By John Okeke
A Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Ondo State, Mrs Adebukola Foluke Osunyikanmi, has called for a strong legislation against rape.
Speaking with journalists, she observed that the rape of women in Nigeria has lately risen to a worrisome level.
She said “No sane person can remain indifferent to the menace. Rape cases are on the increase because of loss of moral values and absence of appropriate sanctions. A morally upright man will never rape any female. There can never be an acceptable justification for this heinous crime.”
“In my opinion, there is need for a strong legislation against rape. Any man that violates a girl or a woman must be properly prosecuted in court. Unassailable evidence must be presented to the trial judge so that they can convict the criminal. The penalty for rape must be severe: life imprisonment, confiscation of property and compensation for the victim. There must be no option of fine,” Professor Osunyikanm said.
She asserts that rape enablers and apologists must equally be sanctioned through appropriate legal process. According to her, this will curb stigmatization. But Yakubu Sabo, the public relations officer for the police in Kaduna state, said many rape cases involving children are never investigated because parents want to protect their children from being stigmatized.
“Some families kill the evidence,” he said, maintaining the belief that rape victims will not be able to find a suitor for marriage.
However, Professor Osunyikanm insists that legislation must be codified to ensure that a case of rape is not statute barred arguing that the victim should be able to take legal action irrespective of the years that have passed after the crime was committed. “This is the practice in Britain and the United States,” she said.
To further encourage victims to report the criminal, Professor Osunyikanm suggested that the Gender Unit of Nigeria Police Force must be very thorough in the investigation of rape cases. Alternative dispute resolution must not be applied to rape cases.
“Rape is a humiliating crime and redress must be obtained through the law court. Parents of minors who are rape victims must realise that the defendants have no right to appeal to their emotions. Monetary or material compensation cannot fully restore the victim’s honour unless the culprit is punished appropriately,” she said.
“Moral values that dwell on rape and its social, psychological and legal implications must be incorporated into the academic curriculum of primary and secondary schools. Parents and guardians must not neglect the responsibilities of raising their children well. Early socialisation at home must henceforth be geared towards gender equality and mutual respect for both sexes. Boys must not be given the impression of having unrestricted power over girls.’
“The voice of the female gender must not be repressed. Cultural practices that stereotype girls as objects that are to serve in order to be accepted by husbands and in-laws must be discontinued,” she said.
Professor Osunyikanm added that lately victims are gradually becoming bold and fearless in demanding justice which she attributes to the “Me too” campaign in the United States. She said this remains a landmark achievement for all women across the globe as it was a major blow against the culture of silence and stigmatization.