By: Tolu Ojeshina
Tolu is a development practitioner, writer, and volunteer at The Consent Workshop. She is passionate about dialogue and conversations that promote the development, advancement, and protection of women.
Pandemic (pan·deh·muhk): an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population.
2, 7, 12, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 70 and 85.
Can you guess what these numbers represent?
If you guessed lottery numbers, you’re wrong. Any other guesses? Okay, I’ll help.
These are the ages of women who have been brutally raped and, in some cases, murdered in Nigeria in the last few months. Its important to state that this is a miniscule fraction of the actual number of women who have been victims of sexual assault and harassment in the country. We only know about these cases because the victims and/or their families somehow found the strength to report to the police, and the reports were made public.
With at least 50% of Nigeria and the world’s population being female, rape certainly classifies as a pandemic. Women in Nigeria have been fighting the rape pandemic since childhood. Much like the rest of the world currently, we are taught to avoid going to certain areas, where we could most likely get raped. We are told to cover our bodies to avoid getting rape. The peculiar thing about this is that, unlike the Covid 19 we are well aware of how to flatten the curve, we are well aware of the scope of the problem. We know that severe punishment for perpetrators and consent education will stop the spread of rape culture but the rest of the world seems so focused on that victims ‘need’ to do to avoid rape as opposed to tackling this problem with men.
Let’s talk a little about these numbers:
85– She lived in Niger state and was at home when a young man broke into her house with the intention of kidnapping her for ransom. When she told him she had no money, he raped her until she was saved by her grandson. This happened on May 23rd.
70– On the 2nd of June in Ijoko area of Ogun state, she was asleep when a young man broke into her house and raped her. She was saved by one of her neighbors who heard her screams and attacked the rapist.
23 and 20– Both girls, sisters, were consistently raped over a period of 6 years by the same man, their father. Their father threatened to kill himself and kill them if they denied him. Their father was arrested this year by the Niger state police command.
22– Uwavera had just been offered a place at the University of Benin to study microbiology. She sang in her church choir, and had dreams of becoming a nurse. She was discovered in her local church on May 27th, children’s day, after being raped and hit in the head with a fire extinguisher. She died a few days after.
18– Barakat Bello was a student of the Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Moor Plantation, Ibadan. She was admitted into the college in 2019. On June 1st, she was found at the back of her home, raped and stabbed to death.
18- On April 27th 2020, Jennifer was raped by 5 men in Narayi, Kaduna state. She was invited by a Facebook friend to his house where she was drugged and raped. Her rapists have been charged to court but there are allegations that her parents are willing to accept some money so the case can be dropped.
17– She earned a living by hawking water and drinks in Oja’ba market, Ekiti state. She was raped by 3 area boys on the 1st of June 2020.
12– Farishina was repeatedly raped by 12 men including a 57-year-old man for 2 months. She was from Jigawa state.
7– Chijindu lives with her mum in Abia state. On May 19th, she was raped by a neighbor who had threatened to kill her if she told anyone. It took her 2 days to tell her mum what happened.
2– In 2015, when Fatima was 2 years old, she was raped by a man and this led to her death. 5 years after, Fatima’s killer has been sentenced to death by a Kaduna state high court.
The incidents above and so many others are different in a number of ways; the victims are of different ages and at different stages of their lives. Some of them are just starting to walk and talk, others just figuring out their lives and career paths, some others married with children, and others retired with grandchildren. They were all in different places (home, church, market), doing different things (sleeping, studying, working), and from different parts of the country.
There is only one common denominator. I’m sure it is clear what that is.
This is what we mean when we say there is NO justification or excuse for rape. ALL women in Nigeria and across the world are at risk of rape and other forms of violence regardless of their age, social class, or location. ALL women deserve to be protected.
We condemn in absolute terms the rape and abuse of all the victims listed above, and the many others that we are not aware of. Our hearts are broken for the suffering they have had to endure, and we stand with them in their fight for justice. We also remember Ms. Tina Ezekwe whose life was cut short at 16 years old by a police officer who shot her close to a bus stop near her home.
Over the next 21 days, The Consent Workshop will be holding crucial conversations to educate on rape culture, consent and healthy sex choices. Join the conversation on our digital platforms to learn how you can help to protect all women against rape and sexual abuse.