For more than five years now, I have waged a sustained war against rape and rapists in this column. Oftentimes, I stretched the fight beyond our shores. From my pen, I have waged the war in India, Kenya and anywhere that the heinous crime is perpetrated. India is one of the most notorious destinations for rape, rivalled by the United States. Indians do not just rape and go, they rape and kill in most cases! Their specialty is to gangsterise (my coinage for gang raping) their victims.
In most cases, many rapists get away with the heinous crime. Is it because we live in a man’s world? Arrant moonshine! Which man’s world are we talking about?
Every man has a mother, wife, daughters, nieces or aunties. Many men even have grandmothers and great grandmothers. The criminal elements have not spared this category of women deserving respect. Imagine a man in his early or mid-20s pummelling a 90-year-old great grandmother with his weapon… sickening, to say the least! Such men are not only sick in the head but they are also beasts clothed with human skin.
As it is today, virtually all females have become rapeable… one on one or gang raping! Toddlers are not spared of the rod. They are also whipped vigorously and without mercy. That was not the case in the past. When did we miss it? The situation has gone from bad to worse in recent months to the extent that fathers have turned on their daughters. Those hapless ones are torn between the devil and the deep blue sea… endangered outside and unsafe at home!
Rape is a primordial crime… as old as mankind. It is usually prevalent in war torn areas where women in conquered territories are violated for good measure. In Nigeria, the crime has been with us here for as long as we can remember, though occurring in isolation until lately. We started witnessing a gradual build-up of the incidents about a decade or so ago when hardly any day passed by without reported cases; several others went unreported for obvious reasons.
The incidents took an epidemic dimension from 2018 when no day passed by without eye-popping cases hitting the media space in some parts of the country. For instance, between May and June 2018, two students of Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, who had robbed their victims of their dignity, bagged life jail terms for rape (and cultism). One of the victims named Omolola George had told an Akure High Court that she was carted away from the college premises at gunpoint on a motorbike to an unknown destination where she was gang-raped.
Within the same period, one Hussaini Sirajo, aged 19, allegedly lured his neighbour’s seven-year-old daughter to a farm and forcefully had sex with her at Katoga village in Katsina state.
In Abeokuta, two teenagers were arrested for allegedly gang-raping a 14-year-old girl. The victim narrated to the police that she was pounced on by the assailants while going for her hairdressing apprenticeship not knowing that there was environmental sanitation which kept many people off the road.
In Ibasa, Lagos state, a 48-year-old father named Tajudeen Adefioye allegedly raped his 10-year-old daughter on May 27, 2018.
And in Warri, Delta state, a 73-year-old native doctor, Joseph Umuluku, berthed in police custody for allegedly defiling a 13-year-old girl, after luring the victim to a common bathroom in the compound.
There appeared to be an apparent lull in 2019. However, unknown to many, the lull was to prepare for a tsunami of rape incidents in the year 2020… occurring pandemically like Covid-19. The statistics are frightening as though the Coronavirus is a forerunner of the phenomenon. Every man in the home, on the street or in the neighbourhood is now a potential rapist. Fathers, uncles, brothers, etc., are neck deep in the despicable practice.
Rape incidents have become so rampant that even law enforcement agents and beggars are involved in the condemnable pastime. Instances abound of policemen falling on women in their custody. Teachers, head teachers, and principals have been reported to have defiled their pupils and students. Even the physically challenged have joined the heinous pastime.
Some men of God have also weighed in. These wolves masquerading as humans set up deliverance camps and lure innocent young girls and married women there for prayers, fasting and vigils. They then turn their manhood to koboko with which to flog and cast out the devil possessing them. Not too long ago, a Muslim cleric was allegedly caught on camera preying on a minor in a mosque.
Rape is carried out using different methods. The Penal Code (Nigerian Laws Cap 89), applicable in the North of Nigeria, criminalises both rape and defilement (rape of a girl under 13 years). Rape is defined here thus: “A man is said to commit rape who… has sexual intercourse with a woman in any of the following circumstances – against her will; without her consent; and when her consent is obtained by putting her in fear of death or hurt.”
Of course, there are rapists who force themselves on their victims for sheer physical pleasure, while there are those whose actions are driven by the desire to acquire spiritual powers.
Under the Nigerian law, rape is punishable by life imprisonment, with the possible addition of caning. However, rarely has the law been enforced. Nigeria is perhaps the only country that treats rapists kindly. Rapists are worse than armed robbers. A robbed woman can regain her possession. But a rape victim is robbed of her dignity and honour which cannot be recovered. The scars left on the victims do not heal: the psychological and physical trauma make many avoid healthy sexual activity. If not properly counselled, the victim could become a hater of men and lead a very unhappy and unfulfilled life.
It is common for rapists to blame the devil when they are caught. The public also easily forgives them, blaming the devil instead for possessing them. And because families tend to protect their daughters who have been defiled or raped from public stigma, most rape cases are never reported. Such secrecy enables rapists to escape punishment.
This attitude should change. Victims and their families should stop hiding their pains and people should stop stigmatising them. Rapists should be treated like armed robbers or kidnappers who deserve severe punishment. Recently, there were calls in some quarters that convicted rapists should be sentenced to death or castrated.
Following the recent spike, some state governments have raced to take measures to curb the criminal acts. In Yobe state, raping of minors is to attract capital punishment, while preying on adults carries life in prison. The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is mulling over castration or capital punishment as practised in Singapore. In Osun, it is life imprisonment for the crime and 14 years when attempted. The National Assembly appears unsure of the appropriate sanctions even as the Lower Chamber has hurled out castration as punishment for the crime.
Recently, some concerned citizens and Non-Governmental Organisations fanned out to demonstrate against rape across the country. They chanted in unison: “Kill Rapists”, “Castrate Rapists”, etc. Even President Muhammadu Buhari appears to be losing his sleep over the spike while still contending with the Covid-19 challenge.
Before the recent spike, many states that have not embraced the challenge by putting in place the Sex Offenders Register. But the effort appears to be desultorily pursued.
In places like India and Pakistan, their women have resorted to self-help. In February this year, a Pakistani woman excised the manhood of her assailant. There was also an instance of an Indian housewife who was cornered in her abode by a rapist. She played along at first giving her attacker the impression that she was willing. When the rapist lowered his guard, she knifed off the phallus, raced to the toilet and flushed the weapon out of sight. Another Indian woman mimicked her country woman but she rushed instead to the nearest police station with the dripping manhood and displayed it as a proof of the attack.
No punishment is too severe for rapists. But I will go for castration for a convicted felon. There is nothing as killing as going about seeing your targets everywhere and you cannot shoot. Rapists may not be able to cope with the psychological trauma of bearing useless weapons. That will lead them to suicide eventually.
Finally, I will like to recommend that the following body languages among others should also constitute sexual offences and should attract appropriate sanctions: winking at an unwilling woman (even in the dark!); ogling at a disinterested woman or dimming your eyes as though you are feeling sleepy and running your tongues across your lips like komodo dragons; blowing kisses to an unwilling woman; gathering your lips together and gently shooting them out in a seductive manner.
…Mr Oluwole is the Managing Editor of Blueprint Newspapers based in Abuja