Warning: Contains strong & offensive content

If you missed the video, the short film, Unwatchable is produced by Marc & Ish for Charity Save the Congo as a campaign to help end the use of rape as a tactic of war in the country.

On May 30, 2020, a 22-year-old 100 level University of Benin student passed on in a private hospital in Edo state. From family and friends’ account, Vera was a devout Christian youth who made her local church her second home. Unfortunately, on May 27, 2020, Vera was raped and violently assaulted in the same church she loved so much. Her distraught father took the case to the neighbourhood police station where he was ridiculed and turned away.

Vera Omozuwa

24 hours after Vera’s death, her shocking story made headlines and promptly sparked nationwide outrage. In the wake of the senseless murders of blacks in America, Vera’s death seemed to be the last straw for Nigerians.

Celebrities in their numbers took to their platforms to demand justice. Not just for Vera but for the strings of isolated incidents of rape and sexual assault in the last few weeks using the hashtag #JusticeForUwa.

Justice, on one hand, Vera’s case has also drawn attention to the laws that protect the female gender in Nigeria- an issue that has been of utmost concern for years.

Without a doubt, the gender-based laws which should protect victims of rape are filled with too many loopholes.

Age of Consent

According to Nigeria’s laws, the age of consent is quite ambiguous. In several sections of the law, the draftsman stipulates ages from 11 and less, twelve and fifteen years, sixteen and eighteen years respectively as not being able to give consent and violators are liable to life imprisonment.

The law has come under heavy criticism with international observers spotting how the lack of amendment of this law has continued to show the country’s laxity and unwillingness to protect citizens from sexual assault.

Age of Consent vs Matrimony  Law

The country’s law on matrimony also showcases another anomaly in that a section fails to provide a minimum age for marriage. It labels it simply as ‘marriageable age’ which gives room for various cultural interference.

For instance, in the northern part of the country, child marriage is normalized due to religious and traditional beliefs. The vague clause in the law allows for even a twelve-year-old girl to be labelled as giving consent as long as she is married.

Lawmakers’ reactions to #JusticeForUwa protests

In the days following the protests for protective gender-based laws, Nigerian lawmakers have oozed mixed signals.

On June 4, 2020, members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives voted against castration as a form of punishment for sexual offenders in the country. In its stead, the house agreed that members will dress in black on the next legislative day in the honour and solidarity of rape victims.

Ahmed Jaha Babawo
Ahmed Jaha Babawo Credit: Facebook

Ahmed Jaha Babawo, an honourable representative of Damboa/Gwoza/Chibok Federal Constituency, Borno said: “Women should cultivate the habit of dressing properly and decently to avoid unnecessary harassment and abuse by men because men are not wood.”

Henry Okon Archibong
Henry Okon Archibong Credit: Facebook

Another lawmaker, Henry Okon Archibong, representative of Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom said:

“I totally support any punitive measures for people that actually go around raping people; but there’s a saying in my place that says when you’re addressing the hawk, you also have to address the chicken. Mr Speaker, the way our girls and women dress these days is so terrible.”

What next?

According to a survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2018, Nigeria was named the 9th most dangerous country for women in the world. Obviously, the country’s flawed legal system and the show of indifference by the country’s predominantly rapist apologist legislature will guarantee a disastrous rise in the number of sexual assault cases.

Victim shaming and the level of corruption in the police force is another hurdle that needs to be reviewed. Several rape cases have been swept under the carpet because police officials demand incentives to begin investigations. It is public knowledge that gathering evidence in a rape case is time-sensitive but the poorly trained officials show little to no concern and constantly need to be pressured by online protests, public shaming or some kind of nepotistic influence to do their jobs.

Sadly, these concerns continue to hang like an albatross around the necks of Nigeria’s citizens. Women continue to live in fear waiting for the very next victim to begin another shortlived protest doomed to end the same way this will- a fashionable show of solidarity as a toast to dead and dying girls.

Mamazeus

Mamazeus

If you are reading this, I’m super glad and excited to welcome you to my world. There are two things I simply can’t do without; writing and watching movies. Movie reviewing for me is an opportunity to do both. I simply watch movies and let my readers see these movies through my objective lens.

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About Mamazeus

Mamazeus

Mamazeus

If you are reading this, I’m super glad and excited to welcome you to my world. There are two things I simply can’t do without; writing and watching movies. Movie reviewing for me is an opportunity to do both. I simply watch movies and let my readers see these movies through my objective lens.