The news filtered in from last weekend on social media when posts reporting the rape and gruesome murder of a young undergraduate of the University of Benin, as she was reading in a church building.
Female celebrities picked it up and vowed to ensure justice for the violated and slain young lady, the uproar immediately birthed the #JUSTICEFORUWA.
Just as public outcry for the killers of Vera Uwa Omozuwa raged, news of similar cases of rape and murder flooded the space from Oyo State and other places even as the country grapples with the crippling effects of coronavirus pandemic and the socio-economic lockdown it has occasioned.
By Tuesday, lawmakers in the House of Representatives who are no less consumers of social media contents felt the outcry against rape and murder of young women across the country had not gain much traction to resonate with them as to mention it on the floor. They had to wait for more incidents reports before passively fulfilling all righteousness on Thursday.
In what I would regard as a feeble attempt at making themselves heard, the House on Thursday managed to join the conversation that has been roundly analysed by social commentators and even criminologists as one dangerous aspect of social decay and system failure that needed to be fixed urgently in order to avoid a total collapse of the nation’s security and criminal justice system.
Arguments have been made for, and against the laidback nature of our justice system when it comes to handling issues of sexual violence, especially as they relate to rape of the female genda.
Many are of the opinion that the prevailing patriarchal mindset of many citizens has made it difficult for rape victims to get justice, as reasons are always dug up to turn the table against the victims and sweep the matter under the carpet.
Cases in point are those of one Ese Walter and Busola Dakolo, all of whom alleged that a certain popular Abuja pastor, Biodun Fatoyinbo, raped or sexually molested them.
The said pastor despite alleged overwhelming evidences against him is still walking free as police investigation on the matter reported by the Dakolos is yet to make any headway.
And it thus behooves on our lawmakers to change the narrative suggesting that Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places to be a woman on earth, by making strong and decisive legislative statements of law that would force down the ugly trend.
But in lending their legislative voices to the narrative, members on Thursday only saw it sufficient to passively condemn the issue of rape, whilst striking down an amendment suggesting the outright castration of rape offenders as a deterrent.
In the motion titled: “The Need to Condemn the Rising Cases of Sexual Violence and Other Social Vices Against Women and Police Brutality: Justice for Uwa Omozuwa, Tina Ezekwe, and Others”, brought by Rotimi Agunsoye from Lagos, our representatives merely decried the dastardly acts and nothing more.
Agunsoye in his presentation recalled several recent nationwide media reports of gender-based violence against Nigerian women and girls, describing it as “the disturbing growing spate of violence against women and girls recorded throughout the country.”
While the lawmaker in one breath saw the trend as disturbing, he had no qualms describing rape, sexual harassment, emotional and psychological violence, as well as socio-economic violence as “common”, but yet did not include in his prayers the need to amend existing anti sexual violence laws so as to prescribe stiffer punishment for offenders.
His words: “Disturbed that women and the girl child are daily exposed to these gender-based violence in Nigeria with negligible statistics of convictions compared to the prevalence of the dastardly acts.
“Cognizant that weak institutions, poor enforcement, poverty and unacceptable social practices contribute to the ugly increase in violence against Nigerian women and girls.
“Notes that findings show that an alarming 28% of Nigerian women aged between 25 – 29 years have experienced some form of physical violence against them, many of which remain unreported, were not prosecuted or could not secure conviction.”
Let’s just pause there. Looking at the choice of words employed by Agunsoye in his motion, one would think that his colleagues would demand for amendments to the prayers to the effect that a stiffer legislation against this trend is immediately undertaken, because resolutions do not have the force of law, as they are only advisory in nature.
However, one thing that the motion could have taken care of on Thursday was to urge the House to mandate its Committees on Justice, Judiciary, Police Affairs and Legislative Compliance to follow up on cases of rape and investigate the lack of conviction by the courts.
Instituting such a probe will put the relevant bodies on the spot for public scrutiny, and ultimately engender more action on their part. As they say, what goes around always comes around.
The rain doesn’t drop on one person’s roof, it spreads its blessings or havoc to wherever it can, so let our lawmakers take note that it is Uwa and other victims like herself today, it could be their daughters tomorrow, and I wonder how they will feel.