The girl child is increasingly endangered in the home and at school.
It is a known and documented fact that males are biologically stronger than females on average. In Nigeria where patriarchal norms still hold sway, these dynamics have contributed immensely to the increasing rate of sexual offences to girls. There have been daily reports of increasing vulnerabilities of girls to sexual offences, especially rape. This is worrying and it deserves drastic remedial actions from the government of the country and society at large. It is crucial in making Nigeria a decent country where the rights, health and sanity of the girl child is protected.
Nigerians are often provided with evidence that the girl child is endangered not only in the home but also at school. These places, which are supposed to be safe havens, are becoming increasingly unsafe for her at an alarming rate. An example is in a November 2022 publication, which is titled “16 facts about violence against women and girls in Nigeria for the 16 days of activism” – a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls, which was initiated by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN). According to the publication, half of the girls who experienced sexual violence experienced it at home.
School enrollment should be a protective factor rather than a risk factor.
Girls also report that the second most common location where they experience sexual abuse is at school. The report argues that children feel the most unsafe when they are walking to and from school. To support this point, there is a recent media report which states that no fewer than 65 pupils were reportedly raped by their teachers across the country between January and November 2022. Shockingly, the survivors’ ages range from 2 – 16 years. This is a public concern because school enrollment should be a protective factor rather than a risk factor. These occurrences can discourage female enrollment in schools, especially in Northern Nigeria where children’s enrollment in schools are significantly lower than the one in the South.
Every report that has been published on sexual abuse on females has not failed to investigate the demography of the perpetrators. These abusers have a consistent profile and relationship with the victims. They are often the children know, such as relatives, teachers, peers and class mates. According to reports, the girl child is most likely to experience sexual violence in the abuser’s home, then the victim’s home, at school, at someone else’s home, and finally on a road. This is sad because the home and schools are inevitable critical child socialization institutions, where children learn moral and values, and are being nurtured.
Reasons why rape cases have persisted in Nigeria.
Despite the law’s recommendation of life imprisonment for the offence of rape, cases have persisted. This shows that the rape crisis in Nigeria has not been handled with all the seriousness it deserves. The director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, tried to find an explanation for why the cases of rape have continued to occur. In a report titled, “Nigeria: A harrowing journey; access to justice for women and girls survivors of rape,” she regretted that many victims of rape are denied justice and hundreds of rape cases are underreported due to corruption, stigma and victim-blaming in Nigeria. Because of these, it is increasingly difficult for survivors to get justice while perpetrators get away with human rights violations.
Clearly, lack of persecution or punishment of offenders, low rate of prosecution, and slow timeline for justice delivery also aid the freedom of those associated with rape and other kinds of sexual abuse. Judges are known to adjourn cases until the investigating police officers (IPOs) are transferred to other states and cannot be traced again. Other reasons include: lack of access to legal information, aid or protection; states’ non-adoption of relevant laws prohibiting violence against women and girls; low level of awareness about the laws as well as inadequate efforts on the part of public authorities to promote the awareness of and enforce existing laws.
Sexual abuse shouldn’t be condoned by anybody.
Rape and other kinds of sexual abuse should not be explained away, condoned or justified by anybody. Rape cases must be speedily checked because of the huge socio-economic costs on the country as well as the physical, mental and social impact on the victims. Rape thrives because the culprits are not being punished or are not seen to be so. Consequently, the punishment should be stricter and enforced to deter potential offenders. There are should be a safe system to encourage people to report rape cases to the police and to improve the processing speed of cases by the courts. Also, violence against children, especially girls, should be prioritized. Finally, there should be social censure (public repudiation) of violent behaviors and of perpetrators of sexual abuse to reverse the trend.
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