Why Ita Giwa’s ‘extreme’ suggestion for punishing rapists in Nigeria is a reflection of our collective pain

If Senator Florence Ita-Giwa were a judge, [child] rapists in Nigeria would be made to part with their genitals as punishment for their maleficence in order to totally eliminate the chances of them repeating the violent act, as opposed to simply serving a jail term. The former Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters made the comment at the fund raising exhibition for the Mirabel Centre, a sexual assault referral centre, held in Lagos where she was the special guest.

In Ita-Giwa’s words, cutting off the convict’s organ is the proper way to end the evil of rape in the society. And even though she no longer serves in the senate, she will seek ways to effect her suggestion in the country’s judicial system. Ita-Giwa’s statement came as a reaction to the accounts of two rape survivors attending the event.

On the surface, Ita-Giwa’s comment might appear irrational or extreme or both given the fact that society functions with laws and rights. But it certainly encapsulates the feelings of anger, pain, frustration, and resign that most people have to live with regarding the issue of rape in Nigeria. And behind her ‘bizarre’ call for castration lies a cry of pain that Nigerians should identify with.

A four-year-old nursery school student in Nasarawa State recently went through an excruciating experience at the hands – or organ – of her school proprietor. The little girl was raped several times with threats to beat her up if she reported the incidence to her parents. A difficulty in urinating and walking drew the girl’s mother’s attention to the horrendous crime. The family has been living in fear ever since they reported the crime.

Last week Friday, a nine-year-old girl got raped by two teenagers following promises to get assistance for her homework. As at April 14, a general hospital in Katsina State treated 13 rape victims within the space if four months. All the patients were below the age of 13, and some of them had to undergo surgery. With such incidences and more transpiring on a regular basis in Nigeria, it becomes a bit challenging to refrain from making statements such as those expressed by Senator Ita-Giwa and actually meaning them.

According to the rape laws in countries such as India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, and China, the act is a highly intolerable crime and rapists receiving capital punishment. This can range from castration to being shot in the genitals or head, decapitation, or being hanged till death. In other countries not associated with extremism such as France and the United States, rape carries a maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment.

Generally, rape laws in a lot of countries are strictly clarified and efficient in terms of implementation. The same cannot be said of Nigeria. Between 1960 and 2015, only 18 individuals have successfully been convicted of rape in Nigeria, and human rights lawyer, Evans Ufeli holds the government responsible. At the fifth instalment of “The Conversation”, a public event that centres on child abuses, which held last year, it was opined by him and other child rights activists that the inability of the government to do the needful in terms of addressing child rape in Nigeria has negatively impacted the issue.

Rape victims and potential rape victims are not safe anywhere. The dastardly act could occur even in the most intimate of conditions or atmosphere. Last year in June, the Nigerian Senate passed the Sexual Offences Bill which carries a life imprisonment sentence for rapists. Unfortunately, the bill is yet to record any significant effect on rape cases, as the crime remains on the increase, even given added efforts by the Lagos State Government which deemed it a criminal act to not report rape cases, and made it punishable by up to two years in jail.

When a judicial system cannot be relied on, it’s only natural that the collective anguish of people over a certain issue would move them to call for extreme measures in the place of justice. Following a survey carried out on child rape in Nigeria by NOI Polls in 2014, 30 percent of Nigerians want the government to “enforce severe punishment” to help eradicate rape in the country.

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