The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has said that both the leaders and the citizens in the country must rise against rape.
Gbajabiamila, who described the incidence of rape in the country as a pandemic, said every stratum of the society, including the media, has a role to play in the fight against the pandemic.
Speaking when he granted audience to a delegation of the Movement Against Rape and Sexual Violence (MARS-V) led by the wife of Kaduna State governor, Hajiya Aisha Ummi el-Rufai, at the National Assembly on Wednesday, the Speaker said the statistics on rape cases in Nigeria “is mind-boggling.”
He said Nigerians, especially those that hold religious views on rape, need adequate education and awareness against the rape pandemic.
“Whilst I see so many women here with you, this is a fight not just for women. I can see some few men too, but this is a fight for all. Let a subliminal message be sent that even though over 95 per cent of the victims are women, let it be that it’s we, the men, that are championing your course.
“The statistics are very alarming on the issue of rape. You hear figures in terms of rape and gender-based violence that are mind-boggling. It’s only a deprived mind that can engage in rape. I consider the issue of rape as a pandemic. In my estimation, it’s a pandemic.
“The issue of rape should be treated the way Corona is treated. How do we treat a pandemic? There has to be a frontal onslaught. The media has a role to play. It should be in the front line. There’s a lot of work to be done from different angles.
“In a pandemic, you look for cure. No sane man would have sexual intercourse with a 3-month old baby. The idea alone is sickening,” Gbajabiamila said.
The Speaker also said the Nigerian laws related to rape are weak, hence they would not deter people from engaging in the act, calling for stiffer penalties for offenders.
“As Muslims, we should educate our people that religion is about perception, but there can only be one truth. It’s all about education and awareness. We’ll continue to push hard. We’ll bring in our scholars so that we all can be enlightened for the sake of humanity.
“Some of our laws on rape are old and need review, like many of our laws. Some of the penalties need to be stiffer. The penalties need to deter, but they can’t deter because they’re weak. We need to look at all these things holistically.”
Gbajabiamila also said he believed a lot of rape cases are not reported as victims feel ashamed to speak out, calling on them to always come forward and speak up as that is the only way more and more cases would be brought to public attention.
With regards to financing, the Speaker urged the movement to make a presentation in that regard to see what can be done in the 2021 budget to be presented to the National Assembly in September.
Earlier, Mrs el-Rufai drew the Speaker’s attention to the rising cases of rape in the country, saying it was becoming alarming and that urgent action needed to be taken.
She said the current trend is a situation where “our women are raped to death and butchered even in churches and mosques where God is worshipped.”
Their main reasons for visiting the Speaker, she said, were to seek his help, ask questions, seek justice and challenge the status quo, noting that statistics have shown that 717 reported rape cases and 7,170 unreported ones occurred in Nigeria within five months.
She said while over 7,000 lives have been brutalised, with some destroyed and others terminated, perpetrators of such heinous acts are not brought to justice even as the laws appear to the lenient.
As the Number 4 Citizen in the country, she said, they wanted the Speaker to be their link with the Federal Government, and that he should help them with answers to their questions by spearheading the move to address the problem through lawmaking and budgetary allocation.
She also requested the Speaker to help them propose and insist on laws for better result-focused policies in government as well as assist them to have access to state houses of assemblies, many of which she said have yet to adopt laws that address rape.