The declaration of lockdown by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 29, 2020, leading to the stay at home by Nigerians for about two months has caused a spike in rape cases and defilement of minors. Almost on a daily basis, cases of rape and defilement of minors are reported in the media. In this virtual interview conducted by Victor Anya, Dr. Gideon Edekunu, a onetime senior doctor at the Blue Cross Hospital, Ogba, Lagos but now studying for his Master degree in Public Health (MPH) at the Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, United Kingdom, speaks his mind on what constitutes rape and how it can be eradicated in Nigeria.
How do you define rape?
Rape is a form of sexual assault carried out on somebody without the concept of that person or rape is sexual activity with somebody that is below the age of giving concept sexual request; that is to say that any sexual activity with somebody that is below the age of 18 years, whether the older person claims that the younger person that is involved in the sexual activity agreed to sexual request or not is rape because the younger person is too young to give concept in such matters. The reason is because she has grown to the age of accountability; she doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong or left or right.
What are the factors responsible for rape?
There are many factors responsible for rape. The first factor that is responsible for rape is poverty-younger girls are sent out by their parents to hawk items in order to get some money so as to augment whatever their parents bring home for the family to be able to feed. When these little girls go out to hawk, they go bus stops, motor parks, construction sites where there are bad boys such as area boys, touts, commercial bus drivers who take advantage of the naivety of the little girls. Poverty can make young girls become vulnerable because they may be homeless which can makes them to associate with any man that can offer them accommodation and in such a situation they are subjected to sexual activities without their concepts.
Other factors that cause rape are drugs, alcoholism, age, education, poor mental health, cultism and power. When people are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, they become uncontrollable and do things that are not acceptable to the society like rape, fighting and murder of innocent people. Age also plays a vital role in rape cases because underage girls are usually much easier to take advantage of because of their naivety; this is because they tend to believe everything they are told which the older ones take advantage of. Underage girls may also want to experiment life because of youth exuberance. Education also plays a vital role rape matters because educated people know the implications of rape and they tend to avoid it; they also know places to avoid so that they will not be raped but illiterate people may not know all this.
Again, poor mental health can also contribute to rape in the sense people with poor mental health are unconscious of what they do. Thus, such people can get involved in rape without even knowing what they are actually doing. We have seen many women with mental illness getting pregnant and one wonders who got them pregnant, this is as a result of the fact that they don’t what they are doing. Cultism is another factor that promotes rape because cultists may have the belief that raping ladies could give them a measure of power. Power is another factor that encourages rape because in places of authority tend to use their position to impose their sexual urge on their subjects or the people under them with the belief that nothing will happen to them because they feel they can always escape justice. This is why rape takes place in offices and in the homes where domestic workers are usually raped by their employers.
ln the past, it was matured girls that were raped but today infants and minors are be defiled, what do you think is responsible for these criminal acts?
These factors I have enumerated above are also responsible for the defilement of infants and minors. People who engage in the defilement of infants and minors are people who take drugs and alcohols; they do these things under the high influence of these things. Poverty is in the increase in Nigeria; parents send their children of ages 8, 9, 10, 12 and 13 to hawk goods in order to make money. These little girls trek many miles to sell these things and sometimes they are hungry. And when they are hungry, they fall to whatever that is offered to them. The unemployment rate is on the increase and as we know, the idol mind is the devil’s workshop. Things are getting worse in Nigeria. It is unfortunate really.
Before now, rapists engaged in rape to satisfy their uncontrollable sexual desire, but what pleasure will a rapist derive from defiling a minor?
When people are under the influence of drugs or they are mentally ill, they can commit all manners of crimes without being aware of what they are doing. So, such people are not after the pleasure because they don’t know what they are actually doing.
Do you think the killing of rape victims after rape and the rape of minors have connections with money ritual purposes?
Though, I have read stories about raped victims that have been killed by their rapists but I will not be able to confirm whether such killings were connected to ritual purposes or not. The killing of raped victims is a barbaric act and the people perpetrating such heinous acts should be dealt with severely according to the extant laws of the land.
A few years back in South Africa, the rape of minors was prevalent because of the belief that if a man that was HIV positive should have sex with an infant, such a man would be cured of the HIV. Do you think there is a correlation between what happened in South Africa then and what is happening in Nigeria presently?
To determine whether or not what happened in South Africa sometimes ago correlate with what is happening in Nigeria right now is not the same thing. We read the South African story in the newspapers then that people infected with HIV/AIDS were sleeping with minors with the belief that they could get cured of the disease has any correlation with what is happening in Nigeria now but there was no evidence about it. I don’t think what is happening in Nigeria today has anything to do with what happened in South Africa back then. Most of the rapists in Nigeria don’t know their HIV/AIDS status not to talk of curing themselves of the disease by sleeping with minors. The rapists in Nigeria have not told the world why they are doing what they are doing.
Many rape victims are afraid to talk because of fear of stigmatization, what is your advice for such people?
It is true that rape victims especially in Nigeria not speaking out because of stigmatization but rape victims should endeavour to speak out. They go to the police station to report their complaints because the Nigerian police take case of rape very seriously. In the hospital where I was working in Nigeria before I left the country, there was a phone number dedicated to report rape cases to the police. Rape victims that have parents or elderly siblings should discuss such cases with them but the issue is that many parents are afraid of stigmatization of the victim and they don’t want their family name to be stained hence they don’t want the victims to speak out but this is wrong because it is always good to identify the rapist by reporting such cases in order to get justice for the victim and prevent rape activities in the country. Recently, many women in America are now reporting rape cases and they are getting attention across the country.
Some rape crimes have been committed by family members, how do you think such cases should be handled?
Rape actions that have been committed by family members should be treated exactly the same way as those committed by outsiders; there are laws regarding rape and those laws should apply whether the rape was committed by a family member or not. Rape is rape in fact for me, the rape committed by a family member is even worse because the devil is within, it means the person can easily take advantage of the vulnerable ones in the family whereas somebody that is coming from outside will have some barriers to cross but the person within the family has no such barriers and will find it very easy to perpetrate his evil acts. Rape should be treated as rape irrespective who is involved in the act.
We hardly hear reports about women rapping men, is it only men that are involved in rape or cases where women commit rape are underreported or not reported at all?
We know of a few cases of where women rape men in Nigeria but such cases are very rare. The statistics don’t show that there are many cases women rapping men especially in this part of the world.
Why do you think rape cases committed by women are not reported?
It is because rape cases caused by women are not common that is why there are no such reports.
Can we attribute rape cases to mental health problem?
As I mentioned above, mental health problem is one of the factors that cause rape. The rapist or the victim of rape can have mentally ill which causes rape activity. There are some mentally ill women that are pregnant in Nigeria, we can’t say they gave their concept to the men that got them pregnant. Many of the street boys who abuse drugs are not usually mentally stable when commit rape. So, poor mental health can lead people to commit rape and other kinds of crimes without being aware of what they are doing.
An axiom says that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Can we say the high unemployment rate is responsible for the increase in rape cases?
The idle mind they say is the devil’s workshop, unemployment is a major cause of rape. If somebody is unemployed the person can’t make money and the person will be poverty. Unemployment, poverty and idleness, all contribute to rape. Government should provide employment opportunities for the youth in order to get the youth engaged, let them have something to do which will take their minds from evil things. If they are gainfully employed, they will be able to plan for their lives and move forward in life. If somebody is really busy there is little time to think about those things; a busy person doesn’t even have the time to rest not to think about raping somebody. Though, rape can still happen but it will be reduced the incidents of rape drastically.
Can massive provision of employment opportunities eradicate rape in Nigeria?
I have answered this question above.
A school of thought holds the view that lack of appropriate punishment for rapists is the reason why rape activities persist. What measures should government take to prevent rape in Nigeria?
There are enough laws to prevent rape in Nigeria, all we need to do is to implement such laws. If a rape case is reported to the appropriate authorities the person should be charged to court and if found guilty the person should be punished according to the law. Government needs to show more seriousness as regards extant laws; we have laws with regards to rape punishable by law. If people who commit rape are punished that will serve as deterrent to others but if such cases are treated with kidgloves that will not send the right message to the people and rape will continue to fester in society.
What other steps should government take in order to prevent rape cases?
The answer I provided for the question above has answered this question.
Many medical doctors have been infected by the corona virus. What measures have you put in place to protect yourself from the deadly virus?
Corona virus is a menace, it is a very serious pandemic and unfortunately the world has not been able to find a solution for it and it continues to take its toll on people including medical doctors. I follow the universal precautions by wearing personal protective equipment such as gloves, facemask, face shield, ward coat and of course social distancing. I wish to use this medium to appeal to our people out there that corona virus is real; it is very dangerous. So, please, follow the guidelines of government as put in place by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), keep social distancing, wear a mask if you must go out if it is not necessary make sure you stay at home, wash your hands frequently with soap under running water, if you must cough, cough onto your elbow or cough onto a tissue paper and trash it, sneeze into your elbow. These simple things we can do to protect ourselves. Basically, these are the things I have been doing and I give glory to God that I haven’t contracted the virus and by the grace of God I will not contract it. Corona virus will pass away soon.
Medical doctors are very busy people, and the corona virus pandemic has even increased their work loads. How do you relax?
This question is very dear to my heart, I love music absolutely, I am a big fan of music.
Music they say is the food of love, if you are a lover of music, what brand of music do you love?
My genre of music is Reggae music, I love reggae music.
Who is your music idol?
My music idol of course is Robert Nesta Marley (aka Bob Marley). I love him, I play all his tracks, he ministers to me in a very special way. Sometimes I even refer to him as a prophet. Bob Mali is my music idol.