Curbing The Menace Of Sexual Abuse Of Children By Aisha Oyetunji

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Although, there are not yet known official National statistics on how many children have been raped, almost daily reports from the media on cases of this nature should keep us on our toes and keep us aware that we have an epidemic on our hands. It is no longer news that the pastime of some randy men is now the molestation of children albeit having unlawful carnal knowledge of them and at times, raping some of these children to death! This crime has found its way to becoming one of the high profile misdemeanor in our today’s society and even to the blind and deaf, the recent escalating issue which involves at times, children as young as three months has become quite disturbing.

Without necessarily going into details of what and what many regard as the causes of the increase in this evil act, it should be stated that some people might have readymade reasons why some adults rape children; from medical to socio-cultural but we should stop lying to ourselves, there is actually no reason anyone should be so animalistic, no justification at all! There should be no justification for these people. Pedophiles are just psychopaths; they suffer diseases of the mind.

It is sad enough that this crime is on the increase by the day, but it is worse that an end to it does not seem to be in view as no one seems to be doing anything serious about the embarrassing situation. The best we get are mere condemnations from people that matter and that is all. Moreso, there are many barriers that make getting justice for victims of these crimes difficult and a herculean task. These barriers range from legal where it is difficult to prove rape due to evidence to the inadequate laws on punishment of culprits for example; socio-cultural barriers where victims of such incidents and their families hardly make formal reports or let anyone know of the “calamity” that has befallen them for the fear of stigmatization or for the fear of some gods getting angry at the poor victim.

In view of the anomalous reality, it is necessary to ruminate on measures to get rid of this embarrassment or reduce it to the barest minimum in the shortest time possible. In tackling this issue, everyone is a stakeholder , we all have a part or two to play in this task and in the following paragraphs, some of the roles of each stakeholder if this evil must go away will be highlighted:

THE ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT

THE LEGISLATURE:

Where there is no law, there is no offence goes the common saying. The bulk of this work lies on the table of people that make laws to regulate our day to day dealings. The Nigerian Lawmakers have more to do than just talk of who should defect to another party or not. Any serious government should be bothered and be concerned with creating laws that will halt this foolishness. The truth remains that there are insufficient legislations on rape generally in our country. A special law purposely proscribing all forms of sexual abuse on minors and prescribing very stiff penalties for culprits as a deterrent measure should be put in place. As far back as 1974, the United States of America already made a special law: Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) 1974 in this regard. It is not impossible for our country. We understand there is the Nigerian Child’s Rights Act of 2003 which partially addresses the issue, but the truth is, it is not all of the States that have adopted it and besides, it is not exhaustive on sexual abuse.

THE EXECUTIVE:

If lawmakers make one million laws and they are non functional, the laws are as good as never made. Those laws are referred to as dead laws. The executive arm of government has a lot to do in this aspect too. Machineries for the easy implementation of the law should be put in place. In the United States, Canada and Australia, there are people who are referred to as “mandated reporters”. This people are put in place to have contact with vulnerable people such as children. They are required to report any form of abuse on the vulnerable people. This system too can work in Nigeria. 

Who says the executive arm of government cannot aid in law making too? The executive should also sponsor Bills that will turn to laws all in a bid to curb this menace. A Bill being an executive Bill has a greater chance of it being passed into law.

Also, through the various Ministries of Women Affairs and other parastatals dealing in women issues in connection with willing Non-Governmental Organisations  , mass sensitization on the harms of sexual abuse, how it can be prevented and what should be done when it occurs should be done for members of the public.

THE JUDICIARY:

“I am of the view that when a child is violated, judgement must be handed down and a strong message sent out to the society…..”. These were the words of Martin Anthony, United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Chief Welfare Officer speaking on a 2009 UNICEF’s report on increase in sexual abuse in Dominica and five other Caribbean countries. The problem with most rape cases is that they are inconclusive in the courts. They take too much time and evidence to prove and the technicalities are just too many. The courts should develop less rigid approach to rape cases particularly where it involves minors. Judgement should also be timeously delivered, handing down maximum punishment to offenders so that victims do not lose hope in the judiciary and so that a message can be sent quickly to the public, because justice delayed is as good as denied.

THE ROLE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES: 

The police and other law enforcement agencies will come in handy here too. Since the criminal justice system starts with the police, policemen should respond to sexual offences more seriously, and be more sensitive in such matters. Investigations should be done and concluded within time and the case prosecuted for necessary judicial action. However, it must be commended, the recent effort of the Nigerian Police in creating units for the prevention of women and children from abuse is commendable, but more still has to be done.

THE ROLE OF PARENTS/GUARDIANS/SCHOOL TEACHERS:

It is better to prevent a happening than seek a cure for it. People in this category are primarily the custodians of the children. They should help prevent the child from sexual abuse. It is usually said that the key things in prevention of sexual abuse of children are ACCESS and OPPORTUNITY.  Abuse can only happen when the predator has access to the child. Children should be protected so well from abuse. No one, no matter how innocent they look should be trusted. Shakespeare said “You cannot read the mind’s construction on the face”. From reports, most of the sexually abused children were abused either by uncles, neighbours, teachers e.t.c.

Children should also be well enlightened on the risks of abuse of their body and what they can do by themselves to prevent it happening. In addition, parents should believe their children when they are bold enough to report these cases to them and help them get justice. They should not be intimidated or give in to the blackmail of “the child will live with the stigma forever”. There is no stigma when justice is done. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey were abused as children and they say it gallantly now. Nothing is taken away from them.

THE ROLE OF THE REST OF US 

Sexual abuse of minors should be a cause for concern to us all, whether we are related to the victims or not. We should all be actively involved in its condemnation and prevention. When we condemn sexual perversion in strong terms, the perpetrators become uncomfortable and keep off. We should stop making excuses for them and then, give them moral support. Another way we can help is as neighbours, we sh ould quickly report any “funny” happening noticed and encourage anyone we know has suffered such abuse to seek redress. Lastly, we should be our brothers’ keepers. Every child we have the capability of protecting from abuse should be done so for to the best of our abilities.

In conclusion, it should be emphasised that this occurrence of child rape should be addressed as soon as possible because failure to do so will make the crime be on the increase and give a signal to the World that we are complicit in its commission and in approval of it. A latin phrase says “Qui tacet consentit”. This means simply that “Silence implies consent”. 

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