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Internet gang rape video prompts outrage in Nigeria

posted 29 Sep 2011, 07:35 by Mpelembe   [ updated 29 Sep 2011, 07:39 ]


A video of a young Nigerian girl being gang raped has revealed the extent of abuse against women in the country and prompted calls for a change in the law to provide better protection for women who report sexual crimes.

The emergence on the internet of a video clip of a young Nigerian woman being gang raped by five male university students has revealed the extent of battering and abuse many women in the country have to endure daily, activists have said.

The hour long video of the young lady's ordeal was posted on the internet soon after the crime and was also circulated on mobile phones among students of Abia state University.

The university administration and Abia state police have denied the crime took place at the institution, prompting outrage among activists who say it shows the extent violence against women is covered up or goes unpunished in Nigeria.

A sustained campaign on social networks forced the police to resume their short investigations, which they had declared over as the victim had not come forward.

The Nigerian national assembly joined the debate and called on the police to re-open the investigation, which led to two arrests three days later based on names and photos posted online.

Jo Okei-Odumakin, president of Women Arise, an organisation spearheading women rights in Nigeria says sexual abuse and violence against women in Nigeria is common place.

"Women have been maimed, they have used acid to disfigure them because of one flimsy excuse or another and then, when we come to the question of rape, it has reached an alarming rate, it is a reoccurring decimal," she said.

But she also says that the fact the police are not prepared to admit the crime happened underlines the culture of silence she says is encouraged at all levels of society.

According to Amnesty International there were over 2,780 cases of rape in 2010 and already over 1591 cases in 2011.

But activists in Nigeria say the real figures are much higher considering the fact that most cases are never reported by the victims.

Rape is a taboo in Nigeria and majority of victims and their families chose not to report the crime or even talk about it openly.

"If such girls go to different churches or mosques you say what has befallen them, the father, the mother will be called, prayer will be offered, and they will tell the girl go in peace and forgive," said Okei-Odumakin.

On the streets of the sprawling commercial capital city of Lagos the fear of becoming a rape victim is real among women.

Recently a woman and her two children were raped in the densely populated suburb of Ajegunle and the culprits are still at large.

"I am scared about it and I am worried about it, because now I can't move around," said Ademiran Temitope, a student in Lagos.

"Around here you will be afraid to stay outside, all of a sudden you just see people rushing everywhere, they go inside," said Akanni Hannali, also a student in Lagos.

Abiola Akiyodi-Afolabi, a lawyer and chief executive Women Advocacy Research and Documentation, has been at the forefront of the campaign for an effective law system for crimes against women and men in Nigeria.

"We need to do a lot of restructuring, we need to do a lot of audit of our laws, look at how can the law better the women and also the men, but most importantly often what we see is that the law is always very discriminatory against women in Nigeria," she said.

Akiyodi-Afolabi also says the number of video clips posted on the internet of young Nigerian women being raped have risen in the last couple of months. In some cases people pay money to see the video. She's calling for an investigation into the worrying trend.

"Some places now what they do is to send it and ask people to pay, like 30 naira ( $0.19) or something like that, so we need to then be careful to see, to then start to understand what are the undertones, why all of a sudden is it becoming more. Three months ago I had a call about a young lady in Ofa (town) was gang raped and they put it on video and they sent it around then you wonder what form of rape would lead to somebody having a video and the video they send?" said Akiyode-Afolabi.

Activists have urged the Nigerian government to protect its citizens and all persons within its territory against violation of their rights and ensure that when these rights are violated, the crime is investigated properly and the perpetrators are punished.

Nigeria has ratified Article 4 of the Protocal on the Rights of Women in Africa, which stipulates that Nigeria shall take appropriate and give effective measures to eliminate violence against women and assist victims obtain justice.

Two people have been arrested in connection with the Abia gang-rape sage.