Ogun State Chairperson of the Internationa Federation of Women Lawyers, Dr Oluwakemi Ayanleye, talks to DAUD OLATUNJI about the prevalence of sexual violence against women and girls in the state
There have been several cases of gender-based violence against women and girls, including rape, defilement, and incest, in Ogun State. What is your take on this problem?
It (sexual violence) is very high in Ogun State. Almost daily, we get calls of reports on domestic violence on rape and so many others in Ogun State. At times, we read them on social media.
They are not up to 100 in a month. But, what happens is that other bodies delve into the cases, so, we get the information on the cases from them. I can only say there is no day that we don’t get such reports on gender-based violence.
I was just called this afternoon (Tuesday, May 2, 2023) about a girl who was raped in Ijebu Ode and we called the necessary quarters to ensure that it got to the police and that it was followed up to avoid compromise.
From your experience, what are the factors you can point to as the causes of sexual violence against girls in Ogun?
There are a lot of things fueling it. Society itself condones this act. Just recently, I got a call that some boys abused a girl and found out those boys had been arrested before in Lagos. Unfortunately, the mother of the girl (victim) called me and said that she didn’t want the case to go on and that they (the parties involved) would just settle it among themselves. This was a girl that was gang-raped and it was captured on video.
What did you tell her?
Then I told her that it was not just about her child but other children who wanted to be protected. If we say we don’t want these boys to be prosecuted, they will go back to society to repeat the act and feel that is what is obtainable in society. You can imagine the mother of a victim who should be at the forefront of ensuring the prosecution of the boys coming to say she didn’t want to press charges. That is one of the issues; society condones it and allows it.
There is also the breakdown of traditional family values. There is moral decadence in society. Anybody can do whatever they like. When someone tries to talk, they feel one is too harsh. Some of our television (programmes) and the media promote nudity and debase womanhood. Children have easy access to pornography and the parents are not always around to stop the children to curtail their excesses. Sometimes when the children even want to talk, the parents are not there or ready to listen.
Is poverty an excuse for the spate of such sexual offences?
Of course, poverty plays its role. Some of these things are really increasing the incident of rape and gender-based violence. I understand that the average Nigerian lives on $1 to $2 per day, while some people still don’t get N500 in a day.
Another thing is the availability of sex enhancers and libido medication. Children can get these things easily now even in local areas as they have become certified. You can send a child to get a sachet of any of the drinks (aphrodisiac) and without being told, the child knows where to get them because virtually everyone sells them, and they can be got at any location. Some boys easily get these drinks and get high, they can commit this crime under the influence of alcohol or some other things.
Another factor is the get-rich-quick syndrome. Everybody is talking about rituals, an increase in cultism, peer influence, and unemployment. An idle hand is the devil’s workshop. Ignorance is also a part. When something happens and society is begging and lobbying, and when organisations or other groups try to get justice, it becomes something else. You can imagine a Baale (village head) begging on behalf of a rapist.
Do you think the government has lived up to its responsibility in addressing the menace?
The government has provided help. We have the Violence Against Persons Law, which was enacted in 2017. It’s just that that law has not been well publicised since its enactment. The law goes beyond just rape; it comprises all forms of gender abuse. It covers the raping of a man as well. The law is there, but how to make sure that people are aware of the law is where they (the government) have not done enough. Bodies like FIDA are sensitising the public on what the law says and the implications of it. We visit markets, motor parks, and all that, just to sensitise them on not only rape but violence generally.
We are spread across different geographical locations in the state. In Ogun State, we have zones in Otta, Abeokuta, Ijebu and Sagamu. The association has been run informally but we started officially in 2004. We don’t get foreign aid. We fund ourselves, pay our dues, and do other things. Sometimes we ask people to help us with money to fund our activities, but we don’t get funding from anyone.
With the low awareness level, will it be correct to say that the state government has failed to take stringent actions against those arrested and prosecuted, and convicted?
The message of the law is there. When a person is arrested, prosecute the person and if the person is found guilty, let the law takes its course. The government will not do these things. The police are supposed to implement the law while the people will be the vanguard. It is not the government that will tell them who should be taken to court or who should be prosecuted. When there’s an infraction, it is not the government but, we, the people that are responsible to follow it up. It is the people that need to change their actions. The government only needs to ensure that the law is there and they have done that. We are the ones that are supposed to be the vanguard of the implementation of the law.
I don’t know if we should blame the government, maybe what we should blame the government for is not being more proactive in getting information to the people. I think we should blame the government for the rising cases.
Do you worry that the current trend in Ogun may worsen? For example, in Pakistan, parents are reported to have padlocked the graves of their daughters to prevent rapists from having intercourse with their corpses.
Well, I’m not aware of that, but I’d rather say those (having intercourse with female corpses) are not rapists but ritualists. I’m not sure a rapist will go and rape a dead person. Probably, with the state of rituals in the country, ritualists can do it.
Do you think it can happen in Ogun state if the situation gets worse?
I can’t say of mortuaries, but it means the mortuary management is not efficient. We should blame them if somebody can go in there and rape a dead person. But then, with the level of corruption, nothing is impossible. For them to do that, they’ll probably bribe whoever is in charge, but I don’t believe that somebody will go to the extent of having sex with a corpse. If it is for a ritual, it’s something they can do, though I haven’t heard of such in my area, and I hope it never gets to that level.
Can you cite some of the cases involving the raping of daughters by their fathers that FIDA has or is working on?
Well, there is one person in Iperu. We got him (the suspect) through social media. He raped his daughter and also had his friends have sex with her and collected money, until the girl got pregnant, and the matter was taken to court.
There’s another one a woman reported to us, that her husband defiled their daughters. I asked the person to come, and she came to our office, but later, she said the family had settled the matter. She told me that the daughter had told her before, but she shut the daughter up, thinking that the daughter was trying to be mischievous, but she actually found out and then took her children away.
But for us to take the necessary steps and get the man arrested, and probably prosecuted, the lady was not forthcoming. We called her but she didn’t come, so there wasn’t much that we could do. So, the society that draws us back even when we want to take action.
How many cases of defilement and rape have been reported to FIDA since January this year?
It’s not just about rape, and some of them are not reported. We see them on social media and take them up. That’s how some of them happen. One happened last year when a girl was raped by her neighbour and she eventually got pregnant. We had to take it up. He’s in prison now and the case has not been concluded.
You talked about how a family bribed police to kill a case. Does that happen often?
Yes. Whenever we see a case and go to the police station, the police let us know that if we don’t have money, the case would go this or that way. So, we have to provide money to enable them to do the necessary documentation, and you really can’t blame them. When you get to their office, they don’t have a photocopier, they don’t have a laptop, and you expect them to do the documentation, to get the case file and take it to (state police command at) Eleweran before they take the accused person to court. Now, they don’t have the vehicles to do that, so you provide money for a vehicle for them to do that.
At this point, I think we can blame the government because they have not given the police the tool they need to fight crime. They need to have some of these things for documentation purposes. If they (the police) are asking them (complainants) to bring money to prosecute a case and the other person (suspect) is offering them money so that they won’t prosecute the case, they are more likely to collect money from the accused and leave the judgment to God.
Do you also receive reports of the victims’ families accepting money from the accused to discontinue a case?
The father of a three-year-old girl that was sexually abused collected N200,000 and the police collected N80,000 to get him a lawyer. And the mother came to complain that she was not given a share of the money. When the father called me to ignore the case, I told him it was not only about his daughter or grandchild but other three-year-old girls in the community who were at risk. So, if these people are not exposed to learn their lessons, that means we are exposing other children to the same fate. What could have attracted any sensible man to a three-year-old child?
Some people argue that indecent dressing puts a female at risk of being sexually abused. Do you agree?
Rather than blaming the victim for not being properly dressed, we should blame the perpetrator who lacks moral control. Most times, society blames the victims, saying they do not dress properly but what about three-year-old girls?
In another case, a 41-day-old baby was raped by a 25-year-old neighbour. If society can take it as an injury to one is an injury to all, perpetrators would be brought to book.
What does the law say about defilement and rape?
The VAP Act is very specific. The Act defines rape. Section 3 says that a person has committed the offence of rape if they intentionally use force to penetrate the virginal, anus, or mouth of another with any other part of his or her body or with anything else.
So, Section 3 of the Act goes beyond virginal penetrations. It broadens the normal definition of rape we have. We also have the VAP Act in Nigeria, Ogun, and Lagos states and most of the states have enacted the VAP law. The law says that if found guilty of the above, the punishment ranges from 12 years to life imprisonment as the circumstances demand. The court can also award compensation to the survivor if need be. The law is beautiful if well-represented.
Can Ogun become a haven for rapists if violators are not punished accordingly?
It’s not just Ogun, it happens in all the states. So I’m not sure people will be moving to Ogun State just to become rapists and they are being punished. There are cases of people who have been punished. There was one Ogundele who was sentenced to life imprisonment and sometime last year, another man was also sentenced to life imprisonment for rape. It’s just that some of these things are not reported. We only get to hear when the incident happens but not when they are prosecuted.
Have you received any report about a man that was raped by a lady?
No, we haven’t. Basically, our activities are to protect, promote and preserve the rights of interest and well-being of women and children through the use of the legal framework to ensure that they live free of all forms of discrimination, violence, and abuse in society.
So, as a non-political and non-profit association, what we do is protect women and children in court. We also give education with counseling and advocacy and publicity. Some of the outcomes of what we have done at FIDA and some other NGOs is the enactment of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law. In Ogun state, we are also talking about gender mainstreaming and violence against person policy.
Some people are calling for capital punishment for rapists, do you also subscribe to that?
Rather than capital punishment, they (rapists) should be castrated. When they are castrated, they won’t be sexually active but they will still be alive. But when they are dead and gone, they won’t feel the punishment.