In response to the rising incidents of rape and sexual violence across the country, women and girls in Anambra State over the weekend held a march to raise consciousness on issues of rape and seek collaboration with citizens to end the anomaly.
The exercise tagged ‘Walk against Rape in Nigeria’ was organized under the auspices of Anambra State Government with support from media organizations, non-governmental and Civil society organizations in the state.
Among the partners were International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Nigerian Girl Guides, National Council of Women Society, Wazobia FM Onitsha, Network Against Trafficking Abuse and Labour (NATAL), Anambra Female Students Association, among others.
The march took participants through major streets of the State Capital Territory, during which they distributed fliers and held advocacy on the need to end rape.
The protesters bore placards with inscriptions such as, “Girls are not Objects, “Rape Is A Serious Crime”, “Her body is her right”, ” Don’t let a rapist go free”, “Rape is against Humanity”, The Age of Consent is 18, Be Guided” and many others.
The Convener of the protest, Mrs Ify Aronu Okafor, who is the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Broadcasting, said the march was necessitated by the surge in rape cases across the country with many unreported.
According to her, the government is taking the charge to ensure that the message sinks deeper into the grassroots with very high cases of sexual violence that spells very negative indices for the state.
“Issues of sexual violence is now at the top burner with the latest being the rape and murder of a UNIBEN student in a church in Edo State. The essence of the match is to sensitize people of the state, especially at the grassroots, that rape is a serious crime and should be frowned at seriously by the society,” the SSA said.
Mrs Aronu-Okafor called on victims of rape to be willing to report such cases and the citizenry to always raise alarm whenever such is witnessed to ensure that the law takes its full course.
“It is worrisome that most of these cases have gone unreported. Our people must support this cause and always report cases of abuse and rape to relevant authorities. Only then will we be able to curb this menace. The silence of the society has been a major reason why this evil has gone on for a long while and that is why we are saying no to rape and encouraging people to always speak out,” she said.
The Member representing Nnewi North in the State House of Assembly, Nonso Smart Okafor while noting that the state legislature is in support of the walk against rape in the state, said rapists are worse than beasts.
Okafor who revealed that the nation’s legislature has done a lot to make laws against rape, however, regretted that the lack of willpower to implement the laws by the executive has undermined efforts at fighting the ugly development.
“While I strongly believe that there needs to be more severe punishment for rapists in our laws, the existing ones have not yielded the desired result in the fight against rape. This is as a result of poor implementation by the executive. We need to do more in enforcing these laws to deter future offenders from indulging in such negative acts,” the lawmaker opined.
For her part, the Legal Adviser to Anambra State Chapter of the National Council for Women Societies, Barrister Ifeoma Chijioke observed that parents have an important role to play in educating their children especially the males that rape is wrong.
According to her, if children grow with the understanding that it is wrong to have sex against one’s consent, it will go a long way creating the required awareness that will reduce incidences of rape.
In her words, “Parents must be alive to their responsibility of grooming their children to know what is right and wrong especially at a tender age so that they can grow up with the mentality. It would be very difficult for such a person to rape anybody. We are saying that mothers should do their jobs, to train our children well. Our children must understand that rape is a crime against humanity and God “.
In their separate remarks, the coordinator, the President, National Female Students Association, Comrade Queen Chikwendu and a mathematics student at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Chioma Ugonwa observed that while rape gives temporary sexual satisfaction to the rapist, it puts the victims in a lifetime trauma, lending their voices to the call for more stringent punishment against rape offenders.
It will be recalled that Anambra State has recorded about 80 cases of rape and sexual harassment since the lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.