Thursday, 29 March 2012

Nigeria: What Rape Victims Face in Court


Caught my eye
The headline was what got me as it appeared on one of my Twitter lists - Ex-Corp Member Weeps in Court When Asked to Show Her Private Part [1] – it was irresistible to my curiosity I had to view the circumstances of such an outrageous request.
A prominent traditional ruler had been accused of the rape of a 23-year old lady who was in youth service within the domain of the ruler.
The lady must have been caught in circumstances beyond her control when the lecherous ruler first attempted to gain carnal knowledge of her through the belittlement of throwing money at her which she rejected before he allegedly forced himself on her raping her.
Seeking justice
When she made a case of it, he offered her money not to make a scandal of it and considering the high thresholds of credibility needed to bring rape cases to court against quite influential members of the public, it must have been an ordeal to have gotten this far.
The story does not say when she was raped and the time that had elapsed between the alleged incident and when the case was heard in court but that is beside the point.
Beyond belief
What is quite shocking and brazen in its effrontery and insensitivity as the news story portends is that it says the monarch himself asked the victim to show her allegedly bruised private parts to confirm to the court that she had been raped.
It goes on to say the counsel for the respondent did on cross-examination of the witness demand, NOT ask, but demand that she expose her privates for the scrutiny of the judge, the present counsel and prosecution to ascertain the veracity of her claim.
Now, even if the court doubled as a gynaecological unit and the all the learned purveyors of the ways and means of the law were certified consultant gynaecologists, this request would have been utterly improper at best.
This direction of questioning after being overruled should have had the counsel sanctioned with the risk of contempt by reason of deliberately outraging public decency.
If the monarch had also spoken out in initiating this line of questioning, he should have been sternly cautioned but the news story offers no such detail.
Bad handling of a sensitive situation
In my opinion, the purpose of that line of questioning was no doubt geared towards first embarrassing the victim, then humiliating her in her quest for justice before seriously upsetting her that she might lose all her composure to the advantage of the defence.
I am concerned that the judge appeared to be a tad lackadaisical in dealing firmly with this affront to polite proceedings where the counsel should have for bringing the legal profession into disrepute risked disbarment.
However, the sadder picture exemplified in this case is the lack of courtesy and sensitivity to victims of rape in open court and the effrontery and brazenness of patriarchy at the plight of victimised women.
What victims face
Men of power and influence behave as if they have right and authority to demand and obtain sexual favours whilst being unable handle rejection or negation of their desires.
They believe if they have the physical means to overpower the woman, then they can have their way without consequence.
They expect that the shock and shame of being raped presents a barrier to prosecution as the victim has to wade through hurdles of location, situation, opportunity, motive, circumstance, believability and influence to start off the process of justice.
As society will probably first find fault with the victim before it considers the egregious criminality of the perpetrator.
What to do
There is every need to have stronger support networks for rape victims regardless of the probable cause and the availability of evidence necessary to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, all those accused of rape.
As another human-being and sadly of the male species, I have the fullest sympathy for the victim and I hope that those involved in this contemptible show of chauvinism too vile for expression are visited with opprobrium, shame, disgrace and obloquy as a deterrent to any other counsel who might think sailing close to the wind in rude discourse can be done with impunity and without dire consequences.
Source

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