…Declare zero tolerance on all forms of sexual assault
Worried by the increasing cases of rape in the society, Mirabel Sexual Assault Referral Centre and other agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, Lagos State, have declared zero tolerance on every sexual assault. They also reiterated the need for victims of rape to speak out, rather than dying silently.
During a one-day community outreach, a special interactive programme, organised by the centre on pelnultimate Friday, at Ikeja, Lagos, Mirabel’s Managing partner, Mrs. Itoro Eze-Anaba, told journalists that the community needed to be involved in the campaign to prevent the crime from overwhelming the society.
While condemning the high level of distortion and interference by influential members of the community, who often prevent perpetrators of the crime from being persecuted, she said involving the community in the fight became a necessary tool to curb the menace.
She said it was the responsibility of everyone to speak against sexual violence, which has fast eaten deep into the fabric of the country’s existence. She described the call as a clarion one, tasking participants to take the message back to their various community so that the awareness can be spread wider.
The passionate crusader however, called on the authorities to paste inscriptions against rape and other sexual harassment in strategic places throughout the country, saying that it was necessary, especially to serve as both warning and reminder of the gravity of the crime.
Eze-Anaba urged every stakeholders to give the necessary support to survivors of rape there, arguing that the victims should never be blamed for the offence. There is no excuse or justification for rape, she reminded. Giving the statistics after two years of existence, she said the centre has seen 865 victims so far, including 20 males.
According to her, over 80 per cent of the victims are minors, below the age of 18.
Her words: “Every woman or child that has been raped carry the incident and trauma all through her lifetime. And there are also health implications on the victim. We will ensure that our community is free from rape and this can be achieved when we all stand to say no the crime.”
Also at the event, Director of Public Prosecutions, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Elizabeth Idowu Alakija commended Mirabel centre, pointing out that the event was apt, paving the way on how justice can be better served to victims of sexual assault and rape.
She recalled that before the campaign against sexual offences was intensified by NGOs and their subsequent partnership with the state government, the offences were settled in-house within the communities and many of the victims were not encouraged to report but to suffer in silence.
She tasked parents to encourage their children to speak up if they are molested, assuring that her own duty was to ensure that every offender is prosecuted and punished if necessary. She said her office receives at least, 10 cases from sexual violence in a day.
Alakija also called on primary and secondary schools to be more proactive in ensuring that the students are safe in their care.
“You will agree with me that there is dire need for increased collaboration among the various stakeholders, to ensure full implementation and enforcement of the law on sexual violence and offences. A law that is not enforced is nothing but a lion in gilded cage, which can only roar but cannot attack. We must not relent in our effort of creating awareness in the communities and encourage victims to remain bold even after reporting to the police until judgment is delivered.
“As stakeholders in this project, we cannot afford to be spectators in our own country. The time has now come for us to prevent the perpetrators from manipulating the system and getting away with this menace. We must work together to ensure they are prosecuted and tried within reasonable time,” she stated.
An ambassador of the centre, Koffi Idowu-Nuel lamented that there were many factors working against the fight. According to him, it is unfortunate that victims often end up being blamed for the violation.
However, he described some of the factors that predisposes children to rape as triggers. He decried the uncontrolled high level of the use of alcohol among the youth, uncensored internet messages, magazines content, technology, indecent dressing, vulgar languages used by most musicians.
He urged parents to closely monitor their children in everything they do, including their conversations on the internet. He called for capital punishment for perpetrators, which he said would serve as deterrent to others, challenging Nigerian authorities to emulate that of England and other developed countries where women’s rights are jealously guarded.
The sponsor of the project, Partnership for Justice, Justice for All and others commended Mirabel centre, saying they were proud to have partnered with it because they were doing a remarkable job. They added that there were so many other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the country, but immediately they get money from their sponsor, it becomes difficult or impossible to monitor their activities.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 17, 2015.