The National Programme Manager, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme of the British Council, Danladi Plang, has called for an effective justice system to help in curbing the menace of rape and sexual assault, which is on the increase.
Plang made this call at the 6th National Conference of the Sexual Assaults Referral Centers and International Human Rights Day held in Abuja on December 9 and 10, 2020, organised by ROLAC Programme of the British Council and funded by the European Union.
He said rape victims most times do not want to report rape cases to security personnel, as they sometimes are made jest of, resulting to underreporting of sexual assault cases.
He cited that the cases limiting the number of victims who seek help for sexual assault include fear of persecution, lack of prosecution of offenders, underreporting of cases and the culture of stigma on victims.
According to Plang, there are many gaps, but noted that one of the key solutions is to ensure reporting of cases while expressing concerns that sexual assault is still underreported.
He insisted that “there are many cases out there that are not being reported and the question is why, this is because when they report they do not get the support and services they need.
“The type of response they get do not encourage them to go back to make report.
“And the other factor is prosecution, he said, because if people are not prosecuted for wrong doing it breeds impunity.
“This is because when one person does something and no measure is taken another will also partake as nothing will be done.
“So we need to improve in investigation and prosecution and with their name on the register to name and shame, it will reduce the refusal of people to report.
“The culture of stigma is also one major factor as people think that it is the fault of the woman that is being raped, that if she has not placed herself in that position she will not have been raped but we know that even toddlers and grandmothers have been raped, so which position do you want them to put themselves so that they will not be raped.”
Speaking further, the programme manager stated that the issue of rape could be a psychological problem, adding that in other climes, one of the things practiced is to carry out an evaluation of the psychological position of the person to understand why he has carried such an act.
Plang said the findings also focused on why they do what they do, the pedophiles, as well as those that rape people with mental illness, as they believe that it will give them some powers.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on his part appraised the SARC for the essential service they render as people have started to trust and believe in the referral centres and as such more people are tending their experience.
Osinbajo said that as long as people have access to justice they can report, while clarifying that increase in reporting does not necessarily mean increase in crime.
According to him, it could mean an increase in trust and believe and that appropriate investigative actions will be taken.
He said: “We must all save time to create safe spaces.
“Support services need to be available, not only in crisis.
“The SARC centers will go along way in curbing the menace rape as we can try to avoid the assault from happening in the first place by creating safe spaces were it will be difficult for abuse to happen and when abuse does happen we must coordinate an effective response.”
Also speaking, the First Lady of Ondo State, Betty Akeredolu, stressed the need to work in support of those violated.
According to Akeredolu: “We cannot afford to fold our hands and watch our children being defiled and murdered, in some cases.
“We have to make sure we galvanise action in our respective states so that we can end the violence against women.
“In our community, gender-based violence is treated with levity due to our patriarchal system.
“No one takes a woman serious.
“We need to sensitise our women in the community and the education of the girl-child cannot be overemphasised.”