BusinessDay

To know is not enough

I believe rape and other forms of sexual abuse have been with us from time immemorial. Has it increased exponentially in the last decade or two? Or has the advancement of technology in the form of social media etc merely led to greater awareness, bringing the issue further to the fore?

I believe it could be both. Unfortunately, in a society bedevilled with a myriad of problems like our own, one of the earlier casualties will invariably be its value system.

Sadly too, a society which has a high propensity to devalue what God values while valuing what God devalues can only go in one direction…southwards.

To make matters worse, a nation that refuses to uphold the rule of law (which God specifically prescribes must be upheld) will go from bad to worse. That has been the story of Nigeria for some time now.

Why is all this relevant to this conversation? It’s because in the history of our nation, there have only been 2000 convicted cases of rape. Yes, just 2000!! In a country where I’m sure most of you will agree such things happen almost on a daily basis, this statistic is shocking.

The reason is at least twofold, though there are many more. One, the archaic law which addresses rape is so skewed against the victim to get a successful prosecution. In fact, it’s almost impossible.

Something urgently needs to be done about this. Being the victims in nine out of ten cases, I do believe if we had more women in positions of authority, little time would be wasted in making the necessary amendments to these laws and we would all be the better for it.

Two, ours is a society where we are so emasculated by our fear of what people will say about us and because of that, most cases of sexual abuse never get reported to the relevant authorities so the perpetrator pretty much gets away with it.

Sadly too, a society which has a high propensity to devalue what God values while valuing what God devalues can only go in one direction…southwards

And as it’s true to man’s nature, he’ll continue doing something when he believes there won’t be any punitive consequences for his actions.

Why do our politicians continue to appropriate our commonwealth for themselves? Because they’re rarely held accountable for their actions. Impunity sets in and each act becomes more brazen than the previous.

There’s no gainsaying that if family members of those sexually abused could learn to place a higher premium on getting justice for the hapless victim than on what people will say, we may start to get somewhere.

The stigma we attach to it simply needs to go if we want things to change. If would-be perpetrators know that they will definitely face the music for their fiendish act, they will think twice. And thinking twice alone could save our womenfolk and children.

Many a time we hear of policemen who “blame” the rape victim who comes to report, for dressing too provocatively thereby inviting the man to take her by force. Such rubbish.

This, among other reasons, is why many don’t even bother to report. I can only imagine how painful and offensive it must be for a victim, having suffered such a harrowing violation of her body and very being to now be blamed for it.

Talk about insult upon injury. I’m certainly not advocating indecent dressing by any means because that in itself, if not curbed, diminishes our general moral code as a society. It’s like playing dominos. Once one card falls, it will inevitably cause others to fall too. It’s the pervasiveness of moral decadence that makes it so destructive. It’s never a “stand alone” thing.

A common thread that runs through lying, stealing, cheating, bribery, injustice and even indecent dressing is that they all sully, debase and progressively decay the system until it sinks to what becomes a new norm.

Sadly, what a lot of people don’t seem to realise is that Dr Martin Luther King was absolutely right when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That which affects some people directly will nearly always affect others indirectly.

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I have always counted our policemen to be among the worst treated groups of people in our country. They’re severely undermanned, criminally underpaid, often left to fuel their official vehicles themselves and they live in barracks which are demoralising enough to dehumanise anybody and to cause them to see all others as enemies.

Unfortunately, the common man who’s not the source of the policeman’s unenviable situation but finds himself in a similar boat often bears the brunt of his frustrations.

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Why would anyone who finds himself a victim of rape or any other offence, whether directly or vicariously, fight for the inalienable rights of policemen to be treated fairly and with dignity as all human beings should be, when the supposed enforcer of the law essentially turns the other way because “that” injustice doesn’t affect him directly. What goes around comes around.

It’s a shame because Nigeria is a country where people in authority expect you to accept suffering as a way of life. So as long as you’re not a member of the ruling class, physical and emotional brutalisation should not come as a surprise.

If you don’t like it then do whatever you can to get yourself amongst that group. And that’s precisely what many do, by hook or by crook. And we wonder why the rate of crime is so high. It’s often a desperate effort to escape from the group of the ruled.

Bertrand Russell averred that all human actions are driven by our desires. However, because not all desires are good, the individual must be trained culturally, morally through the family, schooling and the society he resides in, not just to recognize the desires which are morally acceptable and the ones which are not, but to have the moral strength to refrain from doing what he shouldn’t. Information and knowledge are as good as useless if they can’t be correctly utilised to make good judgment.

Regarding this, John Dewey insists schools have a huge role to play by including in education, ways to help pupils develop into individuals with the ability to convert moral concepts into concrete action.

Educators shouldn’t make the mistake of believing a pupil will automatically become a moral individual just because he has learned in theory the difference between moral, immoral and non-moral ideas.

Only character can convict them into doing right and it must be deliberately nurtured. Not even the most indecent mode of dressing can ever justify rape. It’s only a man who lacks character who will search for reasons why he couldn’t do right. To such a man, it’s always the fault of the other.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.

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