After allegations of rape made by Busola Dakolo against pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of COZA, the media space is awash with tales of many cases of sexual assault and pedophilia. While we must be careful not to condemn the accused to guilt until they are proven guilty by a competent court of law, however, it is evident that we are a nation with so many victims of sexual assault.
Hardly would you go through the dailies without reading of sexual assault, however, nobody is bothered as the victims are those without connection and the social media coverage to punish and bring their assaulter to the court of public opinion. Had Bukola Dakolo lacked the celebrity connection, her story would have been one of the several cases thrown to the dustbin.
While sexual predation in our university system are gradually being exposed by several sex for marks scandals, two major sources of sexual abuse have continually being thrown under the carpet; sexual abuse by family members or religious leaders are continually being covered and the victims forced into silence. It seems we are a people who value family stability and religious comfort over justice for victims.
Day after day, tales of young girls defiled by family members (fathers, uncles, brothers, family friends) and young boys defiled by family members are exposed. However, little progress is made in getting justice. In most of the exposed cases, it is after several occurrences that the mother of the victim would be forced to talk and when they do, most of the cases are not followed to the logical conclusion of the perpetrator getting sentenced. There seems to be a routine in most of the cases, settlement out of court after pressures from family members and the reason is the same, the precious name of the family must not be dragged in the mud. In a twinkle of an eye, the victims are sacrificed to protect the name of family pedophiles and criminals.
The religious centers have also become a hotbed for sexual abuse. The religious leader-member relationship is a very deep one as the average member sees the leader as a god who is to be revered. This automatically present a loophole for any criminal on the pulpit to exploit. In a state of the continued illusion of their members in them, cases of sexual assault are seen just like a flash in the pan. Many women facing challenges believing the religious leader as a solution to their problems are lured by the preacher to the bed. Women desperately seeking children are the mostly victims of this, many childless women have ended up carrying the baby of a prophet because sex with the prophet was proposed as a solution. In some cases the religious leader forces himself on his victims and after the act, cajole and threaten them with spiritual propaganda. The “touch not my anointed “ chorus is chanted and the victims fearing a spiritual backlash and the fear of going to hell go into eternal silence.
As a country, our law protecting minors against sexual abuse is weak. Not many Nigerians know that the age of consent is 18 and sex with anyone below 18 is a crime. In contrast to the law, anything goes in the Nigerian reality. A Nigerian senator had gotten married to a 13-year-old, many Nigerians take advantage of girls below 18 just because the girl's family is not well to do and they can provide some means of subsistence for the girl, many even flaunt on social media what in a sane society would land them in jail. It is my belief that enforcing this law and jailing offenders would go a long way in curbing sexual predation.
As the revelations and confessions, if sexual abuse rages on, we must know that a rapist or pedophile left off the hook because of family connection or religious position would never show remorse but he would become bolder in perpetrating the act on other innocent victims.
Bright Ogundare is a social commentator and he can be contacted via [email protected]