An erudite scholar, playwright, poet and winner of the 2018 Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNoM) Award, Professor Olu Obafemi has commended the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) on the success of its Virtual Lecture, saying the presentation was most stimulating.

Professor Obafemi who is a Professor of Theatre and English, a world class writer and a notable critic of Nigeria contemporary theatre made this commendation during the lecture which focused on ‘Rape as Anti-Culture in Contemporary Nigeria’ delivered by Professor Mabel Evwierhoma of the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Abuja at the Institute’s Headquarters, Abuja via Zoom on June 24, 2020.

While delivering her paper, Prof. Evwierhoma gave the legal definition of rape as “forcible unlawful sexual intercourse, without a woman’s consent’’, stating that rape  is anti-culture and unlike culture, it is not a contemporary way of life to be experienced, lived, or handed down or inherited by subsequent generations.

She however, posited that “rape is distinct from defilement where minors are concerned, but it takes the same form of violation of bodily integrity like rape. With defilement, the victim is a minor and under-aged and it is a violation of the Child Rights Act. She acknowledged that there are several causes of rape although it cannot be justified and where causes are provided, they underscore the fact that it should never be condoned”.

The paper presenter who suggested steps that can be taken from home, at school and places of worship to prevent rape said sensitization programmes to enlighten school pupils, self-control education for boys should be given formally and informally, medical options like visit to the psychologist for therapy, medication for trauma, self-healing, creation of safe spaces, crisis referral centres and community support systems should be encouraged.

The Feminist concluded that the realities of COVID 19 have made rape one of the viable means of transmitting disease and called for the right sanctions to be meted on perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence in the society. The need for constitutional provisions against rape cannot be over emphasized, writers, artists should create icons of male integrity. There is need to highlight the right culture that projects a good family, national name and image.

About a hundred participants from all walks of life; academia, civil society organizations, police officers, media practitioners, among other groups fielded their contributions and made suggestions after the NICO virtual lecture.

Among the contributors were Professor Ododo from the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) who commended the legal content of the lecture and as well as called for the need for NICO to come up with a blue print on rape, saying such a document will assist the public to know what is culturally right or wrong when it comes to treating women.

Professor Victor Dugga who is Dean, Faculty of Arts at the Federal University, Lafia, Nasarawa State (FULAFIA) suggested that one of the proven deterrent of rape is the creation of a Sex Offenders’ Register, citing Ogun state as an example of states in Nigeria that has started a name and shame program. He canvasses that the move should be emulated by most states.

Mr. Eddy Okolo of the Enugu State Council for Arts and Culture, Enugu who commented on the litigation of rape cases said for him, it is too cumbersome and suggested that the law should be revisited.  Mr. Okolo also averred that the Nigerian Police Force is lagging behind in prosecuting cases of rape. He said parents on the other hand, are not doing much as expected of them, stressing that society is too cruel to victims of rape, making them loose confidence in the system.

Mrs. Bridget Onochie, a media practitioner with Guardian Newspaper in her contribution said the family is very imperative on the issue of rape. According to her, it is the responsibility of parents to make their children understand the socio-cultural and psychological consequences of rape on the victims and also on the culprits, especially when the law catches up with them.

She added that young men should be appropriately sensitized at the family level so as to guide their actions when they get to the larger society.

Hatsia Mohammed Lawal, a lawmaker from Katsina state suggested that for Nigeria to fight rape, it has to be community-based. For her, to solve the problem of rape, parents must central. She said there is need for parents to be educated to speak and fight for justice in cases of rape and shun the culture of silence.

This first virtual lecture is borne out of the need to sensitize the public especially the parents and youths on the rising cases of rape of women in recent times while highlighting the cultural implications.

Njideka Dimgba

Media Assistant to DOOES