The gruesome rape that eventually led to the death of a 22-year-old 100 level Microbiology student of the University of Benin, Miss Vera Uwaila Omizuwa, on May 27, 2020, was one case that stirred the Nigerian media space into reporting almost on a daily basis on rape cases; suggesting that the menace has assumed a disturbing dimension.
Various factors that range from personal to include parental and societal influence account for the incidence of rape in modern Nigeria. The current high incidence of rape demonstrates the rising deviant behaviour among Nigerians; men and women, young as well as old.
Like other social scourges in contemporary developing societies of Africa, rape has no borders with age, ethnicity and religion. The topmost ‘qualification’ for rape is personal indiscipline, which is a strong catalyst to other auxiliary elements. There were instances in which decently dressed women or ladies had been raped by uncouth predators. Qur’an 24: 30-31 defines how Muslim men and women should guard their gaze. In addition to describing how women should guard their gaze, Qur’an 24:31 exhorts women to decently cover their bosoms and not to display their beauty except to their husbands or those who have a degree of consanguinity that precludes marriage with them. The same verse also commands them not to “strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments” The non-compliance by many to these divine codes of interaction between men and women is partly responsible for our present social predicament.
The family unit of the society, if it fails to act responsibly, is one social group that could give rise to the prevalence of rape. This happens when parents do not pay attention to the dresses their children and wards wear within and outside of their homes. Their mode of dressing could make them vulnerable to attacks by rapists. It is worse when parents turn out to be in need of the same counselling recommended for ill-mannered children and adults. This is the group of parents from whom their children have little or no moral lessons to learn. Children and youth from this kind of home have the tendency of becoming perpetrators or victims of rape.
It is for the sake of averting promiscuous behaviours in the home that Allah (SWT) in Qur’an 24:28 seeks to regulate interaction among family members at certain periods of the day; saying “O ye who believe! Let those whom your right hands possess and the (children) among you who have not come of age ask for permission (before they come to your presence), on three occasions: before morning prayer; the while you doff for the noonday heat, and after the late-night prayer; these are your three times of undress: outside those times, it is not wrong for you or for them to move about attending to each other: thus does Allah make clear the signs to you; for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.” If family members in every home were to strictly adhere to these interaction guidelines, the rate at which rape is occurring would not have been high as we have it today. In this regard, the Prophet (SAW) once said that if every individual were to have moral training, maidens would travel from San’a (capital of Yemen) to Bahah (a city in the west of Saudi Arabia in the Hijaz area) without suffering any harassment or humiliation. This goes to buttress the fact that rape is a matter of the mind. A depraved mind is thus a fertile ground for evil thoughts and actions.
A society that treats rapists with levity provides an atmosphere that encourages its members to engage in the act. Due to the degeneration in society’s value system, some people nowadays rather trivialize rape or blame the victim. In past centuries, rapists were banished from their communities as a punishment for their crime. Today, it is so tolerated that offenders walk on the streets without shame. To apply the principles stated in Qur’an 24: 3, communities in which rapists live should collectively sensitize families against marrying out their decent daughters to those convicted of the crime. Allah (SWT) also states in Qur’an 24:26 “The impure man (should marry) the impure women; and the pure man (should marry) the pure woman…” To implement this, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) which has the responsibility of keeping Nigeria Sexual Offender and Service Provider Register should enlighten the general public, including the police and courts of law, to submit names of persons convicted of the crime for proper documentation. Beyond this also is the need to enact relevant laws that would, for instance, deny any citizen who could not obtain a clean bill or clearance from NAPTIP some rights or privileges. This may include denying such persons the right to get employed in some specific public agencies.
The internet technology is another factor that exposes people of the 21st century to civilizations that threaten our existing cultural and religious values. With easy access to pornographic sites, and with several social media platforms that promote unregulated interaction, the female folk remains vulnerable to the evil intentions of rapists. The entertainment industry, or Nollywood in the case of Nigeria, must improve its indecent portrayal of women in its movies, as if women were objects meant to serve men’s pleasure through the half-naked appearances. The National Films and Sensors Board must wake up to its responsibilities in sanctioning groups and individuals that fail to comply with the rules of film production.
The judiciary, which is crucial in taming the incidence of rape is seen by many as being part of the problem. Offenders continue to engage in the crime because the Penal Code in use in northern states have substantially lost the powers to deter rapists and other sexual offenders from perpetrating the act. A situation in which offenders have an option of paying as low as five thousand after conviction only seeks to encourage rape. While we advise state houses of assembly to overhaul the Penal Code with laws that have strong deterring powers, we suggest that rape should be listed among un-bailable offences in addition to denying persons convicted of rape the option of paying fines. May Allah (SWT) guide us all as individuals, parents, communities, and institutions to do what is right to protect and preserve the virtues of womanhood, amin.