ENSURING WOMEN’S SAFETY: THE CASE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
According to Wikipedia, “sexual violence occurs throughout the world, although in most countries there has been little research
conducted on the problem. Due to the private nature of sexual violence, estimating the extent of the problem is difficult. Research in South Africa and Tanzania suggests that nearly one in four women may experience sexual violence by an intimate partner, and up to one-third of adolescent girls report their first sexual experience as being forced”.
Sexual violence is any sexual act that is perpetrated on a person against their will. It encompasses a range of offences, including a completed non-consensual sex act (i.e. rape), an attempted non-consensual sex act, abusive sexual contact (i.e. unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g. threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment). The most common incident of sexual violence is rape.
Rape is the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse. It is any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person. Rape in its simplest form is not just an urgent, unexpected sexual desire that needs to be satisfied. Instead, it is the violent expression of power against another. U.S. Novelist and Feminist, Marilyn French, once said “all men are rapists and that’s what they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws and their code”.
Sexual violence in any form is a violation of the victim’s human rights, such as the right to life (as it leads to death in some instances), right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty and security of a person, and right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. These are all rights that are protected under municipal and international law.
In Nigeria, numerous cases of sexual violence occur everyday, prominent among which is rape (the infamous ABSU gang rape being the most widely reported to date, thanks to the proliferation of social media), yet many of these go unreported. The few cases that get reported to the authorities are either not pursued by the police or the victim is advised to keep silent lest she disgrace her family. Incessant rape incidences all over Nigeria have assumed a disturbing dimension and have also become a daily occurrence and a fundamental issue affecting women and the girl child in the country. Today, of all women’s fears, that of being raped is the darkest.
Rape cases in Nigeria are rampant. The popular ones include the ABSU gang rape, which the prosecution of the offenders yielded no result, as the police claimed that the victim “consented to be raped”. Also, in March, 2010, Pastor Timothy Adebayo of the Holy Spirit Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Ijebu Ode, was charged for allegedly raping a 24-year-old lady, Miss Kehinde Olalude. In Osun state, a traditional ruler, the Alowa of Ilowa in Obokun Local Government Area of the state, Oba Adebukola Alli, allegedly raped a corps member serving in his domain, Miss Helen Opara. Further, in Zamfara state, a police inspector, Abdullahi Ibrahim, was dismissed from service after he was found culpable for the rape of a 15-year old girl in Maradum local government area of the state.
Presently, statistics from the Delta State Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice have shown that no fewer than 146 rape cases were recorded in the last two years. Though a global phenomenon, the appalling side to our experience of this menace has to do with the impunity of the perpetrators, lacklustre response of justice administrators, and absence of a supportive institutional system to help the victims.
We can take a cue from India, with respect to the New Delhi gang rape of a 23-year old physiotherapy student by 7 men, which consequently caused the death of the girl after 13 days of receiving intensive medical treatment in Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. This event drew the attention and aroused the emotional consciousness of international organisations, governments and peoples on the need to ensure the safety of women. In a country like India, the challenges of women and the rate of sexual violence are very severe. A Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll last year ranked India as the World’s fourth most dangerous country for a woman, behind Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan.
Even though the practice is outlawed, 300,000 to 600,000 female foetuses are aborted every year in India because of the preference for boys, according to a 2012 study by the Lancet. And the discrimination that begins in the womb continues throughout a girl’s life. In July 2012, a young female student was molested and groped by a group of at least 18 men for 45 minutes in the Northern state of Assam. People watched and filmed the incident, but no one helped.
According to Government data in India, more than 24,000 cases of rape were reported in 2011. Most are never reported because of the stigma surrounding rape. However, the reaction of the international community with respect to the December 16, 2012, event in India is laudable. This should be adopted by every country on the matter of sexual violence against women so as to ensure women’s safety in the world.
Lastly, there is need for international co-operation on ensuring women’s safety. Proper prosecution of the perpetrators of these heinous activities must be done, lacklustre response of justice administrators must be abdicated and presence of international institutional supportive systems to help be victims must be ensured. More so, sexual violence can be made an international offence through the more binding effect of a Charter, treaty or agreement, such that the punishment would be the death penalty. Women are sine qua non in the continuity of humanity, and their safety must be ensured.
Register and get updated whenever we post updates to the Yara Blog. You can also be part of the discussion by commenting on our posts. Join us now!