any account, whether of the sexual assault or the resulting death.
The government will decide whether to prosecute all the separate offences (e.g., rape, murder, breaking-in etc.) involved in the incident or focus on the offence with the most convincing evidence.
Sadly, the prosecution of rape related cases in Nigeria have been far from commendable. Only recently, a court in Lagos struck out a rape case because the prosecution was not conducting its case diligently. That Nigeria reports thousands of gang rapes every year is a sad reflection of a justice system that almost appears complacent. This is why it goes beyond identifying and rebelling against the rape culture within our society, there is a need for improvement of the justice system.
The structure needs major sanitization, and also innovation and capacity building to muster effective responses. The health sector also needs to be empowered to respond more meaningfully and effective linkages with the justice system forged.
Rape is not exclusive to Nigeria alone but we need now more than ever to create more tools to expose it, increase chances of prevention and begin to readdress the past years of injustice.