Family disposition, law enforcement and institutional structures as well as ignorance are among factors hindering the campaign against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria, an investigation by HumAngle has revealed.
HumAngle found that once cases of SGBV such as rape and defilement occur, family members, law enforcement agencies and other relevant institutions are reluctant to intervene or cooperate and sometimes ignorance among victims help to obstruct justice.
While families insist on keeping quiet for the sake of family honour, law enforcement agencies frustrate cases through poor investigation and prosecution. Also hospitals fail to conduct necessary tests that can aid prosecution because of wrong procedures adopted by victims, HumAngle learnt..
For example, Ngozi Chizoba, a young mother in her early 30s, was sent out of her matrimonial home by her husband whom she alleged was defiling her 11 years old daughter.
Chizoba reported the matter to the police and the husband was arrested by the police in Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria.
Chizoba said she went to Ntasi Centre, a special unit at Enugu-Ukwu General Hospital in Njikoka Council Area which offered medical and psychological support for SGBV victims and got confirmation and medical report that the child was violated.
She said when members of her family learnt of the development, they were not happy but instead sent her out of her matrimonial home.
She said her parents also refused to allow her to stay with them and as a result, she and her children moved out to squat with friends as she pursued the matter.
“The whole world is crumbling on me. I put to bed in February and went for a corrective surgery early in September; I didn’t know that while I was in the hospital, my husband had been raping my daughter.
“When I confronted him, he chased me and my children out of the house.
“For about two weeks, we have been squatting in one house or the other. Sadly, nobody is believing my story.
“My parents say I should withdraw the matter because it is going on in many homes but nobody is exposing it, so why should I drag their name into this scandal?
“While at the Police Command, my father brought my children and their clothes to me, saying I should take them to my husband’s house and make peace with my family.
“Nobody is with me on this, I am battling with my health, my children’s welfare and also looking for justice,” Chizoba cried.
Another mother, Ifeyinwa Ezukamma, is presently living in her maiden home after being sent out of her matrimonial home by her husband because she insisted that her tenant, a 57 years old man, who allegedly defiled her eight years old daughter, must face the law.
Ezukamma said her husband and her family said her insistence was against their collected wish and would bring dishonor if the family was associated with the case of rape of a minor.
“It was my insistence to pursue this matter that led my husband and his family people to chase me out of my matrimonial home and take my children away from me.
“I said I would not collect any money as appeasement for my little daughter that was raped; the painful aspect is that my other daughters have been cut off from me; I don’t know about their wellbeing now, “ Ezukamma,said.
She said she had difficulty in her bid to get medical proof that her daughter was violated.
Ezukamma, said that at the Police Station in Ogidi, Anambra State, where she first reported the matter, she was referred took a private hospital where her daughter’s blood sample was taken but no test was conducted to confirm her claim.
She said she later went to a mission hospital where the child was examined but getting the doctor to write the report was a hurdle.
She said she later went to Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Nnewi, for the same test but was not given attention because the incident was no longer fresh.
Ezukamma, said COOUTH authorities asked her to go back and get any result that was close to the date of the incident for endorsement.
She said she returned to Ntasi Centre where the victim was examined to get a medical report form which made it possible for the matter to be charged to court.
Similarly, Chidimma Ozulumba, a 27 years old mother who alleged that her seven-year-old daughter was raped by two brothers aged 11 and 23, said it was difficult for her to obtain a medical report to enable the prosecution of the case.
Ozulumba said she tried to get a medical report on her daughter at COOUTH for over month without success.
She said she lost her job for which she was leaving her daughter at home where she was raped because her employer did not support her desire to investigate and if possible prosecute the case.
She said one month after she reported that her daughter was being sexually violated, the matter had yet to go to court.
In July, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, said the police recorded 717 rape cases from January to May and arrested 799 suspects.
Adamu said the police had concluded investigations in 631 cases and arraigned the suspects but few of the cases progress in court, some lawyers say.
Chioma Okoye, Legal Officer of Women’s Aid Collective in Anambra State, said a major setback to the successful prosecution of alleged SGBV cases was the lack of substantial evidence.
Okoye whose organisation renders free legal services to victims of rape and violence against women, said reporting and punishment of proven rapists should be encouraged in order not to give impression that society protected perpetrators of such crimes.
“People are speaking up on this matter, they are now reporting because they know there are groups like us which are ready to take up the matter with them.
“So, they should be courageous, they have the civil society to run to, they have the police to run to, they have the courts to run to for protection.
“It is very unfair to conceal such wickedness against a child, the tendency is that the child will become angry with the society, they will feel that the society hates them and may wish to revenge sometime in the future,” Okoye said.
She said government should set aside fund for prosecution of rape and pedophilia cases as it would amount to double jeopardy that a child was violated and the family asked to pay money for medicals, police investigation and legal fees.
“It is important that government become more interested in this issue, they should map out fund for prosecution of these cases because it is crime against the state.
“The police should also assist complainants by acting timely and guiding them to approved medical facilities for examination and proper gathering of evidence,” Okoye said.
Prof. Ogugua Ikpeze, the Chairman of International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, Anambra State Chapter, said there was an astronomical increase in the cases of defilement and pedophilia in the state lately.
Ikpeze, a teacher at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said cases ranged from defiling of months old children, father defiling their daughters and sodomising male children.
She said those who acted as stumbling blocks to justice in relation to defilement and related cases should be treated as accomplices and urged the media to help sensitise the people on options available to victims including FIDA.
“Here in FIDA Centre, there is a case of a father who is defiling his own male and female children. When the wife discovered and couldn’t bear it anymore, she ran to us; but we are surprised that members of her husband’s church are the ones accusing her of trying to bring down the ministry.
“Another major problem is that when you take it up, the complainant will tell you they have settled amicably, others take money and abandon the case.
“Luckily, the Violence Against Persons and Prohibition Act has made it possible for us to remand the suspect and when the matter is followed up diligently up to the High Court and the case proven, such person should be jailed.
“We need awareness and the media have big role in this. Any man that is caught in act of defilement should be named and shamed with his picture everywhere. Why should he go to a child when there are many women begging for sex?
“Any doctor who refuses to report the result of examination should be exposed and reported to their association; the investigating police officer who behaves funny like a case we are handling where an officer changed original report with a fake one should be reported to higher authority.
However, a doctor, Dr Thaddeus Ako, said for a doctor to issue a medical report in a criminal case, he/she must get a formal request for the document from a body or organization that might need it.
He said such institutions included the police and embassies which would state the need for such documents and pay for them.
Ako said that for cases such as rape and murder, which involved forensic analyses, the police would normally refer victims to public hospitals for tests to be conducted by government pathologists.
He said in situations where such tests were conducted by private hospitals for the use of the police to establish crime cases, they were carried out in the presence of the police pathologist or anyone they had appointed to represent them.
Ako said doctors working for private hospitals would not normally want to get involved in crime related matters, which might take their time and distract them from work or the resources of institutions where they worked.
Meanwhile, Mr John Abang, the Commissioner of Police in Anambra State, said there the Nigeria Police Force was constantly training its personnel in the management of rape and defilement cases in partnership with civil society organisations.
Abang said parents, especially mothers, should relate closely with their children so they could be free to tell them their experiences on time.
He said that there was a need to provide more centres where victims could be examined and treated free of charge in different parts of the state to enable more people to have access to services.
“Most parents have failed in their responsibility in this regard, that is where the non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations come in and they have been doing well; the command is partnering them.
“Whenever there is incidence of rape or defilement, it should be reported at the police station early enough, the scene should be visited and medical form should be filled.
“The victim should be examined, there is a place where medical examination is provided free of charge but it is only one location.
“There is need for more of such place so that people can access the service easily from anywhere in the state, “ Abang said.
Additional reporting by Chukwudi Ekezie