I’m one that believes that the best time to discuss war prevention strategies is peace time, not war time. War time is best devoted to winning the war, not thinking of how to prevent another war. What that translates to in the battle against the recent upsurge in rape cases in Nigeria is that ordinarily, we should not be having this conversation yet.
This is because it is pretty hard to engage the mind productively when one is emotionally down. Many are angry and filled with righteous indignation at the spate of rape incidences in the country, and rightly so. Indeed, if these were usual times, this is not the time to talk about rape prevention. Rather, it is the time when all hands ought to be on deck to fish out the monstrous rapists that have gone on rampage and their enablers, and deal decisively with them according to law.
Unfortunately, these are unusual times. There seems to be no end in sight to the report of rape occasioning death. Worse, we are not fighting the war against rape like we should; we lack both the right arsenal and systemic strategy to fight the war. Hard as it is to accept, we are fast losing the war. And if we choose to wait till we win the war against rape before having these conversations, we may wait forever. This is why I have elected to lend a voice to the ongoing conversation. What are the conversations we must start having?
Many have advocated stiffer penalties for rapists so as to deter potential rapists. Criminologists have however, found that severity of punishment is just one out of three elements that must be present for a punishment to serve the purpose of deterring potential criminals. It is in fact not the most important of the three! For a punishment to serve the purpose of deterrence, it must be i) Certain, ii) Prompt, and iii) Severe. If a punishment is severe and proportional to the crime committed, but is not certain to be handed down to the offender, and promptly so, it would not serve the purpose of deterrence. In this wise, merely making the punishment for rape more severe without taking a holistic look at the criminal justice system to ensure that rapists are certainly and promptly punished amounts to mere shadow chasing.
We know the principal players in the system: the police, the prisons, lawyers and judges. We know how systemic incompetency and corruption, mismanagement of funds, dearth of funds and facilities, political interference, low or inexistent capacity building and training programmes etc are killing the system. We must stop playing the ostrich and start having serious discussions about them.
Rape in the 21st century has also gone beyond non-consensual penile penetration of a woman. The Violence against Persons Prohibition Act now recognizes male rape, and also recognizes sexual violation without penile penetration as rape. We must begin to question states that have failed, refused or neglected to domesticate this law to arrest all other variants of rape cases.
Further, we must not restrict the legal panacea to rape to retributive justice, which places the offender at the centre. We must extend it to restorative justice, which seeks to restore the victim to health. I suspect that there are in fact more cases of rape than is publicized. The recent reported cases have only gained traction because they occasioned death. Many victims that survive rape naturally swear to a self-imposed oath of secrecy for obvious reasons. We must begin to have conversations around fighting stigmatization of rape victims, and creating an enabling environment for them to speak up, get proper care and justice.
The social media has been helpful to scream it to the hearing of the deaf that there is no justification for rape. A rapist rapes because he is depraved, and thinks he can get away with it. Rape is one of the most vicious, calculated crime there is. To be clear, nudity or indecent dressing does not justify rape of any kind. A normal, morally weak person upon sighting a scantily clad attractive person may be tempted to lust, masturbate, or seek consensual intercourse from her, from a sex partner or from a whore. He is never tempted to rape. It is why “provocation” is not a defence to the offence of rape in law. I am not aware either of the case of mentally deranged persons routinely committing the offence of rape. A rapist is therefore neither normal nor deranged. He is depraved. And that is why the other conservations we must have should focus on the causes of this depravity.
We have been big on finding legal solutions to the vice of rape. The truth however is that legal solutions will not suffice. We must not because rape is unjustifiable, summarily silence anyone who seeks to uncover the many reasons for the depraved act of rape. There are indeed many reasons why people succumb to act in a depraved manner; and the solutions must equally be holistic, intertwined and diverse. We must retrace our steps and begin to bring the disciplines of humanities and social sciences from the sidelines where we have put them and put them on the front burner. Humanities and social sciences are the souls of science and technology. Focusing on the latter at the expense of the former will keep getting our hands burnt. Sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, literary writers, theorists and critics; theologians, and educationists must begin to process for us how the mind of a depraved rapist works and why. Against this background, I will advance some of the reasons for depravity that occasions rape.
If you ask me, the two major causes of the kind of depravity in humans that lead to rape is the objectification of females and the love of money. We must begin to have serious conversations around patriarchal cultures that see women as mere objects that have been acquired like mere property through the payment of bride price! A symbolic gesture that was devised to esteem women is deemed by many as the actual worth and value placed on women! In many cultures, what should be a cheerful gift of honour is made a burdensome commercial transaction.
We need to further begin to question the mentality that sees women as glorified maids or that define their value solely based on the sexual pleasure they can offer. While at it, we must ask if the women liberation movements that teach wives to revolt, without more, are winning the war of mutual love and respect in our homes. We need to sit men who are domineering rulers rather than loving leaders at home down and teach them true leadership. We need to begin to take a second look at pre-marital relationships where verbal and physical abuse are excused; and homes where these anomalies are normalized.
We need to begin to have conversation about the entertainment industry that have turned women to sexual objects in their musical videos and soft pornographic films; and ignorant men and women that celebrate such debasing of womanhood in the name of freedom. We must speak to the value system in our families, communities, and the country at large, where money, fame and power are held in higher esteem and pursued at the expense of virtues like diligence, honesty, integrity, love and compassion. We need to begin to ask our churches and mosques whether their members are still spurred to act morally right by their teachings or they also now help to fester their lust for money at any cost. As a Christian, Scripture teaches of a divine power that helps to live righteously in an ungodly world and of humans like us who have so lived; we need to ask if this is still the focus of our meetings or we have changed the syllabus for worldly gains.
A systemic objectification of females and the dysfunctional world view that puts materialism as the ultimate pursuit of life on the one hand, and the collapse of social institutions that should keep these things in check on the other hand, sums up my hypothetical view of what debases the human mind to the point of sexual assault and rape. To cite Freud, the super-ego that should rub off on the ego to keep the animalistic id in place has become corrupted, and the id has been let loose.
A rapist rapes because he sees his victim as a mere object with little or no worth or value. A rapist rapes because he worships money and can offer the victim and her virtue to Mammon as sacrifice if the need arises. Until these twin evils are nipped in the bud, it is nearly impossible to stem the tide of rape.