Posts Tagged ‘ABSU’

Good Girls Don’t Get Raped

February 6, 2013

As a student at Imo State University in the 80s I used to hear stories of retributive gang rapes of uppity female students. Somehow they always happened to other girls on other campuses. I listened in wide eyed dis-belief.

It was like a morality lesson for young women: rape was punishment for bad behavior, ‘only bad girls get raped’. If you got raped you must have been ‘bad’. It was the boogey man that ‘kept us in line’ and working real hard at appearing to be ‘good girls’.

We weren’t of course. We went to parties, drank alcohol, had premarital sex and wore sexy clothes. I wonder how many of us didn’t resist or report a rape because we thought we deserved it. Some how. And then eventually convinced ourselves that it wasn’t really rape, that we ‘consented’.

You know you didn’t want to, you said you didn’t want to but he just ignored your protests and went ahead anyway. You’ve known him for awhile, maybe you were even thinking of ‘going’ with him. Maybe this was your first date with him. Maybe everyone says he’s great. Just that you weren’t ready.

How many of us went on to date the guy? I read online one girl is engaged to her rapist. I don’t agree with her choice but I do in some crazy way I think I know how she justified it. One of those things you hear. ‘We’ve done it already, we might as well do it again’.

Almost 20 years later a woman reported a rape at the FIDA branch where I was a member . She was a practicing medical doctor in her early thirties. I noticed she dressed conservatively because I don’t. Dress conservatively that is.

She described how she had gone on a date with a man who took her to his house, drugged her and with his flatmate spent the night raping her. The police did nothing. She came to FIDA for help. They asked ‘what was she doing there in the first place drinking alcohol?’ and dismissed her.

If you get that attitude from a bunch of female lawyers what can you expect from the police?  Its really not surprising to hear the Assistant Commissioner of Police in Abia State Mr. Micloth say the young woman we watched getting raped on the internet either ‘deserved’ it or ‘consented’. Outrageous yes, but not surprising.

Good girls don’t get raped.

Advertisements

Is Rape on the Rise? Or Is It Women’s Activism?

February 6, 2013

I’ve lived in NIgeria long enough to be abe to say that the attitudes and behavior on sex, women and rape have been consistent over the past 30 years. What I think is that there is increased reporting and increased outrage from a growing middle class fueled by increased women’s activism.

That’s considerable progress. The efforts of the past 10+ years have not been in vain. The Nigerian women’s movement has had an impact. There is still so much more to be done but we can look back with a sense of accomplishment as we plan a new strategy.

I read that traditionally in some communities the penalty for rape was to compensate the father of the victim or marry her to her rapist.  A lot of research has done by Project Alert and CIRRDOC into the corelates of various forms of violence against women.

Women are beginnig to speak up and speak out, and the media is picking up their stories. Like this one from Enugu about a group of women that said enough is enough to male impunity. The ABSU Rape Walks in Lagos, Abuja and Abia last week were successful despite disruptions. They certainly rattled the police.

Now we need to make the law work for them.  How we do it is the next big challange.

16Days: Prosecuting Rape in Nigeria (II) Expanding the Legal Boundaries

December 7, 2011

Since the ABSU Rape Video there have been many calls for new rape legislation and harsher penalties. Yet in Nigeria rape is a crime punishable with a maximum life sentence already and is clearly defined in our statutes.  When a colleague asked me how we can use litigation to get justice for rape victims like Ms. X in the video afore mentioned I did a little research. While overall the prospects for successful prosecution remain low I was pleased to discover that the Supreme court recently clarified the law on a very contentious issue about corroboration of a victims evidence.

In 1989 a SC decision held that it was a principle of law that an accused cannot be convicted on the uncorroborated evidence of the victim and accuser leading to confusion as to what was corroboration. In some cases it was interpreted to mean that there had to be another witness to the offence.

In Ogunbayo v. the State (2011) decided in March this year Fabiyi JSC in his supporting judgment upheld the Supreme Court ruling in Iko v. The State  (2001) that had reversed the 1989 decision and held  that it was a principle not a law and that the trial court need only caution itself before convicting on uncorroborated evidence of a rape victim. Fabiyi JSC noted that ‘there is nothing in law to prevent the court from convicting on the uncorroborated evidence of the complainant’.

He lamented that the decision had removed from victims of rape the protection of  s. 179 of the Evidence Act which specifically prohibits the mandatory imposition of  the number of witnesses to prove a crime. A month earlier the SC in Ndewenu Posu & Oke Segun v. The State  (2011) held that medical reports, clothing from the day of the incident and other evidence of the particular circumstances were acceptable corroboration of the victim’s allegations.

The two latest decisions of the SC show an expansion and growth in the law of prosecuting rape. It is not unreasonable to expect that they shall reverse the incomprehensible decision of the SC in 2002 in the Idowu Case where there was what I think is a dangerous misinterpretation of mens rea to reduce a rape/ murder conviction for manslaughter at their earliest opportunity.

Violence Against Women & 16 Days of Activism: Prosecuting Rape in Nigeria

November 28, 2011

It’s hard to see any value in the ABSU Rape Video saga (as it shall forever more be known despite the Abia State government’s threats) but it sparked widespread national outrage and finally focused media and federal government attention on violence against women in Nigeria. That’s a good thing. The Ministry of Women Affairs, the Ministry of Youth Development and the relevant National Assembly committees have all rolled out belated but laudable initiatives to reduce rape and violence against women in the country.

While we must applaud the flurry of activity by various state and non-state actors and the rush to pass bills with stronger penalties (something that will make VAW activists who have struggled to get them passed for years very happy) the new laws and the behavioral change strategies proposed cannot have short or mid-term impact on the security of our girls and young women unless we improve prosecution of rape cases.

The old Nigerian cliché that says enforcement is our problem not laws is sadly true in this case. The crimes of rape and sexual assault and their penalties have always existed in our Criminal Code, the Penal Code and under customary law.  According to a 2006 Amnesty International report on rape in Nigeria that cited several national civil society organizations the great challenges have been getting victims to report and the police to investigate and prosecute rape.

The AI report says social stigma is a major reason rape is under reported. How is that stigma correlated with the insensitive and traumatic treatment victims can expect to experience with the police and the criminal justice system in Nigeria? According to the same AI report state actors especially the police are the major perpetrators of rape and violence against women. How do we expect them to impartially investigate reports of rapes? How do we expect them to be sympathetic to victims brought to them for justice and protection?

The Abia State commissioner of police is on public record saying  that Ms. X, the woman  in the video in question, seemed to him to have consented to the sexual intercourse or else she was being ‘punished’ for some real or imagined slight to one of man. Most significantly he revealed that the police are aware that young women are being raped and videoed as a means of punishment and social control. It is not unreasonable to deduce from his words that they also condone it.

Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State himself a publicly known cultist narcissistically suggested that his political enemies staged the revolting and dehumanizing video to make him look bad. I’m not sure whether who is worse, him or his political enemies. Is anyone still suggesting that a woman’s mode of dress is what leads to rape? It is well established that rape has nothing to do with uncontrollable sexual desires and everything to do with power and social control.

There is an epidemic of rape in Nigeria and our chief protectors and prosecutors are also our chief rapists. Can making new laws, public relations, public campaigns to reduce stigma and victim support services solve the problem? It can’t if we don’t retool the police force and the criminal justice system to increase prosecution and convictions for rape. In the past decade a number of citizen sector initiatives have designed and carried out rape management training for small groups of judicial and police force officers. However, their impact has been weak and localized to just a handful of communities.

In the United Kingdom the police and criminal justice system were transformed over a period of 20 years after a series of independent investigations identified key challenges to prosecuting rape cases. Many of the changes were the result of legal precedent and policy change, not legislation. Today they have specially trained police officers in specially designated units working with prosecutors to ensure that both victim and accused are adequately protected from abuse of the system. The processes are contained in a public policy document from the Crown Prosecution Services.

Does creating a new unit in the police force and training them require new legislation or new regulations from the line ministry or the Inspector General’s office?  What is required to change the curricula at the Police Training Academy to include training on violence against women generally and rape in particular? Furthermore how pervasive is rape by policemen? Is there a presumption that all policemen are guilty but what’s the evidence that what we’re dealing with is not a minority of rogue cops? Credible data is essential to formulating a corrective strategy.

How does the Director of Public Prosecutor’s office handle rape cases? Are these processes public and subject to monitoring and evaluation? Does the public prosecutor’s office have a policy or guidelines for handling allegations of rape? Is there specific training and support provided to individual prosecutors that handle rape trials? Can the Attorney-General make policy guidelines or regulations for handling rape cases?

The Amnesty International report also highlighted the challenge presented to successful prosecution of rape cases by restrictive evidence rules, for instance the requirement that medical reports must be from a public hospital to be admissible in a court of law. The Nigeria Police and courts do not accept medical reports from private hospitals as evidence in rape trials. Is this a rule of practice or a statutory requirement? Could this practice be challenged in the courts? Or do we require a legislative review?

Customary law, which includes Sharia law in Nigeria, is also applicable in rape cases and takes precedence if inconsistent with the constitution. Can the multiplicity of customary laws that exist in Nigeria override constitutional protections if chosen as the applicable personal law? Under the customary law of some groups the punishment for rape ranges from banishment, a fine paid to the victim’s father or family group or enforced marriage to the victim of the rape. With the exception of banishment these are also the sort of sanctions we frequently see negotiated between a victim’s and her rapist’s family and mediated by the police when rape is reported to them.

Under Sharia law it’s almost impossible to prove rape, the requirement for at least 4 male witnesses that must all agree it was actually rape is both unreasonable and improbable. There are even records of victims that reported a rape and were instead charged with adultery, a crime punishable with death by stoning or zina a lesser crime punishable with caning. How do we ensure that our girls and women are protected under customary law and from repressive customary laws?

According to AI in most reported cases of rape the victims were minors. This is corroborated by a women’s led citizen sector organization protecting women’s rights in the country that recently listed the number of rape prosecutions they were supporting and discovered that all their cases involved minors presumably because it is easier to establish a lack of consent. Defense lawyers in rape trials frequently attack the credibility and the morals of the victim to try and prove implied consent. What does Nigerian case law say about consent in rape? How does the Nigerian bench define consent?

Disturbing fallout of the ABSU Rape was the exposure of the monumental degree of public ignorance about consent and what constitutes an appropriate response during rape from the victim.  Many public commentators on the issue felt that Ms. X did not resist violently enough and was not brutally beaten or visibly injured to have been actually raped. By definition all a woman has to do is say NO, she does not have to fight or sustain injuries to prove that she was raped. As a matter of fact VAW counselors have been advising women for years not to violently resist rape if there is no obvious escape in order to minimize physical injury and trauma. However what the courts have to say about it is far more important. What precedents are the honorable members of the Nigerian bench setting and how can we impact them?

Since the video first appeared the calls for Ms. X, the unidentified woman in the video, to turn herself in (as if she were the criminal) have abated as focus has shifted away from her as an individual to the bigger problem of endemic sexual violence against women generally and on campuses in particular. Is that a good thing? I certainly hope it is but it has also occurred to me that she may have been killed. It won’t be the first time in Nigeria. More visible and powerful figures have been killed with no consequences. After all the rapists are rumored to have political, cultic and occultic connections and the Abia state police commissioner did keep on insisting that his hands were tied unless she comes forward.

“Thou doth protest too much”

We can but pray. And prosecute


Is Rape on the Rise? Or Is It Women’s Activism?

October 12, 2011

I’ve lived in NIgeria long enough to be abe to say that the attitudes and behavior on sex, women and rape have been consistent over the past 30 years. What I think is that there is increased reporting and increased outrage from a growing middle class fueled by increased women’s activism.

That’s considerable progress. The efforts of the past 10+ years have not been in vain. The Nigerian women’s movement has had an impact. There is still so much more to be done but we can look back with a sense of accomplishment as we plan a new strategy.

I read that traditionally in some communities the penalty for rape was to compensate the father of the victim or marry her to her rapist.  A lot of research has done by Project Alert and CIRRDOC into the corelates of various forms of violence against women.

Women are beginnig to speak up and speak out, and the media is picking up their stories. Like this one from Enugu about a group of women that said enough is enough to male impunity. The ABSU Rape Walks in Lagos, Abuja and Abia last week were successful despite disruptions. They certainly rattled the police.

Now we need to make the law work for them.  How we do it is the next big challange.

 

 

Good Girls Don’t Get Raped

October 8, 2011

As a student at Imo State University in the 80s I used to hear stories of retributive gang rapes of uppity female students. Somehow they always happened to other girls on other campuses. I listened in wide eyed dis-belief.

It was like a morality lesson for young women: rape was punishment for bad behavior, ‘only bad girls get raped’. If you got raped you must have been ‘bad’. It was the boogey man that ‘kept us in line’ and working real hard at appearing to be ‘good girls’.

We weren’t of course. We went to parties, drank alcohol, had premarital sex and wore sexy clothes. I wonder how many of us didn’t resist or report a rape because we thought we deserved it. Some how. And then eventually convinced ourselves that it wasn’t really rape, that we ‘consented’.

You know you didn’t want to, you said you didn’t want to but he just ignored your protests and went ahead anyway. You’ve known him for awhile, maybe you were even thinking of ‘going’ with him. Maybe this was your first date with him. Maybe everyone says he’s great. Just that you weren’t ready.

How many of us went on to date the guy? I read online one girl is engaged to her rapist. I don’t agree with her choice but I do in some crazy way I think I know how she justified it. One of those things you hear. ‘We’ve done it already, we might as well do it again’.

Almost 20 years later a woman reported a rape at the FIDA branch where I was a member . She was a practicing medical doctor in her early thirties. I noticed she dressed conservatively because I don’t. Dress conservatively that is.

She described how she had gone on a date with a man who took her to his house, drugged her and with his flatmate spent the night raping her. The police did nothing. She came to FIDA for help. They asked ‘what was she doing there in the first place drinking alcohol?’ and dismissed her.

If you get that attitude from a bunch of female lawyers what can you expect from the police?  Its really not surprising to hear the Assistant Commissioner of Police in Abia State Mr. Micloth say the young woman we watched getting raped on the internet either ‘deserved’ it or ‘consented’. Outrageous yes, but not surprising.

Good girls don’t get raped.