Rape of minors: Cry of the innocent

The spate of rape, especially of infants and children, is a disturbing development that should be of concern to every individual in society and should be stopped, ELEOJO IDACHABA writes in this report.

Rape used to be a topic hardly discussed in the Nigerian society as  at  it rarely happened. It is not only illegal but also abhorred by all form religion. It also goes against all known traditional principle. However, there appears to be a rise in cases of rape. More disheartening is the rise in incidents of rape of minors, including infants and children. This change has continued abated for some inexplicable reasons. On a daily basis, there are reported cases of rape and it is fast becoming one of the most reported crimes.

This new dimension to rape has seen children at young age of six-month-old as  victim to this fast growing number of predators.

Investigations indicate that more often than not, rape victims are attacked by people known to them like foster parents, domestic staff, family friends as well as distance relatives. There have also been cases of parents molesting the biological children.

Reported cases

Researches indicate that a reasonable number of rape cases, especially when it involves family members of the victim, are not reported. However, some incidents of reported rape of minors have attracted public condemnation with individuals, government and non-governmental organisations championing justice for victims. A case in point is that of 13-year-old Ochanya Ogbaje, a student of the Federal Government Girls Secondary School, Gboko, who was serially raped by her guardian, Andrew Ogbuja, and his son, Victor Ogbuja, a student of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi, now Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University of Agriculture.

Ochanya’, whose travail reportedly started 2012 when she was seven years old, was said to have lived with the man married to her aunt in a bid to get better education. However, her quest for better education saw her suffer severe sexual abuse in the hands of Victor alongside his father, a university lecturer. Though the case was eventually reported to the authorities, Ochanya never got the justice she deserved. She died last years as a result of medical complications from the attacks.

Similarly, on June 27, 2019, a 14-year-old girl, Miss Erdoo Ayorave, a junior secondary school student in Benue state, was raped, impregnated and forced to have an abortion with unknown herbs by her aunt’s husband simply identified as Peter, a security guard at a secondary school in Gboko. Blueprint Weekend gathered that Erdoo lived with her aunt who is married to Peter, who was said to have threatened her not to say a word to anyone about the sexual escapades until he finally impregnated her, thereafter, he started administering different types of herbs on her in order to abort the child, a situation that resulted in serious complications.

In the same vein, on August 7 2019, also in Benue state, a 36-year-old man identified as Aondover Kwaghnyion, who resides at Dzeremo Gbar Street in Gboko, was arrested for allegedly raping his 11-year-old house help.

The suspect was arrested in Gboko, after the victim’s mother, who is a widow, reported the case to the police.

Barely a week after the Gboko incident, another 60-year-old man, Clement Ogeyi, was also arrested by vigilante group at Otukpo, also in Benue state, for allegedly raping a five-year- old girl. Blueprint Weekend learnt that Ogeyi, who is married with children, was in the habit of raping children.

The case of a 10-year-old child Masenegen, who was raped and forced into motherhood after passing through a tortuous situation, is yet another example of how minors suffer in the hands of mindless adult who rape and rob them of their innocence.

Masenengen, whose father was said to have been murdered during the herdsmen crisis in the state, was displaced and had to move to an internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in Makurdi, with her mother, who was forced to quickly remarry in a bid to alleviate their suffering in the camp.

Her mother’s new marriage, however, turned out to be the beginning of Masenengen’s journey into early motherhood. The 10-year-old was said to have moved in with the grandmother, who could not take proper care of her, because the mother could not accommodate her in the new husband’s house.

It was in the process of fending for herself that Masenengen met a young man, Terna Taga, offered to assist her but ended up raping and getting her pregnant.

Disgusting dimension of rape

Writing on this, Clem Oluwole, a columnist with Blueprint Weekend said, “Perhaps, the next most important phenomenon stalking the land after kidnapping and armed banditry is rape. No day has passed by without one or two cases of rape being reported in the media. The scenario has now taken a disgusting dimension: fathers are not only forcing themselves on their daughters, but also getting them pregnant.”

Writing further, he said, “No one in skirt is safe any longer. Minors have also keyed into the detestable pastime. Just recently, an Ikeja Magistrate Court ordered that a 14-year-old boy be remanded in a correctional home pending legal advice for allegedly violating a neighbour’s nine-year-old daughter.”

According to the Public Relations Officer of Child Protection Network, a non-governmental organisation on child right based in Ilorin, Kwara state, Ms Angela Okoye, the reported cases of sexual assault on minors are certainly on the increase.

“Any form of sexual assault was in the past viewed as a thing of shame, and victims were always advised to stay quiet to avoid any form of stigma by the society. This could be responsible for few reported cases in the past. Whichever way we view it, the reality of sexual assault of minors is almost becoming an epidemic and urgent steps need to be taken.”

She said the cause of its prevalence has not been ascertained as it is seen as a forbidden thing in society. “The reason for sexually assaulting a minor can never be comprehended as only a perverted mind would do such to a child. In the past, the excuse given by rapists was that ladies dress indecently, but do minors also dress indecently? There can never be a justification for any form of rape. Even when the victim is not a minor, rape cannot be justified not even if the victim was walking around naked.

“It is therefore inexplicable that any sane person would attempt to sexually assault or take advantage of a minor. This just proves that the mindset behind rape has no correlation to dressing but is just a function of a depraved mind. Although some people have insinuated that some of these cases may have links to rituals, this cannot be categorically ascertained,” she said.

Likely solutions

Way forward

On the way out of the deplorable situation, Oluwole said, “In Nigeria, there are many penalties stipulated for rape in the extant laws. They include various terms of imprisonment. Some people have canvassed for castration of those found guilty of sheathing their weapons in wrong places. The government of Ukraine, for instance has gladdened my heart with a new law that would render convicted rapists of minors impotent.

“According to the provision of the law, convicted paedophiles and rapists would be forcibly castrated by chemical injection. This involves the forced injection of anti-androgen drugs consisting of chemicals that should kill off libido and sexual activities.

“The new law would apply to all child rapes, including ‘unnatural’ rape and sexual abuse of children above and below the age of puberty,” he noted.

Speaking in similar vein the PRO Child Protection Network, said, “The Child Rights Act that was adopted by Nigeria in 2003 to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child should come into full force in the country. Section 31 and 32 is explicit about unlawful sexual intercourse with a child, etc and forms of sexual abuse and exploitation with punishments of life and 14-years imprisonment respectively for the crimes on conviction. That should come into being.”

She said her organisation was, however, working closely with schools to create awareness and educate children on the need to report any forms of abuse.

“We also educate parents through community sensitisations and media engagements on how to look out for red flags. Most cases of sexual abuse of minors are by people who are trusted family members or neighbours.

“It should therefore be the responsibility of parents to watch who they trust with their children. It is however disheartening that there have been several reported cases of biological fathers abusing their own girl child,” she said.

According to her, although some of the cases her organisation has handled over time have gone to court, unfortunately several parents withdrew the cases because of fear of stigmatization or because of the close relationship of the perpetrator to the victim which is a very worrisome situation.

On her part, the chairman Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Benue state chapter, Mrs Magdalene Dura, has said that the association was creating public enlightenment about the ills of rape and the damage it causes to the female gender.

According to her, “Any woman raped is destroyed unless you take a lot of time to counsel and do psychological healing. As female lawyers, we are ready to offer free legal services to victims of rape in Benue state.

“This is not limited to rape and sexual violence but vulnerable women, children and less privileged who suffer other domestic violence. We will counsel and take back to school those who dropped out as a result of rape.”

Also, an activist Msurshima Nevkaa, while speaking with Blueprint Weekend on the spate of rape of minors, lamented the increase in sexual violence against children, stating, “I wonder what the he-goats see in the children that warrant this kind of devilish act. I work in an NGO and the study we have recently carried out shows that sexual assault is becoming common with increasing prevalence and change in pattern.

“We have discovered that young persons aged less than 20 years constitute the majority of victims and assailants are mostly persons known to them. Most of these are usually afraid to open up because they are often threatened not to say a word to anyone. Some keep mute for fear of being stigmatised.

“There is need for the government, churches and the media to intensify public education on the evils of sexual violence.

“Parents particularly female guardians should watch their female children or wards closely to understand what is happening to them. They should also train them on how to avoid situations that will place them at the mercy of the molesters,” she added.

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