Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Voice For The Girl-Child

By Sandra Eguagie
Hardly a day goes by without a report from the print, electronic and social media on sexual assault against children. And so our hearts bleed. Most of us experience goose bumps and tears well up in our eyes. All of the time, I try to imagine the trauma forced sex will leave on the psyche of a child. Toddlers and infants, especially female children are being violated and it seems as if it is only fetuses that are safe from this spectre of wickedness probably because they are unreachable. Recent reports as well indicate that human beings are raping animals into the bargain!

In 2013, the Central Hospital, Benin, in Edo State, recorded more than 80 cases of rape between March and mid-October. In 2014, 51 minors were sexually abused in Enugu State between April and August while a serial rapist was arrested in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, for allegedly raping four children of different parents at Ndibe in Afikpo North Local Government Area. This year 2016, a primary school teacher in Katsina State, Hamisu Galadima was arraigned before a Senior Magistrate’s Court for allegedly raping seven girls in Faskari Local government area.  These girls were not even yet nine. In Akedei community in Sagbama local government area of Bayelsa State, a 5-year old girl was raped to death, while an HIV-Positive man, Monday Imande, was arrested for raping a 6-year-old girl in Asaba.
In Lagos State, a 47-year-old man, Emmanuel Magbatie allegedly defiled an 18-months-old baby daughter of his neighbour in Owutu axis of Ikorodu. There was also a case of a 30-year old man identified as Prince Ovivare allegedly defiled his neighbour’s four-year-old son while one company driver, Ike Iwuanyanwu was arrested for allegedly raping and impregnating his 15-year-old daughter. The list is endless and it has become a cause of concern especially with the daily report of defilement of children accompanied with slow rate of justice.
What in the world could be responsible for this outrageous crime? Could it be wickedness, rituals, uncontrolled sex drive, the belief that one can be cured from HIV/AIDs usually prescribe by traditional healers in Africa or are pedophilias just surfacing and increasing by the day? These atrocities being committed against children results to physical injury, fear, depression, nightmares, bedwetting, HIV and other STIs infection, post traumatic stress disorder, inappropriate sexual knowledge and interest, damage of internal organs and in severe cases death. Coupled with the social stigma of child sexual abuse may compound the psychological harm to children.

At least 700 cases of rape, sexual assaults, defilement are currently pending across courts in Lagos State.  Research shows that as much as 80% of domestic violence victims were abused in their infancy. This could be the reason while a human rights lawyer, Mr. Evans Ufeli, at the 5th edition of a quarterly public dialogue that focuses on child abuses and parenting in Lagos, ‘The Conversation’, on November 8, 2015, said Nigeria has recorded only 18 rape convictions in its legal history. Though the number of convictions has increased, the difference is still very small compared to the rate of child defilement.
Pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder in which adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Although Pedophile is commonly applied indiscriminately to anyone who sexually abuses a child, but child sexual offenders are not just pedophiles unless they have a strong sexual interest in prepubescent children.
It is high time we take proactive action against child sexual predators’ in our society. Please let’s do something to save our children and stop this madness. Protection of children from abuse is a worthwhile investment and government needs to put stiff punishment in place for offenders and remove the delays in getting justice so as to deter perpetrators and eliminate all forms of excuses by sexual culprit.
Mothers must invest more in the cultural and family values that promote chastity of both female and male children. Mothers are the dominant agents and custodians of change and can culturally effect this change.  Just like what the poem of Williams Ross Wallace says: the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.
Government needs to invest more in research to enable scientists especially Psychiatrists research on how this “sexual madness” can be stop. As it is now, pedophilias are more on the list of mental disorder and the havoc they wreak is felt by the highest vulnerable group of persons in the society and indeed by all. Let government focus on detecting early signs and symptoms of pedophilias right from childhood and see how it can be corrected on time before it makes a monster of the sufferer. 
Preventive approach is what we need now; we should know that these pedophilias were once children before they grew to be adolescents and adults.  While they enjoyed being children they are now depriving others that privilege. And as we continue to look for solutions to this psychiatric disorder, their punishment should not be undermined nor delayed, for the safety of the children and to restore total sanity to the society. Rapists are criminals irrespective of any psychiatric disorder or any other reasons and liable for their crime.  Let the Ministry of Education modify the sex education curriculum and go back to the era where inspectors are sent to monitor both public and private schools. Also, rehabilitation centers should be created in all LGAs of the country to cater for those already defiled. Again I say let save our children.  It is our responsibility.
Sandra Eguagie, a gender officer, coordinates RapeWatch programme with ANEEJ Benin City.


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