These Nigerian lawyers are right. We need more rape crisis centers
Last September, Wana Udobang wrote an article for Al Jazeera which shed light on the Mirabel Rape Crisis Center in Lagos. Many were stunned it was the only rape crisis center in Lagos, which spurred the #SaveMirabel hashtag on social media to raise money to upgrade facilities in the center.
Barely four months later, Premium Times reports, that a number of female lawyers are now advocating for the establishment of more rape crisis centers in the country, to cater to victims who are, most times, forced into silence due to the stigma associated with rape. In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria, Abuja-based lawyers, Chinelo Oputa and Oluwaseye Odediran spoke about the state of rape culture in Nigeria and mentioned that more rape centers in the country will help in tackling the stigma and silence surrounding the act as well as giving the victims a place of comfort.
The culture of rape in Nigeria is in dire need of a redress as victims seem to be subjected to blame and ridicule or worse, accused of being vindictive when they speak out. After the demise of former Kogi state governor, Audu Abubakar, a Nigerian blogger, Sugabelly, attempted to expose his late sons for what, she said, was a gross violation of her body, mind and self-esteem and was mocked by a few critics on social media.
I will never under any circumstance stand with #sugabelly. She is just one opportunistic woman who needs attention and money. Finish and Kla
— Olalekan Samuel (@OSOgunleye) November 29, 2015
While noting that rape centers would help victims cope with emotional trauma, Ms. Oputa added many rape suspects are often let off the hook due to little or no investigation, providing them with the license to continue engaging in the act, knowing they will face no consequences. She said these centers will help provide victims with adequate counseling and Nigerian laws need to do more to punish rapists.
Ms. Odediran said rape crisis centers were an important part of the recovery process for victims as they can end up detesting marriage and becoming involved in homosexual relationships if not adequately counseled. She went further to call on government to partner with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in order to set up rape crisis centers around the country.
In June 2015, the Sexual Offences Bill, sponsored by Senator Chris Anyanwu, was passed into law condemning sexual offenders to life imprisonment for gang rape, 10 years for incest, another 10 years imprisonment for child pornography and a fine of N2 million as well as a 14 year jail term for sexual offences. The law will provide witness protection programme to protect victims and witnesses in trial for sexual offences. According to the Vanguard Nigeria, the law also provides for compulsory documentation, supervision of sexual offenders and medical treatment for victims.
However, the following graphs from NOI Polls provide some insight into the cause and effect nature of rape in Nigeria and the mindset Nigerians have towards rape.
Although rape victims can belong to any age group, in Nigeria, it seems more victims go through the unfortunate experience before they hit the 18-year old mark.
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