LOUD WHISPERS: The Impunity Of ‘Nothing’.

Last week there were news reports of a female student in Rohtak, in the northern State of Haryana, India, who was gang raped by the same five men who had raped her in 2013. After the attack three years ago, two of the suspects were charged to court. The case is still pending in the High Court, but the two men were released on bail. Nothing happened. Since then, the rapists and their families have threatened the victim so many times, that her family decided to move from Bhiwani to Rohtak, presumably in order to give the poor girl a fresh start. Unfortunately the young woman was raped again by the same vicious gang because of her insistence on justice. In short, she relived her agony all over again because she and her family tried to fight impunity and the culture of ‘nothing’.

On July 23rd 2016, there was a report in The Punch newspapers about fifteen year old ‘Mary’ from Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.  She was raped by a Police Inspector at gunpoint a few weeks ago. Her family tried to take the matter up with the police. Guess what happened? The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Mkpat Enin Police Division, Akwa Ibom State, sent a group of pastors and police officers to plead with the family to drop the case. When the alleged perpetrator of a crime is a law enforcement officer, it makes the case very complicated for obvious reasons. The headlines are only too familiar, ‘‘Lagos Police Officer rapes a female suspect’, ‘Policeman arrested for raping 7 year old girl in Kano’, ‘ASP arrested for raping student in Police Custody in Ogun State’. We hear nothing else about the fate of the suspects.

For now, we do not know what has happened to Mary’s alleged police inspector rapist other than a vague statement from a police Public Relations Officer, ‘Investigation is ongoing and I’m sure the policeman alleged to have raped the 15 year old girl is in custody. When the investigation becomes very conclusive, we will get back to the press, hopefully by next week’.

The ‘investigations’ are hardly ever conclusive, and in most cases the alleged perpetrators go scot free. Nothing happens. A combination of factors makes this possible – scared, traumatized victims feeling a deep sense of shame, families coerced by religious and traditional leaders, police authorities who do not think the violation of women and girls should be given priority, and the slow wheels of an indifferent criminal justice system. Every other day, there is a report of a violent assault leaving a trail of dead bodies, both male and female. There however seems to be a particular kind of indifference to sexual assault or violence against women which helps fuel and sustain a culture of impunity. Beyond the blazing headlines, nothing happens. A female preacher was murdered on the streets of Abuja – nothing. A University student was violently gang raped and a video of the attack was available online for days – nothing. A female trader in a market in Kano was attacked and killed by a mob of youth for alleged blasphemy – nothing. A female member of the Federal House of Representatives was beaten up and called a ‘useless prostitute’ by the aides of the Comptroller General of Nigerian prisons – nothing. A woman was arrested over an altercation with a neighbor and was placed in a cell in a police station with four male detainees who proceeded to rape her all night, her pleas for help ignored by the police on duty – nothing.

There have been speculations that Nigerian women activists are only concerned about elite women and themselves and do not care about what happens to poor, marginalized women and girls. There have also been claims that if the missing Chibok girls had been the daughters of the elite, they would have been found by now. This claim sounds quite logical, but I am not sure it is wholly accurate. I believe that the degradation of women knows no boundaries or class barriers. Believe it or not, the wives and daughters of the rich and powerful are beaten, raped, kidnapped, discriminated against and assaulted just like all other women and girls. You will never get to hear because of the culture of silence and impunity – nothing happens. Our class divisions as women are very real, like they are all over the world. However, gender-based violence and the pervasiveness of ‘Nothing’ is a unique leveler, and we ignore this at our own peril.

So what needs to be done? A whole lot has to happen, but I will mention just three things. First, we need to generate a consensus that the culture of impunity when it comes to addressing violations of women and girls has to end. Something must happen. Women are human beings not animals. Even people who rear animals seek and get compensation if their livestock is imperiled. The abuse and degradation of women and girls should not be a normal way of life, safely shielded by culture, tradition or religion. As individuals, we should all take a stand. Violence and persecution of women should end at your doorstep. Do not encourage or be part of a delegation that goes to plead for a rapist. Do not be involved in the torture of an alleged ‘witch’ or a defenceless widow. Do not be the one to ask a rape victim what she was wearing. Are you one of those who anonymously abuse and insult people you do not know online simply because you disagree with them? Stop it, that is a form of violence too. Be someone who makes something happen.

Second, we need to make our laws work. We have a raft of legislations at national and State level, including the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act of 2015. There are plans underway by government and non-governmental actors alike to popularize an understanding of this critical piece of legislation and to ensure that it means something in the lives of ordinary Nigerians, especially women. Let us all make a commitment to supporting this law in any way we can. Many NGOs and faith based groups in the country have been working on these issues for many years, with some success but a whole lot more needs to be done.

Third, we need to make an example of violators. Nothing will happen if nothing happens. However, if something happens, ‘nothing’ will go out of style. If people know that there will be a price to pay for something that everyone has got away with in the past, the culture will change. Whether we are talking about corruption, homicides, gender-based violence or drug trafficking – once people know there will be a hefty price to be paid, hopefully they will pay attention. I would also like to call for legislation or policies to deal with ‘rape and beg’ delegations – they should be charged as accessories to the crime.

There is however some good news – three hearty cheers to the Kenyan authorities. Last week there was a disturbing video that went viral, of the famous Congolese singer Koffi Olomide, beating and kicking one of his female dancers. An old Yoruba proverb comes to mind here – all days are for the thief, one is for the owner. Koffi Olomide has faced allegations in the past of violent behavior and sexual assault of his dancers. Nothing happened. However, in Kenya last week, at last, something happened. Koffi’s assault of his dancer infuriated his Kenyan hosts who not only took to social media to call for a boycott of the concert he was in town for, he has since been deported from Kenya. Excellent! Of course if the attack had not been captured on video, he would probably have gotten away with it, and the Kenyan authorities would have certainly been loath to take on a mega music star who was a guest in their country without hard evidence. This time, Koffi Olomide did not get away with it. We need more high profile scapegoats. ‘Nothing’ should stop.


Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

 

 

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12 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: The Impunity Of ‘Nothing’.

  1. Ebonychyqui2 July 25, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    My judgement is anyone found violating the rules of any particular country should be given instantaneous judgement.

    Reply
  2. Harryrrah July 25, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    The issue of rape is really causing a magnalogotomy in the lives of the victims,their families, friends and even the world at large. No one can face such humiliating trauma in life. Those involved in this absymal act should be castrated, I have never heard in my entire life that a man was raped. Governments should walk in love by showing love to the inhabitant of their country, hence maximum security is needed!

    Reply
  3. DSEED July 27, 2016 at 8:10 am

    It should be stated that anyone caught in such act should be murdered. There must be no bail for such a person. It is a criminal offence. Am also suggesting we have a group of people that look after this case not even the police force. Moreoless like EFCC.

    Reply
  4. Femi Diipo July 27, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Violence against women is a grave atrocity, not just against women but humanity generally and measures must be taken with swift actions to counter this menace. And I think some men need help, cos a man in his right senses will not take such silly advantages

    Reply
  5. Maveedah July 27, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    I just keep thinking if gender inequality will ever stop in Nigeria….this rape issue is becoming alarming

    Reply
  6. Olowolafe Olanrewaju July 28, 2016 at 8:02 am

    It is easy to promulgate a law to punish culprits but does the victim substantially always be on the defensive side? It is true that most African countries do not respect the need of females but on the other hand do African females respect themselves as Western females do? When a female lady dresses abnormally to expose her body especially those with beautiful physique that tantamount to temptation. When a female lady lies to a male counterpart or deceives him to obtain something only at her advantage this can also subject the male deceived to apply possible avenue of revange, which may include rape, physical abuse or sny form of punishment the male desires. Both female most control their egos to avoid tempting male counterpart. Rape and other abusive is not rampant in the olden days as it is in this modern generation, simply because youths tend to borrow western civilization, and abandon their cultural values.

    Reply
  7. precious. July 28, 2016 at 8:02 am

    yes anyone fund at all should face the law and punishment of the country

    Reply
  8. Faith fabunmi July 30, 2016 at 6:20 am

    I strongly agree at coupled with the awareness on gender based violence , we need ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted publicly to serve as deterrent and sure victims are not further victimised in public. That way we big to address the culture of silence

    Reply
  9. Joyce July 30, 2016 at 8:11 am

    This article is spot on! But I think we need to move beyond words to concrete action. How do we get there

    Reply
  10. Jumoke Ajayi July 30, 2016 at 8:14 am

    I was actually glad to see that a scape goat was made out of Koffi, we need to start sending clear messages that it is not ok under any guise to physical abuse anyone and get away with it.

    Reply
  11. Olufunke Baruwa July 31, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Excellent write up, we need to re-emphasize the fact that violence against women and girls thrives because we allow it. Posterity will judge us all for the role we play either for or against.
    We cannot continue to ignore this trend that is slowly eating at our humanity

    Reply
  12. Taiwo August 2, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Great article and i must say Violence against women and girls have gone on too long and it is time we stand up against it in any way we can because all it does is make the victims a shadow of themselves.

    Reply

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