By Joy Ehonwa
How does a victim of rape get justice in Nigeria? This was the topic of discussion on this week’s episode of #NascoMoments on City 105.1 FM. To shed light on this sensitive yet serious issue, Joy Isi Bewaji invited a lawyer, Akintoba Kalejaiye, and as usual, there was a lot to learn.
Rape is the act of forcing sexual activity upon another person against their will, and it stands to reason that this terrible crime should be punished swiftly. So how and where do complications come in?
Help, I Have Just Been Raped!
Ideally, the first thing to do is to report to the police immediately. If you want forensic evidence to be preserved, DO NOT TAKE A BATH. Hair and semen samples are needed to establish a case of rape, and as much as you want to scrub off the filth, you’re advised not to. Secondly, go to a hospital and get yourself tested and vaccinated against infections. Thirdly, get a support system. If you can’t get a psychiatrist, then lean on family and friends who are not apathetic to your case.
Police is (Not) Your Friend
Now, the above steps actually only make sense in an ideal world. Here in Nigeria the victim who tries to carry out step number one finds to her dismay that the police are not really cooperative. We can’t entirely blame them; they have no knowledge of what to do. Whereas in developed countries a rape kit is available to help police nail the culprit, Nigerian police have no training on how to handle rape cases. Add to this the fact that there are no laws to make sure they do their jobs properly; going to the police may very well be a waste of time.
What About DNA?
DNA is a very important part of rape justice. If you’re like me you’ve been watching a lot of Crime and Investigation shows, and assume that things happen in Nigeria the way they do in developed countries. I was shocked to learn the truth about DNA testing in Nigeria:
What all of this means is obvious; the average Nigerian cannot get justice for rape.
The Law is an Ass
Until few years ago, before the Evidence Act was amended, it was okay to bring evidence of a victim’s promiscuity to discredit her in a rape case. Many rape cases were actually struck off as a result of this. Can you imagine that? There are still roadblocks that need attention:
It Has Happened, Just Let It Go
Social and religious shaming is real. Families have been known to tell victims to be quiet about rape cases to avoid embarrassment. Toba once worked on a case where a five-year-old girl had been raped. He was ready to pay from his own pocket for her evidence to be processed, but her parents backed out, and the poor child was denied justice. The rapist was smiling in court on the day he was arraigned, because he knew nothing would come of it.
What Can We Do?
The penalty for rape is 14 years to life, but the situation in Nigeria is dire, so rape has taken a backseat to other criminal acts. It is hard to get a conviction. At the end of the day, it’s going to take the lawmakers to change the law, but while efforts are ongoing to drive that ass the way it should go, here’s what we can do:
As usual, there was Nasco Trivia. What is Nasco’s pay off line? Send your answer to 08033286604 or tweet it using the hashtag #NascoMoments and you could be the winner of a Nasco goody bag!