(Samuel Odebowale – ABUJA) SENS Newswire Agency had an interview session with Madam Olabisi Tomori of JustRiteSuperstores at Ota over the weekend. She recently launched a public petition at http://chng.it/2j9FPLXM. In this interview, she talked about the need for strengthening elementary educational curriculum with lessons on child rape, abuse and sodomy in Nigeria. Excerpts…
SENS: How do you think children can be protected from sexual violence?
Olabisi: There is a need for raising awareness globally and locally on the need for better protection of children from sexual violence. In this part of the world, much attention has not been paid to the character of sexual violence. Rather, we have muddled up the issues under a single label and that has not been helpful to the understanding of specific underlying issues. This misunderstanding discourages the victims, perpetrators and their immediate communities from coming forward.
SENS: Can you provide specific instances or issues in that regard?
Olabisi: We already know that in other to limit sexual violence, it is important to help both victims and perpetrators. Punishment as a measure is not adequate enough to address the root cause of the deviant behaviour; neither would it provide sufficient closure for the victim. At the moment, we are not providing this sort of long-term oriented support for people in Nigeria.
Secondly, the process of proving rape under our laws and criminal justice administration is not helpful for the victims. It requires victims to have sufficient presence of mind before, during and after the rape, in other to prove a rape actually occurred. If you cannot preserve physical exhibits such as torn pants and dress, semen, if you clean up before making an appearance in front of a police officer, you are destroying evidence and that will not be helpful to your case.
Furthermore, in other to prevent child sexual abuse, we need to know more about it. Most advocates in Nigeria cannot identify issues beyond physical molestation. That is why our understanding of consent has not been able to define what actually constitutes rape. Is it when the sexual conversations begin, when you look at someone in a way that is considered sexually inappropriate or does it have to do with the way people dress, or when a physical penetration is established? These several other important questions are being drowned under the guise of hysteria and popular slogans, and this provides a loophole for maladministration of justice.
Global studies have shown that sexual violence against children concerns all countries, social backgrounds, cultures and religions. Children are the first victims of sexual violence, and among them, children with disabilities are the most affected. There is no minimum age for being a victim of sexual violence. Before puberty, girls and boys could be victims in the same proportions. When a child is sexually abused, the perpetrator is almost always someone close to the child. One out of five times, a woman is a perpetrator. When a minor is a victim, one out of every two times, it is a minor who is the perpetrator. It is therefore clear enough that you cannot limit sexual violence without helping both the victim and the perpetrator. Our punitive approach does not provide correctional incentives, and that provides room for improvements in the way we do things in Nigeria.
SENS: You mentioned the need for Nigeria’s curriculum improvement earlier in the day. Can you talk further on that?
Olabisi: I am working on an advocacy and development project. As soon as I make up my mind on a befitting project name, I will announce it. I am raising the project so that our governments at all levels can include in the school curriculum, a subject that teaches children from a very tender age on child rape, child abuse and sodomy.Like I said earlier, these evils are perpetrated by people close to them and they always threaten to kill them if they report. My believe is that if the children have the right knowledge from school coupled with their home training, these atrocities will be reduced. This subject could empower them with appropriate information for help and guidance.
One of the things I have done is the creation of a petition at http://chng.it/2j9FPLXM which has been launched for public endorsement. I am appealing to all people of good intent to sign the petition in other to reflect their voices. Child abuse, child rape and sodomy of boy child are becoming quite rampant in Nigeria. If appropriate lessons and subjects are taught in the classroom, children will know who they can talk to for self-defense, and what they should do. They will be empowered with the right information to overcome threats and abuses from perpetrators. The lessons should be introduced in the Nigerian school curriculum from tender ages.
SENS: How would you describe the plight of children in Nigeria?
Olabisi: Children (including infants and toddlers) are not safe in Nigeria anymore. A case of a 33-year-old male who was apprehended by hunters while on the run in Bauchi State was recently reported. He raped 3 brothers (ages 8, 7 and 5) for 3 months and threatened to kill them if they mention it to anyone. Test results revealed a specimen from the same culprit. The children are now HIV and Hepatitis-B reactive. We have heard similar reports from several parts of the country. I believe that anyone who is not contributing towards solutions and protection of our young ones is establishing himself as a perpetrator and accomplice.
SENS: What can corporate organisations do about this?
Olabisi: Organisations are employers of labour. They employ perpetrators, parents of the victims and their family members. They clearly have major roles to play in terms of identification, deterrence, corrective and restitution. They also have the resources to provide the funding and affirmative action required to compel governments, as well as local initiatives that would ensure families of their respective staff are safe and free from harm.
For instance, the Company I work with, JustRite Limited, has been the leading light of retail and self-service sector in Ota, Abeokuta, Osun and Lagos State since the 1990s. We have robust initiatives that avail adequate protection for staff, families and host communities wherever we operate. Our facilities everywhere have been the convergence hub for students and young people connected by the entire community. The brand provides a pleasant shopping atmosphere for her customer. As at today, JustRite Superstores has Twelve (12) mega outlets scattered across Lagos, Ogun and Osun States.
SENS: Earlier, you mentioned a petition you launched at http://chng.it/2j9FPLXM. What informed the petition?
OLABISI: I saw a post on social media that struck me and I said to myself, it is time we changed the narratives. Let the government introduce a subject that will inform children from schools. A subject that will teach on all forms of abuse, including sodomy, rape and child abuse. To achieve this feat, I need the voice of the people, media advocacy, institutional support and other resources. As at today, over 70 people have signed the petition. I would like to use this opportunity to thank them but it should not stop there. I am encouraging everyone to lend a voice by sharing the link and the vision across all platforms. Together, we will succeed and gain victory over all forms of child molestation across all communities in Nigeria.