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Rape, sexual harassment and provocative dressing

By Sunmola Olowookere

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She could not sit still. All through the court sitting, her mother had to continually restrain her. Through the experienced eye of a psychiatrist brought in to testify in court, the four year old girl was undergoing a mental disorder caused by a brutal rape in the Ijoka axis of Akure.

Promise (not her real name) followed her mother to church, along with her brother, a six-year-old boy. Mama had left them to their devices as she went in for a session with the prophetess.

The prophetess’ houseboy gave the boy a ball, lured his sister in with sweets and had his way with her on the floor of the kitchen. The mother discovered them, following the muffled cries of her daughter, and reported to the woman of God.  The woman had applied anointing oil to the young girl’s torn hymen and asked them to leave with dire warning of terrible consequences if the woman dared to report the case.

As fate would have it, the young girl became infected as pus came out of her vagina and the mother rushed her to the hospital. The health workers had alerted the police when they realized that the girl was raped and the mother was not coherent in her explanations.

She confessed to the police. The prophetess and her houseboy were picked and made to face the music.

Rape is a terrible crime to commit against anyone, especially a minor. It has the tendency to mar the victim for life.

Therefore, it is so irksome when some people in Nigeria hear about a case of rape, and the next retort they make is “When they do not dress decently, why will they not be raped?” Many of these critics’ psyche have been eroded by a widespread insinuation that indecent dressing is somehow linked to the crime of rape.

In developed societies, many well-to-do elite men go to clubs to watch strip dancers perform. While performing and to the delight of their spectators, many of these artists wear suggestive clothing that leaves little to the imagination, while the more daring ones wear little or no clothing at all and do things to their viewers that would excite them and make their blood boil.

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When the men explain why they visit these outfits, they tell you that it helps them to unwind and relax after a stressful day. To many of them, watching strip dancers perform excites, exhilarates and brings out the “boy” in them.

Despite these “exhibitions”, rarely have we heard that the artists were raped or sexually harassed. Where then does indecent dressing come into play in issues of rape? It must be part of the instruments employed by our patriarchal society to gag women and erode their confidence.

It is pertinent to stress at this point that indecent dressing is wrong in any society and reduces the dignity of a woman. However, that should not be adduced to be part of the reasons for rape.

A large part of the rape cases that were reported in Nigeria majorly involved minors, wee babies, and defenseless old women, a long time research revealed.

Rape cases of minors in court

Recently, 28-year-old Agboola Adebayo was remanded for defiling a 9-month-old baby. The Lagos State Government arraigned him on a two-count charge of defilement and causing grievous harm to the baby and the defendant pleaded guilty to the charge.

In Ondo State alone, there are over 50 reported cases of rape at the Ondo State High Court in the last three years; only the reported ones. 

One Joseph Agbomu was sentenced to life imprisonment for defiling his neighbour’s six-year-old daughter. 37-year-old Agbomu raped the girl at Ijebu, Owo local government area.

Justice Yemi Fasanmi, the presiding judge, said the prosecutor was able to prove the case of rape against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defendant confessed in his extra-judicial statement to having carnal knowledge of the victim in his room without protection after taking an herbal alcoholic drink.

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“The victim narrated that the convict who was her father’s neighbour, sent her on an errand to buy a pack of noodles, cooked it, and gave her some. And shortly after eating, he pushed her to his bed and inserted his penis into her vagina.”

The above two cases were just to register the fact of the increased number of defiled minors which outweighed that of mature ladies. One was a wee infant; nine months old and the other a six-year-old girl. None of these victims have reached the stage of puberty. They have no feminine endowment to boast of. These cases were too numerous to be mentioned one after the other and also very disheartening.

At least, 8 court cases were recorded in the media about men raping their daughters in year 2023. In all the instances mentioned above, one would wonder where the issue of being incited by a provocative dressing comes in.

Allure of weakness; an incitement for rapists

It would help our society if such a debased, erroneous, and inciting belief is stamped out. Allowing such sentiments to spread is like fanning the embers of criminality. It gives some criminal elements with base tendencies to see themselves as “societal ills correctors”. Such sentiment is capable of breeding sociopaths (a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behaviours)and psychopaths (a person suffering from a chronic mental disorders)in our society.

These crops of people with tendencies to sexually assault tend to interpret the minutest gesture of the opposite sex as sexually provocative.

Some years ago at the Ondo state high court 4 in Akure, a case of rape and murder was brought before Justice Samuel Bola, the young man had raped an old woman on a farm path and also strangulated her to death afterward.

It was obvious that he was mentally unstable as he was being cross-examined before the court. He readily confessed that he raped and killed the woman who took him to work for her on the farm.

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Surprised, the judge asked him the reason behind his actions. He replied that he was provoked by the way she walked before him as her buttocks wiggled. He added that he had pushed her to the ground and raped her after overpowering her.

He concluded that he got more infuriated with her as she cried and strangulated her.

Also at Akure high court before Justice Williams Olamide a few years back too, another 60-year-old woman who was a farmer was also raped brutally by her labourer which led her to sustain tears and wounds in her private part having been celibate for long. She was raped by a man in his twenties; a man young enough to be her grandson.

Probably there would be many women farmers that would have been sexually assaulted and the cases went unreported. This is because many women still feel embarrassed to report cases of rape.

It would be logical to conclude that many rape victims are defenseless and this formed the major part of the reasons why they were preyed upon.

Call for a change of attitude

The sentiment has become so deeply rooted in our society that it might take a concerted effort before it can be stamped out. Many spirited NGOs especially female ones are speaking out against the belief to the extent that those who share that erroneous belief are no longer confident of speaking it out publicly.

Nigerians need to understand that while no sane society would encourage its women to dress decently, however, it is not enough reason for them to be debased. It is only a backward, wicked, and stone age generation of Neanderthals that will still cling to that belief.

Many men are now seeing the light and understand that fashion and civilization often threaten the thread of our decency and many women who are fashion-conscious love to throw caution to the winds when making bold fashion statements. Their “statements” should not be seen as a reason to plunder and ravish them.

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