LEGAL IDEAS FORUM

THE MENACE OF RAPE: A CONSEQUENCE OF A SOCIETY IGNORANT ABOUT ITS MENTAL HEALTH BY: L C. Iheduru

 
INTRODUCTION
It is overwhelming how damaging such an experience is and how traumatized the victims and their families are left. If you ever have an encounter with a victim of rape or sexual abuse or molestation of any kind, you will understand the depth of the personality injuries they suffer, how their sexual orientation and self-esteem is scarred, how they stop living normally and are haunted by the memories of such a dastardly experiences.
Sexual assault according to  Webster mobile dictionary is the illegal sexual contact that involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent {as because of age or physical or mental incapacity} or who places the assailant (as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority, a fiduciary relationship as known in law.
Rape according to the same source is the unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent. While statutory rape is the crime of having sex with someone who is younger than the age that is specified by law, this vitiates the element of consent.
Section 357 of the Criminal Code defines rape thus;
Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind or by fear or harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.
This definition by the Criminal Code is in itself inadequate, as it limits the scope of rape to only a certain gender. Sexual abuses in all its ramifications are committed across gender lines. 
However, this seeming lacuna has been adequately satisfied by s.1(a) of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP) 2015, which defines rape to wit;
A)A person commits the offence of rape if:
He or she intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of any person with any part of his or her body or anything else.

B)The other person does not consent to the penetration, or,

C)The consent is obtained by force or means of threat or intimidation of any kind or by fear of harm or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or the use of any substance or addictive substance capable of taking away the will of each person or in the case of a married person by impersonating his or her spouse.
The punishment for this dastardly act as specified in s.2 of the VAPP Act is life imprisonment, save for certain exceptions. 
Sexual abuse of any form and especially rape is by far one of the most inhumane crimes or even the worst crimes that can be committed against the human body, for the victim is made to live with the gory images and memory for life. Not only is the body abused, the mind, personality and humanity of the victim is eroded and sometimes, this is permanent.
Sexual abuse is not a sickness you can cure with a certain dose of medication or a vaccine or some compensation in money’s worth. In fact, the only permanent cure for such a menacing and terrible act is death. This only goes to show the heinous nature of this phenomenon.
We can play the blame game as has been done overtime on social media, where people have blamed several unjustifiable factors for the recent spate of rape cases, but this is not the focus of this article especially as blames do not solve problems, they even only escalate them.
It must also be understood that sexual abuses are seldom motivated by poverty or lack of financial stability. They are most of the time perpetrated by financially stable people who are lacking in some aspects of their mental health or balance. This is not to say that poor people do not commit rape, but reported cases have shown that it is most often committed by persons who have some sort of influence over others and as such commands their respect and loyalty. These persons in law are considered as fiduciaries, occupying a position of trust in relation to their victims.
WHAT HAS PUNISHMENTS ACHIEVED?
A lot of people have complained about the inadequacies and ineffectiveness of our justice system which has overtime been a hindrance to justice delivery. But it goes further than that. The crime of rape is so complex that even proving it in a court of law with all its nuances becomes even more difficult, as the standard of proof is most of the time unattainable. See the celebrated case of Nayan Upahar & Anor vs State (2003) 6 NWLR (Pt. 816).  
The question we must answer is whether stiffer penal measures like the death penalty as canvassed in many quarters, would be enough deterrence for rape. 
It is obvious that punishments go a long way in achieving the objects of law in society; these are rules and sanctions, retribution, deterrence and in some cases, closure for the victims and their families. It also has a reparative effect on the society, as a rapist is made to suffer for his act.
WHAT EXACTLY IS MY POINT?
Certain degrees of crime as categorized and researched by sociologists and psychologists will disclose that these crimes are mostly committed by social misfits; persons who are most likely mentally ill or unstable and unsuitable for society.
There is no gainsaying that rape is not also caused by common and uncommon factors like substance abuse, alcohol overuse, toxic patriarchy and power dynamics. These have overtime characterized the continued spate of rape across the world and also Nigeria and a lot has been said and done about it especially within the Nigerian space. But one factor has been left out, a factor that bears a lot on these heinous crimes and this is the mental health of offenders.
Sexual assault is an act that can most of the time be committed and completed only by a mentally ill person or a person deprived of his mental composure and stability, the traits includes the following:
i)A person who has either suffered some degree of violence and carries a trauma, or 
ii)A sadistic or masochistic person, or 
iii)A direct victim of a like crime, or 
iv)A person who has some sort of personality disorder or 
v)One who is just wicked.
All of these points to just one thing, and they are the symptoms of mental illness in the commission of these crimes most of the time and this has been neglected or ignored in almost all discuss on sexual violence.
It is also a fact that our mental healthcare is one of the most under managed aspect of our medical health system in Nigeria. Our government has never been interested in the mental health of its citizens, even though it is proven that the mental balance and stability of an individual creates more productivity and at the same time has a multiplier effect on society.
This is one thing Western societies have capitalized on and have developed into an advantage over us. Their government have invested so much to care for the mental health of its people. And until the Nigerian government devotes some interest and invests in research and facilities, there will be very little we can do. And this is where everyone comes in. It is no news we have become a government for ourselves, having to provide everything we need.
The following should be noted:
Government has to take very active steps in creating an enhanced medical care system that also prioritizes mental health. It has to fund research and more research into understanding the philosophy, psychology and motivation for the rising spate of rape and other sexual crimes in Nigeria.
1) Everyone has to be careful about their circle, friends and even family members. Ask subtle questions about their opinions on these issues, make efforts to know their sexual orientation.

2)Build trust around knowledge, do not assume or presume. It has been proven that these incidents mostly come from places of comfort. Guard yourself.

3)Be careful of people you leave your underage ones with, this cannot be overemphasised

4)The rampant cases of rape have brought about the need for our religious leaders to get involved. They must educate and re-educate their members, followers and audience. They must preach against it in their churches, mosques, meetings and even online.

5)Our educational system should also include more sexual education. With a lot of emphasis on sexual abuse and how to report such incidents. It should be included in the curriculum from elementary school to our tertiary institutions. Education creates enlightenment most of the time.

6)Our police force must sit up on their handling of such cases. Most cases of sexual abuse are frustrated and compromised at the police station by corrupt police officers who collaborate with the perpetrators, collect bribe and dismiss victims as liars, hence making the public lose faith in them

7)Civil societies must also sit up and be true to their advocacy and desist from turning peoples experiences to publicity campaigns for their platforms.

8)Our courts must be proactive, effective and unbiased in their handling of such delicate and sensitive issues; they should sit up and be the last hope of the common man.

As has been done in Lagos state, specialized courts can be created by different states to handle cases that bother on sexual violence.
Finally, our legislature at the state level should work on domesticating the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015. This has been done by only a handful of states after five years of its enactment. The government of those states should prioritize this and ensure the Act sees the light of day in their respective states and soon.
 In conclusion, I acknowledge that my opinion on this subject which is of a most sensitive nature is not exhaustive and might be inadequate; I have taken a stand on mental health which I believe is necessary in combating the menace, for everyone should be given a fair chance to live. 
It is further opined that until all of these are achieved, the fight against sexual violence will never be won. We all need to be proactive, careful, aware and ultimately responsive. We must continue to fight against vices like drugs and alcohol abuse, toxic masculinity, and other vices that expose us to such inhumanity. We must never keep quiet as much as possible, we must always speak up until our progress is visible and the perpetrators and sympathisers of sexual violence are forced to rethink their actions. We will definitely get through this when we decide today to take an affirmative action.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR.

L C. Iheduru,  graduated from The University of Calabar where he obtained his LL.b honours. He is currently a student at the Yenagoa campus of the Nigerian Law School where he intends to get his B.L .
Leslie is interested in Literature, Advocacy (Human Rights), IT Law, Entertainment Law, Corporate Law and Governance. 
You can contact him on social media at Leslie Chidiebere Iheduru on (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or [email protected].com)
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For knowledge and Justice

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