[OPINION]: Why The GUILTY Verdict for the Lagos Doctor Who Raped His Niece is Important to Nigeria
A week ago, I was watching the evening news: NewsHour on AIT . One of the news items that came up was a court ruling. There was a life sentence conviction given to a man who raped his niece.
After the court ruling, there were some gender advocates who spoke out and celebrated the verdict like the Actress and Social Advocate: Kate Henshaw .
Kate said, “I am happy. I am so glad and this will send a strong message to anyone out there; rich or poor. The day of your judgment is coming. It is coming.”
On the initial day that I watched the news, I was ecstatic but had many questions on my mind. I wondered whether the girl had spoken out to the police first. I wondered whether female relatives had tried to silence her.
As I looked more into the story online, I got to find out more details about how the girl’s case was uncovered. It’s good to know that this story is one that champions what is done right in the handling of gender-based violence cases in Nigeria.
Read on to find out more about what was done right and what should be done after.
The Girl Spoke Out Against Her Rape, She Was Listened to and the matter was taken up
One of the things we don’t get right when it comes to gender-based violence is that when the survivor has the courage to speak out, what comes of it?
In this story, the niece confided to a relative and driver that the doctor raped her.
When the Doctor’s wife, Aderemi Olaleye found out about the rape, she did not turn a blind eye. This was significant and should not be dismissed because it is not an uncommon thing when a family member tries to hide an act such as gender-based violence for fear of stigma or “public shame.”
Mrs Olaleye actually testified against her own husband to say that he was abusing her niece. This encourages others to know that they should not ignore or dismiss wrong things that are being committed within their own homes.
If you allow a perpetrator to continue abusing and taking advantage of others, you are allowing a criminal offence to prevail.
The Perpetrator Faced the Court of Law for the Crime of Sexual Violence
When someone commits a crime, the case should be taken up to court. It should not matter who the individual is or what their status is in society. They should always face the law.
In this case, the judge was Justice Rahman Oshodi of the Lagos State Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court. We commend him that justice was served even though the perpetrator was a man of high status: Dr Olufemi Olaleye, the Medical Director of Optimal Cancer Care Foundation. He is someone you would expect to be of high prestige and with good morals yet he was guilty of defiling a minor.
The fact that the Medical Doctor was tried in court and given a sentence is important because gender-based violence cases are not always taken seriously. Sometimes, they are settled out of court with bribery and intimidation.
Not only did Dr Olufemi face the court and was given a sentence of life imprisonment but he was also ordered to be added to the Lagos State Sex Offenders Register.
This is a big win and I hope that no matter the state in which sexual violence occurs, it is reported and tracked.
What Can We Do More of to End Gender-Based Violence In Society
Every November, the UN Women and gender advocates all over the world celebrate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. It commences on the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls and ends on the 10th of December, Human Rights Day.
The theme for this 2023 is UNiTE! Invest to Prevent Violence against Women & Girls.
There are a few ways I strongly recommend to invest in the prevention of violence against women and girls.
Invest in having sex education resources for children and teenagers
Invest in psychological support for survivors and perpetrators
Invest in more media training for coverage of stories on gender-based violence
Sex Education matters right from the age that a child begins to speak until the moment they are ready to attend university. We should invest in making sure girls and boys have proper sex education to equip themselves with the reality of what gender-based violence means and how to dismantle societal norms that lead to sexual violence.
Also, survivors need psychological support. I can’t imagine having gone through what survivors experience during abuse and not having any mental health support.
It matters that survivors get affordable mental healthcare on the trauma they endured as well as getting adequate resources and knowledge on the ways to move on. This matters because survivors should know that in spite of the wrongs done to them, they can still positively contribute to their society.
In addition, I feel that perpetrators should also obtain some form of support and rehab if they are being sent back into society. That way, they do not seek out their next victim.
Next, the way the media covers the stories around gender-based violence is crucial. Reporters whose beat is on gender should receive proper training on how to cover issues that deal with gender-based violence. To make sure they are sensitive to the issue and using the right terminologies.
Read on for more details.
1: Parents Should Always Monitor their Children and Equip Them with Sex Education at an Early Age
The niece who was abused by the Medical Doctor was said to have been threatened by the Doctor. In spite of the threats to silence her, she still did a brave thing: she spoke out.
In the interview, she said that “statistics show that most people don’t talk about the abuse due to fear of stigmatisation and how to get help but when you speak up, there will be someone that will be able to let you know how you can get help. It is only when you speak up that you can get help. By the time you report the perpetrator, then the perpetrator won’t be able to harm you.”
In the foundation, they educate children and teenagers on the necessity of speaking out and being aware of their private parts.
I believe that every parent should make sure they speak to their children and teenagers regularly about sex education, understanding abuse and how to take action.
2. Parents and guardians should Ensure Survivors of Abuse are in Safe Environments and Get Psychological Support
When you look up this story, one thing that gladdens me is that the image and name of the survivor are not made available. It matters that her name and image be kept out of the public eye for her safety. What matters most is that the perpetrator is the one who is being publicly shamed.
Also, it’s important the survivor is in an environment where she feels safe. She should be in an environment where people around her monitor her and assure her that things will be okay.
In my conversations and interviews with sexual abuse survivors in the past, they often state that part of their healing process is being in good environments and receiving some form of therapy and counselling.
When I spoke to Maureen, she said it was important for her to have therapy in order to manage the difficult emotions she felt from the abuse.
Therefore, Nigeria needs to continue to invest in the number of mental health facilities made available to its citizens. There should be several options for mental health facilities in every state that a person can walk into or call and obtain psychological support.
3. Perpetrators Who Are Released back into society Should Go Through Forms of Rehabilitation
Though the Lagos Doctor was given life imprisonment, there are others who have committed such acts but go back into society after four to five years.
As they are sent back into society, I often wonder how many lives they put in danger? For you to abuse and take advantage of another person is not normal. That person needs help. They need a form of counselling or rehabilitation so that when they are back in society, they do not attempt to ruin another person’s life.
Having a form of community-based rehab for perpetrators would help in the prevention of gender-based violence in society. This is an investment Nigeria needs to look more into for every form of abuse because if not, people who are not functioning well mentally will continue to be a threat to the safety of innocent women, girls and boys.
4. The Media Should Continue to Prioritise GBV Cases In the News and invest in GBV Sensitivity Training for Reporters
I’ve noticed that the Nigerian media definitely prioritises putting gender-based violence cases in the news. I’ve noticed this in the broadcast and print media. This is something that we should commend the media for because every story matters. The more we tell these stories, the more we create awareness of what has happened and what needs to be done.
The more we have these court rulings being covered with a ruling in favour of the survivor, the more others understand the severity and implications of gender-based violence.
Also, as we see these cases in the news, we have to inspect the way it is all being covered. It matters that survivors are always protected. That confidential information about their name and appearance is not being revealed.
It also matters that reporters and writers remain sensitive towards the words and terminologies used when discussing gender violence.
Having reporters whose beat is gender go through training on the coverage of gender abuse cases matters because the way they tell the story impacts the way it is being received.
I often watch and read stories of gender-based violence on the news. You read stories about children of 18 months being molested. You read stories about teenagers, young adults and even senior citizens being raped. These stories often break my heart and angers me but to know that a perpetrator is being given a life sentence fills me with so much joy.
It says to the survivor that what was done to you was wrong and there will be consequences. It says to the survivor that speaking out matters and due process will take place.
The guilty verdict of the doctor who raped his niece matters and it sets the tone for all those committing bad acts in the dark. Those who abuse and take advantage of others must know that what is done in the dark will eventually come to light and when it does, you will face the law.