Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Let's castrate the rapists

There is one universal truth applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”
—UNSecretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

On Wednesday, November 20, I received a text message on my phone saying, “Sexual Offences Bill, which prescribes life imprisonment for paedophiles and over 10 years for sexual assaults passed second reading at the Senate today”. That piece of information jolted my memory and I started ruminating about the soaring cases of rape in Nigeria. Several questions came to mind: Why do people commit rape? What are the effects on the perpetrators as well as the victims?   How do we curb this growing menace?

My research shows that there are different types of rape cases. Dr. Wilson in an article simply titled, Rape (http://drlwilson.com/articles/RAPE.htm)  tried to categorise them into Forcible rape, which is any forced sexual intercourse between two adults; Statutory rape, which is sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor (that is someone below 18 years of age); Incest, which is sexual relations or marriage between two people who are forbidden to marry by customs or law; Random or haphazard rape which is rape through a random encounter with someone who is intoxicated with liquor or on drugs or just psychopathic; and  Professional rape which is explained to be carried out by professionals, either alone or in a gang.  “These are used to condition people for brainwashing, for political reasons, to inculcate ideas, or as part of a culture or religion”.

Rape is said to be one of the most violent crimes on earth, yet, it is one of the least talked about. In Wilson’s opinion, referenced above, “I would estimate that about 50 per cent of women have experienced rape, although the official statistics is about 25 per cent”. He chronicles reasons for rape to include the following:  for brainwashing and political control, for fun, to harm another, as an “experiment”, the result of sloppiness or due to drugs or alcohol use, for revenge, the result of crossed signals, to force a lady to marry, and even as an accident.

The rape syndrome has been gaining ascendancy due to a number of factors among which are the refusal of many of the victims to lodge complaints with law enforcement agencies (some victims would not even tell their family members or friends for fear of stigmatisation); lack of diligent prosecution by police; difficulty in proving the crime of rape; and light punishment meted out to perpetrators of rape.

According to The PUNCH editorial of November 5, 2013, “Jude Uchendu, a consultant pathologist in the Central Hospital, Benin, Edo State, sounded alarm that the hospital recorded more than 80 rape cases from March to mid-October this year alone. Bad enough, 90 per cent of rape cases are committed by people close to and trusted by the victims, people such as neighbours and relations. Sometimes, those who ought to protect the children are their tormentors as was the case when a police corporal recently raped a two-year-old girl in Mararaba, Nasarawa State”.

Hardly will a day pass without one or two cases of rape being reported in the media. The most troubling is the act of paedophiles, the animals in human skin, who take delight in having forceful carnal knowledge of children. Unfortunately, these paedophiles are usually enemies within. They are teachers of the pupils they rape, uncles, brothers, and trusted house helps to whom we entrust the care of our children.  In the words of Senator Chris Anyanwu, who sponsored the Sexual Offences Bill: “The children and young people of this country, both male and female, today face a growing danger as they were being routinely targeted by sexual predators and paedophiles that take advantage of their vulnerability and innocence, etching on their psyche, scars that last a lifetime”. .

According to CLEEN Foundation’s 2012 National Crime and Safety Survey, 37 per cent of the rape victims surveyed said it had occurred in their own homes; 34 per cent said it was around their homes; while 26 per cent said it happened in school or the workplace. Only three per cent of victims stated that it had occurred elsewhere.

The effects of rape are no less harrowing. The victims often go into trauma, depression and become suicidal. They risk Sexually Transmitted Diseases including HIV/AIDs. At times, unwanted pregnancy becomes the testimony of the illicit act. In the process of procuring abortion, which in itself is illegal in Nigeria, victims may lose their lives. Rape therefore oftentimes makes their victims maladjusted, paranoid and sceptical of even genuine love.

It is perhaps with a view to taming this monster that the House of Representatives on March 5, 2013 passed a bill for an Act to eliminate all forms of violence against persons. The bill prescribes life imprisonment for rape, a minimum of 20 years for anyone involved or is an accomplice in gang rape, and seeks compensation for victims of rape. The bill also treats the issues of domestic violence such as acid attack, political violence, harmful traditional practices such as female circumcision, and protection of widows. I hope it is the Senate version that is tagged the Sexual Offences Bill which on Wednesday, November 20 passed the second reading.

The proposed legislation, in my own opinion, is quite in order and timely too but is highly inadequate to effectively deal with the demon of rape.   First is our penchant to observe laws in breach. Many have rightly observed that the problem with Nigeria is not that of laws but enforcement or implementation. Thus, I am in complete agreement with the editorial of The PUNCH of November 5 which stated, inter alia, that, “To stem the tide, women affairs and social welfare departments at the federal, state and local government levels have to start enlightenment campaigns to alert parents and their children to this crime and how to avoid being violated. Parents also have to spend more time with their children, be closer to them and teach them about sex education early in life”.

As far as I am concerned, the expeditious way to send the right warning signal to perpetrators of rape is to simply castrate them, once they are found guilty. Let us make them eunuchs so that their manhood will forever be sentenced to life imprisonment.