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Underreporting of sexual assaults in Nigeria

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By Usman Oladimeji

Hanan Buhari denounced underreporting of rape cases in Nigeria.

Rape and sexual assault remain controversial issues, with very few victims reporting experiences mainly due to the myriad of societal perceptions, fear of revictimization, distortion of allegations, and psychological and physical residuals of the experience. Underreporting of Rape cases and gender-based violence cases in the country is one of the most persistent instances in law enforcement in Nigeria, despite the increasing prevalence of activists. Mrs. Hanan Buhari, daughter of President Muhammadu Buhari, denounced underreporting Rape cases as she speaks at the inauguration of the Hanan Buhari Foundation.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the event, which was held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, welcomed several top government dignitaries, and traditional rulers, among others. Mrs. Buhari asserts that this is the right moment to talk about the act of raping in Nigeria, which she noted has been embedded and permitted to prevail and hindering women’s rights. She added that the offence, which had always been shrouded in secrecy due to ingrained patriarchal sex stereotypes, and structural and systemic oppression women face, among others, must be stopped.

Despite the passage of legislation, reported cases are on the increase.

According to a report, Rape incidents for women and girls have increased from 63% in 2015 to 72.1 % in 2016 and 69.3 % in 2017. Only 32 incidents were recorded between 2019 and 2020, according to statistics from Nigeria’s National Anti-Trafficking Agency, due to fear of stigmatization. Furthermore, in the first four months of 2022, around 335 people in Nigeria faced various types of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), including sexual assault, physical violence, and spousal abuse.

Even more so now that more women are finding the strength to speak up about their victimization, there is a clear and present need to stand up and shatter this silence that persists. Human Rights protection and a reliable legal system are essential if women and children are to enjoy a life free from violence. Despite the passage of Legislation like the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP) 2015 and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Laws in several states in Nigeria, the number of reported cases is on the increase.

Incessant campaigns prompted enactment of additional legislation.

In many instances, the Legislation has not been implemented in a way that accomplishes its goal of preventing Rape and other types of sexual assault. Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, applauded the foundation’s work in organizing the event, stressing that appropriate measures must be developed to eliminate the violent conduct. He continued by saying that individuals responsible for this kind of crime should be penalized severely to serve as an example to others.

Mr. Mustapha also urged that parents and guardians indoctrinate their female children to be circumspect of suspicious acts. The Minister for Women’s Affairs, Pauline Tallen, shared this view, saying that victims of gender-based violence need to be given a voice and supported while they seek justice. He further explains that incessant campaigns on the cases prompted the enactment of additional child rights Legislation, bringing the total number of such laws from 12 to 34 since she came to office.

Government has reduced sexual assault funding.

The appallingly high rates of sexual assault against women and children in Nigeria are a blot on the country’s otherwise impeccable record as a civilized society. The provision set aside for Rape and sexual assault incidents to aid in the tracking and rehabilitation of survivors in the 2022 budget has recently been reduced by 49%, compared to the provision for the same purpose in the 2021 budget of the Nigerian government, which it said performed above 83%.

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