Rape is a crime against humanity and the state.

It involves having canal knowledge of someone without such person’s approval or consent.

Despite the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, many rape victims tend to shy away from telling their ordeal or reporting same to the appropriate prosecution authorities.

In this investigative report supported by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, correspondent Uche Ndeke takes a look at what discourages rape victims from speaking out or seeking redress legally in some communities in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State.

Rape according to OXFORD LEARNER’S DICTIONARY is to force somebody to have sex with you when they do not want to by threatening them or using violence.

Often times, it has been discovered that the suspects of rape case go unpunished due to the decision of victims and their families to sweep the incidents under the carpet.

Such decisions are often linked to the difficulty in prosecuting the offenders and the delay in deciding such matters in the law court.

This explains why the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 came into place in Nigeria, to promote efficient management of Criminal Justice Institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, protection of the society from crimes and protection of the rights as well as interest of suspects, the defendants and the victims.

However, despite the provisions of sections twelve and thirteen of the Criminal Justice Act, which deal with the issue of rape, many victims still find it difficult to come open with their ordeals and follow it up until justice is done.

The Director, Public Prosecution in Anambra State, Mr. Emma Osunkwor, observed that though rape cases were on the increase nationwide, only about thirteen cases had been officially reported between May and June 2019.

Mr. Osunkwor explained that in most cases, victims of rape tend to speak out or seek redress only when their belongings like phones or hand bags were robbed from them in the course of the rape or the identity of the suspect is known to them.

“Even when the rape suspects are caught and arraigned in court, the victims are not willing to come up to prosecute the matter,” Osunkwor pointed out.

Indeed many rape victims are still not comfortable sharing their experiences or approaching the law court to get justice.

Radio Nigeria faced the almost impossible task of finding unreported cases across some communities of Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State.

Although a couple of rape incidents were learnt about in Ifite, Isiagu, Nibo, Nise, Mbaukwu, Umuawulu, among other communities, getting the victims or their relatives to talk on tape was indeed a herculean task.

After much persuasion on the good opening up does to the society, one of the victims, Chinaza Ani shared her experience.

According to miss Ani, “On that faithful day, after working for the man at his building site, he paid many people but did not want to give me my money. When the time was late, I was struggling to go but his power his power is more than my own. So he said that he will add two thousand naira on top of my one thousand naira but I refused. When I wanted to go, he now draw me back and overpowered me, that’s how it happened.”

The nineteen year old victim explained that lack of money to sort security agents and get a lawyer as well as the demands for proofs of the case scared her from seeking for justice.

“Due to family problems , I used to go and carry block from the ground to three storey building just to assist my mother and siblings because our father abandoned us long time ago,” she lamented.

Another rape, victim from Nibo, Chinasa Chibuoke, narrated how she was raped many times by an uncle whom she lived with at the time.

“My uncle found out that I have been keeping male friends, he got furious and so angry. He threatened that he will send me back to my parents in the village, I pleaded with him and he changed his position and said I will be sleeping with him anytime he wants me. Every two days he will come to Mr room, asking me to touch him, and he will start sexually abusing me. My Aunty went for training , she later came home and traveled again. My uncle continued sleeping with me until I missed my period . I told him and he bought a drug and gave to me to take,” miss Chibuoke narrated.

Although Chinasa had no knowledge of the ACJL, she said she still wouldn’t have done anything different given her lowly and poor family background as well as the perceived long process of getting justice through the court.

She said, “Knowing the condition and poor background I came from, I pleaded with my uncle that I don’t want to go home, so he continued sleeping with me anytime he wants to.”

Another twenty seven year old lady from Umuawulu, who only agreed to speak through phone call, narrated how she was raped at the age of fifteen and the trauma she passed through keeping the bitter experience to herself.

“I don’t want to talk about it because its a long forgotten issue. I was coming back from an errand my mommy sent me when I was coming back, somebody blocked my way and started threatening to pour acid on me if I don’t follow him to a nearby school. Then I never knew what was sex, so I had to succumb,” she stated.

She however agreed that despite the discouragement from the Judiciary and interrogation from police, speaking out remained the best way to discourage the crime.

She complained that “Authorities are not doing anything, we need justice , women, little girls , female need justice.”

The Secretary, Anambra State Child Protection Network, Ms. Hope Okoye, also speaks on some of the reasons rape victims in Nigeria shy away from pushing for justice in a competent court.

Ms. Okoye noted that “Ignorance of the provisions of the law, protections and the justice they can get.
Two is the wrong mindset of the stigma , leaving the perpetrator and stigmatizing the victim which is very wrong.”

Ms. Okoye stressed the need to create awareness on the provisions of the Criminal Justice Law, especially at the grassroots on how to get justice and preserve the evidences needed to prosecute such cases.

“Not just the provisions of the law, they don’t even know the right thing to do immediately when this thing happen to safeguard the evidence they need in other to be able to secure justice because there are some ingredients that is needed to be able to win rape cases.”

The Chairperson, Federation of International Women Lawyers, FIDA , Anambra State Chapter, Mrs. Chineze Obianyo, explains that, though societal and cultural stigma deter rape victims from reporting their ordeals to the appropriate authorities, exposing the perpetrators to prosecution remains the best option for the victims.

Mrs. Obianyo faulted the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 for making provisions for the rape suspect to defend himself without taking into cognizance the impact of the crime on the victims, who most often live with the agony of such experience.

She observed that “the ACJA did not consider how easy is it for rape victims to be able to go through the procedures in terms of cost of having a lawyer. The ACJA focused mainly on the suspect who have to do the matter withing one eighty days, he has to make sure he gives his confessional statement with a lawyer around and all that . it did not focus on the impact of the pain the victim is going through. Only the rich can prosecute criminal cases,” she lamented.

For the Administrator General and Public Trustee Anambra State, Mrs. Rita Onyeka, the lawyers in the Judiciary are willing and poised to prosecute rape cases with evidence of penetration obtained from the hospital.

“The court is not only serving people that can afford it, the court is there for everybody. Nobody should even think twice or think that the judiciary is in anyway delaying , discouraging or doing anything in the negative to ensure that crimes like rape are not really stamped out,” Mrs. Onyeka said.

She further observed that there was the need for more awareness of the provisions of the ACJA.

However, another rape victim, Chinwendu Ikeazu, while narrating how she was sexually abused, argued that it was not easy for victim to walk into a hospital to obtain doctor’s report as a proof of the crime.

Okezie narrated that “Eight years ago when I was in elder brothers house, one of his friends came visiting when my brother was not around. He started touching me and when I tried to push him away , he raped me and threatened to deal with me if I ever tell my brother. So I kept quite.”

But what could be done to enable young girls, who are victims of rape, to get medical report without feeling ashamed of the environment or personnel involved.

The Director Public Health and Disease Control, Dr. Uchechukwu Onyejimbe, stated that government had concluded plans to establish a Sexual Assault Referral Centre in the state with trained personnel to counsel and guide rape victims, who she also noted were often shy to speak out.

“Adolescents who are mainly the victims of rape were not really factored into the health system of the country hence we are now trying to carry them along in the health system of Anambra state. Even the federal government has also realised this by introducing adolescent reproductive health care system,” Dr. Onyejimbe said.

The Police Public Relations Officer in Anambra State, Mr. Haruna Mohammed, while speaking on the matter, said contrary to insinuations and allegations against the police, the command was passionate about ensuring that rape and all criminal other criminal offences were diligently prosecuted without much delay regardless of whose ox was gored.

“It is the responsibility of the police to rush the victim to the hospital ,to examine if she has been infected by any disease and also to determined weather there is a laceration of hymen and penetration which can be done through medical analysis. It is the police that even encourage rape victims to report their cases and once you tamper with the evidences, it may be difficult to prove it in the court.”

The issue of rape and the need for victims to speak out recently dominated national discourse, which confirms that the criminal act of rape and the attitude of victims not seeking for redress immediately after such incident is not only in Awka South Local Government Area or Anambra State in particular rather it is sweeping through communities across the country.

It is therefore hoped that efforts will be intensified towards addressing all issues that encourage concealment of rape cases.

This is because when culprits begin to face the full weight of the law, the frequency of such offence will be reduced and the society will be better for it.