There is hardly any day that passes by without getting unpleasant news of child defilement, especially against the girl-child. This topic took a centre stage on Radio Law Clinic, a weekly programme on the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State radio station, FUNAAB Radio 89.5FM, where listeners are given basic knowledge of the law to become better citizens. The co-producer and presenter of the programme, Mrs. Omobolanle Sanyaolu in the introductory remarks, had observed that children are supposed to be a joy to their families and future leaders of the nation, but many of these children remain victims of different forms of abuse, violence, and exploitation and subject of ridicule.
The discussants, who were drawn from diverse fields of human endeavours, reviewed the nature, causes, and solutions to child defilement. A legal practitioner, Clement Obasanya defines defilement with reference to Section 218 of the Criminal Code Act, as the unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 while the offender that engages in the act is guilty of a felony and liable to life imprisonment. For another lawyer, Oluwadamilola Fatoye, any child that had been abused sexually, physically, or emotionally, would always have negative reactions or counter-reactions in society. She added that defilement is traumatic and often associated with psycho-social problems in children.
Obasanya speaks further by identifying the causes of defilement to include carelessness of parents, improper dressing, drug abuse, absence of sex education, lack of cordial relationship between parents and children, inability to exercise self-control, and promiscuous lifestyles by parents. At times, offenders are found to engage in the dastardly behaviour for ritual purposes because they have gotten themselves involved in what they should not get themselves involved in”, he added. Another legal practitioner, Charles Ali observed that there are certain provisions in the laws that are both adequate and inadequate and that one of the limiting factors associated with the criminal and penal codes is that they cover rape in general and not defilement per se.
The counsel mentioned the issue of limitation of time at bringing up criminal allegations and charge against suspected persons in the court. The criminal code makes provision for only two months as its limitation period. Before a complaint is made, an arrest is carried out, before an investigation is conducted, and a case filed in court, the two months must have elapsed. On the other hand, the Lagos State Criminal Law had singled out child defilement and goes further to make provisions as to tackle the statute barred barrier, Ali stated. He reiterated that the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 makes provisions for the protection of a child when it comes to criminal sexual assault and defilement, but that the act had not been domesticated by a number of states in Nigeria, although many stakeholders are still calling on other states to speedily follow suit and ensure its implementation.
On her part, a school administrator, Mrs. Funke Akintaro enjoined the family to protect their children against abuse, being the first agent of socialisation. Some Christian clerics gave their interventions from the biblical perspective. For Bishop Oluwatoyin Ige, Senior Pastor, Covenant Lifeway Church, the voice of men is the voice of God and what the law does is to establish God’s consent about a community, a nation, and a people. For instance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Nigerian laws look at child defilement as something bad, which makes the culprits liable to life imprisonment, saying sexual abuse or molestation are frowned upon in the scriptures.
Pastor Gbade Akintaro, Presiding Pastor, Peculiar Peoples’ Palace Int’l Ministries, noted that child defilement remains a violation of the fundamental rights against its victims and that child defilement is seen as harlotry practice. Rev. Peace Toluwade, Lead Pastor, City Harvest Church describes children as a heritage from one generation to another and arrow in the hands of a mighty man. He revealed that any sexual contact between a man and woman that are not married amounts to immorality and when a child is involved, it is sometimes called ‘statutory rape’ and becomes more severe attracts great punishment from God. On his part, an Islamic cleric and teacher, Ustaz Abdulrasheed Opeloyeru informed that the punishment for defilement, according to the Holy Quran, is severe as permitted under Islamic injunctions.
In the final analysis, what it takes to curb child defilement is a combination of strategies and efforts by everyone in society. In specific terms, people must desist from engaging in devilish acts such as going into rituals, parents should be closer and be more sensitive to their children’s needs, parents should teach their children sex education and scrutinise what their children watch in the media and on the Internet to be free from pornography and dangerous things, and available laws and legislation should be strengthened. States across the country should domesticate the Child’s Rights Act and make its implementation easy while the bottlenecks militating against the smooth prosecution of similar cases in law courts should be removed to successfully fight child defilement in Nigeria.