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Draft of Month 2 assignment: A journey within the tunnel, Getting justice for sexual violence victims in Nigeria


In a country that gained independence about 49 years ago, with about half of those years

in democratic governance, the expectation is that such a country would have taken

developmental strides in all directions. Yes! Nigeria is relatively doing well and

developing in many areas: in industrialization, science and technology, entrepreneurship,

banking and finance, and other areas. Even in the educational and agricultural sectors,

though still below expectation, it can be said that the country has recorded some

achievements. When put on a performance scale on issues of security and getting justice

for its people, my beloved country has not only performed below expectations, but is also

failing its people seriously.

I could remember with nostalgia, those days when we were in primary schools. At

every anniversary of Nigerian independent day, we (school children) received gifts, we

would gather in each local council headquarter to wine and dine and give great ovation to

our dear country. Great was our hope, expectations and aspiration for the nation then. In

those days girls and women could go out at any time of the day, visit their neighbours and

friends and even spent the night with them without fear of being molested or abused. As

a mother you could leave your girl child with your neighbours and travel out of town

without fear of the girl being abused. The situation was not too different as we

progressed to higher institutions of learning. The youths then enjoyed lots of goodies

until mid-1980s when Nigerians experienced a downturn all of a sudden. The experience

then was like sleeping in the White House to suddenly wake up in a ghetto.

Since then, the situation has not been the same in the nation. During that period, the

middle class was completely wiped out of the economic strata. A person either belongs to

the upper class or is down there on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. The rate of

poverty became so high and people became so frustrated that this formed the major

reason why violence became the order of the day, including sexual violence. It is a truism

that people would want to vent their anger and feelings of economic impotency on

somebody or on something.

At the inception of the current democratic experiment and chief Olusegun Obasanjo

became the executive president, normalcy started setting in into Nigerian society, but

sexual violence still abounds. The reasons for this are not far fetched. The first is that the

level of poverty is still high and the second reason is that rapists are not often brought to

book despite the fact that cases of sexual violence against women are reported almost

everyday. The stories continues of young innocent girls and women being molested,

violated, harassed by men, who like animals, could not control their beastly urges

just because they think there is no law to make them pay for their evil deeds.

As a guidance counselor, then in a secondary school before I moved to the university,

Lanke, not her real name, girl of thirteen years of age walked up to me one day and

declared her intention to end her life because she was fed up with life. She

confessed that she approached me because I was always nice and accessible to the

students. On further enquiry concerning the bad thought she had, she told me of a cousin

living with them, who has been violating her sexually since she was eight years old. The

cousin threatened that she would die if she revealed the secret.

Omope was referred to me by her mother for counseling for her sexual promiscuity.

She was seventeen years old then. She revealed that she was introduced to sex at age ten

by one of her mother’s numerous men friend and could not stop having sex since then. I

discovered that a girl of thirteen was pregnant as we were admitting them newly to the

secondary school in 2005, the poor girl revealed that a neighbour pretended as if he

wanted to send her on errand forced her and have sex with her which resulted into the


When i joined the university; a girl visited a friend in the male hostel, the friend raped

her, daring her to shout and carry the stigma around throughout her stay on campus. What

will you say of a girl coming from class after reading, only to be accosted by some boys

on her to the hostel and was raped. Or the one that was coming from town to campus in

the night carried by a bike and was raped by the bike rider. I could go on and on with

several cases of rape I have handled personally not to talk of those reported by the media

almost everyday.

The coordinator of Women Against Rape, Sexual Harassment and Sexual

Exploitation (WARSHE) during interview shared the case of a girl who was gang raped but the accused

were discharged and acquitted for lack of enough evidence after some months in court.

The victim was so disappointed that she tearfully expressed her feeling that witchcraft

could possibly be her hope of getting justice against those boys. Also a man who pleaded

guilty to having raped two under-aged children in his neighborhood had the court

pronouncing that he committed the crime because he was mentally unbalanced. This was

far from the truth. It was just a judicial maneuver to get him off the hook. The judge

only referred him for a psychiatrist treatment.

These are the few ones I could share in this journal. There are countless number of

house helps out there that are used as alternative when the wife of the master of the house

is not around; the countless number of girl students being sexually abused by their

teachers and are coerced into keeping it a secret. We have to STOP women abusers in

this country so that we will not jeopardize the future of our nation, as we all know that

women is the heart of every nation.

Thank God for organizations like Women Against Rape, Sexual Harassment and

Sexual Exploitation (WARSHE). They sprang up to take up many cases of sexual

violence for many victims who are socially, culturally, and economically disadvantaged

and may not be able to afford taking up personal cases themselves even if they

desire to because of poverty and social status. Many would have their own families

shutting them up because of fear of stigma and reprisal. With the educational and

enlightenment campaigns embarked upon by these organizations, people are now

becoming emboldened to come out and declare cases of sexual abuse.

The most challenging aspects of the work of these organizations is the difficulties that

are usually encountered in securing justice for girls and women who have survived sexual

violence and abuse. At WARSHE, the coordinator cited instances of frustrating

encounters with persons in the administration of justice, medical doctors, police officers,

magistrates, and even judges.

To address this issue, a workshop was convened by WARSHE on the search for justice

with financial support of African Women Development Fund (AWDF). The participants

were drawn from various strata of the society, including medical practitioners, lawyers,

magistrates, prosecutors, police detectives, teachers, social workers, students, media

practitioners, NGOs, etc. The workshop was held in June 2004 and they came up with a

communiqué at the end of workshop. Also in a paper presented by Olasupo Ojo,

president of the Center for Rule of Law at another workshop organized by WARSHE in

2006 for Police Investigators and Prosecutors under Osun State command. He said “For

reasons that are undergoing continuous investigation, it is becoming more and more

difficult to secure conviction in cases of sexual violence especially Rape cases. Justice

with regards sexual offences under the criminal justice system in Nigeria is administered

by public institutions. Each public institution is administered by human beings with their

peculiar idiosyncrasies as determined by their background, social orientations and

cultural beliefs which ultimately influence the performance of their functions as public

officers either positively or negatively depending on individual circumstances.” He went

further to say that once there is a report of sexual violence, the normal thing is there must

be no delay , the investigation must commence immediately because of the peculiar

nature of the offence and evidence required to prove it. This can only be achieved when

the investigation is handled by policemen that are matured, humane and have overcome

societal stereotypes by virtue of formal or informal education. The sad thing is that we

have few of these categories of policemen in the system and that is why most cases of

sexual violence are lost even from the foundation.

It will help tremendously if the international community can have a way of impressing

it upon the government of Nigeria to start enforcing to the letter all existing laws and

legislations against sexual harassment. To sanitize the police and take active part in

sponsoring workshops such as organized by WARSHE in 2004 from time to time. This

could be targeted towards local government dwellers all over the nation. A bureau could

be established by government that will be backed by appropriate legislations to focus on

handling reported cases of sexual violence and getting justice for the victims.

Great hope will be engendered by the time attention of all are focused on the issue and

all is ready to do something positive about it. There is the need for a place where

women can gather to discuss and present a common front to agitate for their right from

government in order to confront the menace of sexual violence. Women Inspiration

Center (WIC) is pertinent here. In this center , there will be recreational facilities for

women, cybercafé for women, a place for continuing education for girls who dropped out

of school due to poverty or unwanted pregnancy, a place for those of them who don’t

want further their education but want learn a vocation, a place where an abused girl or

woman could run to for safety and a place where we will also have a magazine that will

be publishing issues as they affect women. By the time, the noise is so loud from

all sides, the government will have to stop playing the ostrich and pay attention towards

enforcing existing laws that make acts of sexual violence against women a criminal act.

Meanwhile, before the realization of the Women Inspiration Center, we need your

support all over the world to put a stop to the menaces of sexual violence by supporting


Poverty, Conflicts, Culture of impunity, Stigmatization and Women Silence, Religion as

opiate, Myth and Superstitions. All makes women vulnerable to sexual violence and

abuse in Nigeria. We will not fold our hands and allow this to continue. We know our

destiny lies in our hands and so a team of women, myself as the coordinator, have

decided to embark on aggressive campaign on Sexual Violence and Abuse. We will be

going from village to village, town to town and city to city to call on Government to a

take closer look at the issues of sexual violence, the police to live up to their

responsibility as regards sexual violence, the medical workers to be prompt, thorough and

non- judgmental in examining victims and give detail results after such examinations,

educating women on how to protect themselves , educating men on healthy sexual

relationship and parents to rise up to their responsibilities in taking care and protecting

their children form being abused. Meanwhile according to the saying of WARSHE :-

Make sure you are not raped!!!!!!!!!!

Make sure SHE is not raped!!!!!!!!!!

      • Africa
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