Saturday, 24 September 2011

Editorial: The many issues around the #ABSURape

A video gone viral

The last week saw the gathering of emotions and revulsion at the video of a lady who from reports of viewers suggested she was being gang-raped by 4, maybe 5 men.

The video had gone viral and it appeal to the humanity in many of us to sue for the apprehension and arraignment of the men involved to the point that justice will be done and seen to be done.

Apparently, the recording of this atrociously evil act was made on the 16th of August 2011 and it had been circulating within the campus of Abia State University that goes by the acronym ABSU.

Impunity and entitlement

For all the clamour for retribution and justice there seems to be a lot awry that we cannot somehow confidently expect that what we desire will be realised.

The lady, the victim might have gone to ground nursing her wounds that would range from emotional to physical and anything in between that might not find succour, comfort or respite – justice is probably the furthest thing from her mind – she might just want the event to be a haze, an unrecalled memory as if it never happened.

The video suggests that she was being punished with rape as weapon of vindictiveness and torture just because she somewhat disrespected one of the men.

That presents another problem, a society that thrives on inclination of the certain people feeling they have complete entitlement and can with impunity act criminally expecting nothing to come of it because they have the tacit approval of society to revel in lawlessness because the law is handicapped or they have the means to suborn every process that will attempt to bring them to book.

Inured for titillation

That is the possible precipitous decline into anarchy we face if these attitudes are not arrested and punitively sanctioned not only as a deterrent but as a message that society will no more brook such manners in our communities.

Beyond this there is another niggling problem, whilst watching the video might well have elicited evidence that the law could use, there are some whose intention was to derive the titillation element rather that than the social justice push – we have somewhat become inured to such violence and violation that some even thought the lady was almost too docile to have the video depicted as the recording of a gang rape.

One is left to throw up ones hands in exasperation; we have great difficulty dealing with sexual crimes in Nigeria from child sexual abuse through to rape and the denigration of women. An incipient and sinister interpretation of religious laws allows for women to be treated with disdain.

Our lawful acquiescence to injustice

In some cases, the onus is pushed on the woman to appear in a certain way in order to not to be preyed upon by rabid men with untrammelled passions redolent of the jungle. The Nigerian male is almost allowed by law to be absolved of responsibility for being unable to control themselves – it is like a somewhat “indecently” dressed lady has it coming, she is ready fodder for abuse and much more and she has no recourse for justice.

The ladies are not helped by women legislators who help perpetrate this atrocity on their fellow womenfolk with the silliest laws about dress ever to be promulgated that at a UN meeting of women they were ridiculed for their risible ideas.

The same difficulty in tackling sexual crimes is what drove the university and the state government to deny the rape ever happened. It ploughed the depths of incredulity when the governor suggested the video was created by detractors to discredit his government.

Unable to handle the matter

The Minister for Youth Development should be commended for trying to get to the bottom of this matter, the rape did happen and whilst it might not have happened on the campus of the university, there is no doubt that certain parties to that criminality were or are students of ABSU and for that reason along both the university and the government should engage and work to uncovering all those who have brought shame on the state.

A member of the House of Representatives moved a motion on this matter and there was one who suggested there were many more pressing issues than rape to deal with.

At which point one can only say our political representation is completely oblivious of the rights of the individual and the need for social justice, besides it also shows how deeply ingrained our toleration of sexual crimes is that it is take as par for the course.

The social media devil

Social media has been agog with this story and it is probably what gave rise to the more general coverage that extended in international new sites. There are many concerns with this, in the quest for justice some have been falsely accused such that the collateral damage in resolving this case might hit a lot more people and shatter reputations.

The authorities have their share of blame for this, if they had been proactive to investigating the rape rather than defaulting to denial and had set up an incident desk for the matter, all information would have been channelled there rather than on the unfettered and unregulated forum of social media communications.

In any event the Minister for Women finally gave voice to the matter not to seek solutions but to offer another one of those political platitudes, they are concerned about welfare and well, the case just founders in inactivity and reticence because even though our huge population is a by-product of sexual activity we are still quite squeamish about sex.

A long fight in the making

There are strongholds and barriers to take down and one can only hope that it starts with the concerted efforts of every Nigerian with a heart and soul working to ensure that those men do not go unpunished and hopefully that lady can also get all the help and therapy she needs to rebuild her life.

We still have a long way to go on this matter, in fact, what it brought to light was that campus rapes happen quite frequently and nothing really gets done about it – that, my friends, is utterly, utterly untenable.

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