“All men are rapists and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their code,” said Marilyn French, U.S Novelist and feminist.
The big question, of course, is why do some men rape? Most experts believe the primary cause of rape is an aggressive desire to dominate the victim rather than an attempt to achieve sexual fulfillment. They consider rape an act of violence rather than principally a sexual encounter. This, it must be stressed, is the opinion of experts. But one is of the opinion that besides the desire to dominate, rape can also be situated in the state of mind of the perpetrators.
The brazen manner rape is often committed indicates that perpetrators still have a Stone Age view of women as chattels who are to be used without independent thoughts. It also portrays some as pure lunatics. Or, what do we think of such reported cases of one Mr. Temitope Alo who raped eight kids, whose ages range from eight to 15 years, at Koloba area of Ayobo in Lagos recently? The pedophile lured the children to his apartment where he reportedly defiled and threatened to kill them if they reported the matter. Nothing is more horrifying than the terror, the suffering, and the revulsion of the poor girls, ignorant of the facts of life, who found themselves raped by a brute. The forcible rape of these minors happened few weeks ago just like that of a 20-year- old lady who was allegedly raped and had her lip slashed off by two men as reported in the Daily Sun of October 5, 2012. There was also the abominable case of a father who raped her 12-year-old daughter as equally reported in theDaily Sun of October16, 2012.
The rate at which rape cases now occur in the country is becoming quite alarming. Headlines such as: “Gombe worried over rampant rape cases”; “19 women raped in Benue camps for flood victims” among others, have become a defining feature of some of our national dailies in recent times. The gory sight of men raping helpless flood victims in their distressed condition seriously questions our humanity. In the first instance, these hapless women are at the camp by virtue of being raped by non creative and visionless leaders. They are also victims of rape by our justice system and “on your own” attitude of the masses.
Cases of security men especially policemen ‘re-raping’ rape victims have not been lost in our memory either. Most often police officers are said to ask rape victims irrational and discouraging questions.
As if to prove Marilyn French right, the voice against rape is criminally silent, the law against rape is ineffective, the institutions to render support are sick and culpable of the act and our leaders are helpless. We tend to reduce the problem to issue of indecent dressing as if the kids those “beasts” violated also attracted them with indecent dress. Though one is against indecent dressing, it cannot be a justification for raping. Come to think of, is indecent dressing a ‘rapable’ offence?
As might be expected from the lack of concern about this act of violence against women, precise and reliable statistics concerning rape are not available. Rape has also remained an under-reported crime. This is due basically to insensitive, and sometimes, hostile treatment by law enforcement personnel. Health centres are another culprit in double or more correctly, jeopardy, rape victims are suffering in this clime. Many health workers are insult givers rather than care givers when it comes to rape and other violence against women.
Dramatic changes have to take place in public attitude toward rape if we are ready to stem the tide. Steps toward this direction are the public enlightenment and education campaign as well as institutional support being offered by the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and Ministry of Justice through Office of Public Defenders in Lagos State. The Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation recently trained health workers drawn from primary and secondary health facilities in the state on Women’s Rights, Gender Based Violence and the management of GBV survivors. Other states need to take their cue from such efforts.
The health workers have been trained to serve as change agents through which statistic on rape and other forms of violence can be obtained. Documentation by health facilities can be useful as evidence to get a no contest order in criminal proceedings against perpetrators.
The state has also courted the Lagos Police Command in this regard. Parley with police on gender violence has become a yearly activity in the state. While one cannot say this has drastically impacted on the fight against rape, it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Speedy dispensation of justice is also vital to the drastic reduction in cases of rape.
On a final note, it is important to commend the activities of some Non-Government Organisations in addressing gender violence like rape. Project Alert, Constitutional Right Project BAOBAB for women’s Human Rights and other similar groups are doing much in creating awareness and practically getting involved in ensuring justice for women where their rights are violated.