Activities of child molesters (Pedophiles) have been on centre stage in the world’s advocacy over the past decade Nigeria has her own share of this psychological disorder. The rampaging assaults from these predators have been at the worrisome juncture, hence, the need to protect every Nigerian child (minor) from pedophiles becomes a priority. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
igeria may soon be overtaking Cambodia and the Far East as the pedophiles hotspot of the world, if underage Nigerians, who are currently being threatened by pedophilic assaults in the country, are not checked.
Hence, protecting Nigerian children from these sex predators (Pedophiles) has become a task which must be done by all parents, stakeholders and government at all levels.
Parents are saddled with greater responsibilities than any other, to help their children not to be victims of pedophiles, who are on rampage.
While pedophilia refers to a psychosocial disorder, generally affecting adults who have sexual interest in children or carry out sex activities with children, a pedophile is an adult (male or female) who is sexually attracted to only children.
According to a Behavioural Psychologist and founder, Tarmar Rescue Foundation, Fidel Onwuraokoye, this starts from who one entrusts the care of one’s children to when one is not around.
In this contemporary world, he said, both parents are now career people, where many leave homes as early as 4.00am and return as late as 11.00pm.
She believes it is the responsibility of both parents to decide who stays at home to take care of the children, while the other fends for the family, or both.
She said: “Most of the time, victims are molested by trusted family members or friends. Those of us that engage the services of a maid should also be very careful.
“If you have taken care of the home front, then the next place is the school; the school your children attend is also very important.
“Apart from the fact that you monitor the activities of the school as regard your children, you also need to enroll your child in a school where moral values and your beliefs are upheld.
“In addition to the above, there is the need for the parents to engage their children in sex education at the tender age.
“For instance, it is not wrong to tell a boy or a girl of any age that no man or woman should put them on his or her laps or caress them whether in the open or close door.
“It is not even a crime to tell your children not to allow anybody to touch their private parts under any circumstance.”
She noted that it is acceptable, if parents tell their wards to shout for help if any of the situations mentioned above happens to them.
She continued: “The spiritual aspect is also very important; teach them in the way of the Lord and be a good example in deeds and words. Commit them also into God’s hands day and night.
“To those children who have been victims of such act, they may be around us, we must not let it be swept under the carpet. We must let justice take its course no matter who is involved.
“That is the beginning of healing for such children. Also, they should be referred to a guidance psychologist who can help them to get over the traumatic experience.
“On a very serious note, it should be joint efforts of the government, NGO, international bodies and the entire populace to put a stop to this menace against humanity.”
She added that there should be conscious and continuous sensitisation that involves the religious bodies and traditional institutions on the dangers of pedophilia in our society.
In the words of former President of South Africa, late Nelson Mandela, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
He believed it is the responsibility of the society to familiarise itself with the numerous fangs and consequences of child sexual abuse and put in place, the very necessary measures by which childhood sexual assaults can be better handled.
Thus, child sexual abuse in Nigeria is an offence under several sections of chapter 21 of the country’s criminal code.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported in 2015 that one in four girls and one in ten boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18.
According to a survey by Positive Action for Treatment Access, over 31.4 per cent of girls said their first sexual encounter had been rape or forced sex of some kind.
The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development reported that 1,200 girls had been raped in 2012 in Rivers, a coastal state in southeastern Nigeria.
UNICEF said six out of 10 children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the consent’s age – 18 years – with half experiencing physical conditions that increase the risk of girl-child sexual assault in Nigeria.
Also, studies conducted in Nigeria disclose that young girls are victims in the majority of reported assault cases in hospitals.
A four-year review of sexual assault cases at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) that began in 2008 and ended in December 2012, showed that out of a total 287 reported cases of sexual assault, 83% of the victims were below the age of 19.
More so, a year survey conducted at Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUTH) between 2012 and 2013 revealed that 70% of sexual assault victims were under the age of 18.
In the Enugu survey, majority of the victims knew their perpetrators and the assault occurred inside uncompleted buildings and the victims or perpetrators’ residence.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that one of the traditional means of socialisation of children is through trading and hence became a serious risk factor.
Therefore, the introduction of young girls into street trading increases the vulnerabilities of the girls to sexual harassment and hence, sexual abuse of young girls in Nigeria is linked to child labour.
Currently the law stipulates life imprisonment for rape of a minor under the new Sexual Offences Law but the law doesn’t deal with those who marry under-age girls to circumvent the law.
While it is a horrendous crime to rape anyone it’s even worse when the victim is a child, said Dr. Cynthia Obiora, behavioural expert.
To her, some men think it’s ‘cool’ to sleep with an under-age child, saying it’s not and anybody who sleeps with an under-aged child, whether it’s consensual or not, is a pedophile.
On a sadder note, she stated is that Nigerian Senators recently voted in favour of child marriage, which is the major impetus to child molestation.
According to her, the Senators in question all happen to be from the North and Muslims.
“We need to tell them that we live in the 21stcentury where such practice is barbaric and acts not tolerable in the country despite what the Koran says about child marriage,” Udoh Ojeachi corroborated.
Udoh said there are those who would like to argue that pedophilia is a disease but it’s not; it’s just a lame excuse given by depraved men to explain away their sick sexual cravings.
He wondered how a certain Northern Senator would explain spending $10,000 to ‘buy’ a 13-year old ‘bride’ from Egypt, saying that the country’s first duty should be to the children at risk.
“Everybody knows who these children at risk are and who they’re at risk from. Instead of minding our own business and turning a blind eye, ignoring the plight of the victims, we should stand up to these people and report them to the authorities.
“There should be more awareness for people to know what signs to look for if they believe a child is being groomed or abused, by that ‘nice’ uncle who is always ‘touching’ his young niece and buying her presents is a potential suspect,” he said.
He advised the parents to learn how to be close to their children, saying that if any parent is too distant from his/her child; a lot of things will go wrong.
He further advised parents to be sensitive when things are amiss with their wards.
According to Child and Family Law Journal, Volume 4, issued 1, child marriage is the practice in which children are married to adults.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that a variety of rights are violated by child marriage including the right to equality on grounds of sex and age, the right to marry and start a family, the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health and the right to education.
It was learnt that the child marriage is more common in rural communities because such
communities tend to have traditional attitudes deeply entrenched in customs, which are not easily altered by external influences.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that female children are given away in marriage at a young age to increase the wealth of family members through the payment of bride prices.
Child and Family Law Journal insists that child marriage exposes children to adverse health effects and deprives them of the childhood-time that is necessary for them to develop physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
While, the Nigerian Child Rights Act of 2003, provides that a marriage entered into with a girl younger than eighteen-years-old is null and void, Section 18 of the Marriage Act16 provides that a child below the age of twenty-one can get married if consent is obtained from the parents.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that the implication of this provision is that children as young as 15 can get married once their parents’ consent, which conflicts with the clear provisions of Section 21of the Child Rights Act of 2003. Hence, this worsens the fight against pedophiliac assaults against children.
Speaking on the characteristics of pedophiles, the perpetrators of these heinous acts, a retired Chief Midwife, Mrs. Balogun Stella said, “A pedophile can leave with you for years and you won’t know. They are usually very friendly with kids and always praising the kids they are targeting.
“They are experts at grooming and are not in haste as they take their time to plan and strategise before acting. They are ready to spend on a child what they cannot spend on their wife or any other adult and they hardly show irritation with kids. They are experts at discovering kids love language.
“They know how to turn kids against their parents as they are like a chameleon. They have no shame and no pity and that is why a father can molest his own daughter. They are heartless and can break into a 6month old baby. The painful and agonising cry of a child does not move them rather encourages them.
“They are everywhere; among the teachers in your child’s school, Sunday school teachers in the church or Mosque, your domestic servants are not innocent until they are proven so; your colleagues in your working place. They can be among your relatives who spend some time in your home. Everybody is a suspect.
“And the worst of it all, some parents are pedophiles.
Should we now start suspecting everybody around us? No.
But importantly, every parent needs an extra pair of eyes.
A parent should be able to see more than meets the eyes.
A parent should read and understand the body language of a child.
“Like I do say having children is not as important as watching over them like mother hen. Watch your child’s behaviour towards any adult that comes around him or her regularly. Check out for those adults who are always looking for ways to stay alone with a child.
“Check out for those who like to play only with kids, not that they are naturally very playful but they just like to play with kids. Be on your guard against any adult that buys unsolicited gifts for a particular child.
“Dig deeper if your husband starts picking on your daughter. If any adult, including teachers in the school suddenly starts taking unusual interest in your child, don’t keep quiet. If someone suddenly makes himself or herself the spokesperson for your child, please be suspicious.
“Don’t be too comfortable with those young guys who offer to teach your child alone without payment.”
Barrister Emeka Ndukwe said every state legislature should enact the Child Rights Law following the model of the Child Rights Act of 2003.
He said by enacting the law in all states, the rights and welfare of children will be taken seriously, suing for adequate for the appropriate authorities in order to aid in the proper implementation of child rights laws.
He noted that the Sex Offender Treatment Programmes and Law, which aimed at protecting children, are not fully effective because most sex offenders are psychologically ill and cannot be deterred by imprisonment alone.
“Prisons, private companies, nongovernmental organisations, and individuals can play a helpful role in sex offender treatment in Nigeria,” he added.
“Private companies and multinational corporations can build facilities as part of their corporate social responsibility programs in order to enhance the treatment for offenders,” he quipped.
Mores so, the Coordinator, Children and Women Against Child Sexual Abuse Initiative (CHWACSAI), Mrs. Florence Ubajekwe, urged parents and guardians to expose perpetrators of child sexual abuse to curb the menace.
Ubajekwe, also a presenter and producer of Children Jolly Time on Radio 103.5 FM, Radio Nigeria, said exposing the perpetrators of such evil act, to bring them to book, was the best measure to reduce the increasing rate of child sexual abuse.
She said about 90 per cent of children are sexually abused by people they know, including immediate family members and asked parents and guardians not to doubt their children and wards on an excuse of being under age.
The coordinator said it was unfortunate that fewer than five per cent of children who had been sexually abused actually reported it while fewer than five per cent of perpetrators were arrested.
Ubajekwe said that members of the community who refused to report cases of child abuse to the appropriate authorities for prompt action were only aiding perpetrators of the evil act.
She said: “We must all join hands to help the victims of sexual abuse by expose the perpetrators and ensure that they face prosecution. The increasing rate of the menace in Nigeria led to the establishment of CHWACSAI, a non-profit organisation in 2015.
“Child sexual abuse has become rampant in our society today and the victim of the abuse could either be boy or girl child. We sensitise children, parents and increase awareness to reduce or prevent child sexual abuse.
“It is bad that many young people are not sensitised early enough about the dangers of such act like sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), HIV/AIDS, indulging in drugs abuse and waywardness, among others.’’
She said that was the reason the NGO had been going around primary and secondary schools, organising campaign and seminar tagged “Speak Out Against Child Sexual Abuse.’’
She noted that early child marriage and sexual abuse which lead to pregnancy often result in VVF among children.
Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) is an abnormal fistulous tract extending between the bladder (vesica) and the vagina that allows the continuous involuntary discharge of urine into the vaginal vault.