Advocacy group, journalists canvass stiffer penalty for sex, domestic violence offenders

 A cross-section of participants at the event

A cross-section of participants at the event

OPD records 406 rape cases in nine months

THE Counselling Ambassadors Organisation (TCAO) on Monday canvassed stiffer penalties for sex offenders, perpetrators of domestic violence and those who protect them from prosecution.

The Non-Government Organisation said such cover- ups by traditional rulers, neighbours and family members of victims were conspiracies that have encouraged perpetrators to continue in the crime.

TCAO made this call, even as Office of the Public Defender (OPD), an arm of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, said that no fewer than 406 rape cases had been recorded this year alone.

President of TCAO, Iyabo Obasa, during a sensitisation walk, as part of activities of the Press Week organised by the Lagos State Governor’s Office Correspondents (LAGOCO), said domestic violence, rape and defilement among other sexual harassments were criminal acts that must not go unreported and unpunished.

Obasa said despite several efforts to rid the state of such offences, the perpetrators were growing in leaps and bounds because “relations have continued to shield them from justice, at the detriment of the victims.”

She said: “Sexual violence happens in our homes, it happens to us but most of us keep quiet about it. There are so many women that are battered at home but they will not come out to talk about it because of the culture that is against you reporting your husband, so you have to keep quiet. But those times are now gone,” Obasa said.

Victims have to break the silence and get help from the government, police and other centres that have been set up to provide support.

“But if you do not report to the police, then yours is not a reported case. If we need to alter our constitution a little, then so be it. Right now, it is the person that perpetrated the crime that is provided for. What of those that assisted in the crime and those who say ‘such should not be said outside’? These people, including the traditional rulers, clerics and mothers, should also be punished,”

“In the case of rape, we have to also redefine what rape is. What we have in the constitution is that a woman cannot rape a man, whereas we have had such cases. That is why we are all crying out that we have to look at our constitution to align with current realities,” she said.

Director of the OPD, Omotola Rotimi, said that reported cases of assault, rape and domestic violence had increased.

Rotimi said that while no fewer than 14,166 cases of domestic violence had been recorded since 2007, about 2000 of them are for this year alone. From January to September records, rape count is 406; 138 children physically abused; 813 children in custody; 249 sexually assaulted, 206 sexually abused; 70 defiled, while 348 adults report domestic violence and matrimonial issues hit 658.

The director stressed that it is the OPD’s duty to ensure that victim, including the underprivileged, get access to justice and be protected by the law.

She enjoined journalists to help more with advocacy and enlightenment of the public, to ensure that victims do not die in silence.

Coordinator of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, added that it is now mandatory for all residents to report cases of sexual offense and harassment to the appropriate authority.

To this effect, Vivour-Adeniyi said that the DSVRT had trained 600 mandated reporters, engaged over 2500 students from 50 schools in the state, coupled with the engagement of traditional rulers on the culture of prompt reporting of such cases.

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