The film industry in the United States of America otherwise known as Hollywood is currently in an emotional turmoil following the outbreak of massive public disclosures of serial sexual harassment and cases of sexual abuses made against one of America’s top rated king makers in the industry known as Mr. Harvey Weinsteins.
As I put pen to paper, this erstwhile iconic producer has had his name linked to about two dozen alleged cases of sexual harassment by top female actresses that cut across many continents of America and Europe.
The scandal of sexual harassment made against the American top rated Hollywood Maverick follows in the trends of many of such revelations.
Mr. Bill Cosby, the erstwhile legendary comedian from the black American community has had his otherwise top rated popularity plummet to an all-time low following a rash of accusations by women that he has raped or sexually harassed them many years ago.
Bill Cosby is facing criminal trial in one out of the 50 cases that emerged because the majority of such accusations have exceeded legal time limitation for criminal prosecution.
It is therefore accurate to state that the United States of America is one place whereby ladies have come to the realization that it is time to dethrone the powerful cabal made up of influential and wealthy men of all colours who are sexual predators just like Mr. Harvey Weinsteins whose matter has obviously become a global thematic area of critical analyses.
Before the last general election in the United States in 2016 in which the Maverick billionaire Mr. Donald Trump coasted home with a pyrrhic victory over Hilary Clinton, Trump came under intense scrutiny over his past cases of sexual molestations of ladies.
Whilst his politically motivated sexual harassment scandal took the Centre stage he (Donald Trump) had the tiny fortune of falling back on the irony that indeed the husband of his Democratic rival (Hilary Clinton) Mr. Bill Clinton was nearly deposed as U.S. president due to his reckless sexual affiliations to the then White House intern known as Monica Lewinsky.
Bill Clinton was impeached by the U.S. Federal House but stayed on because he was spared by the senate.
Anyway, the United States is not alone in the matter of involvements of top politicians with sexual harassment scandals because even in Africa starting with South Africa, President Jacob Zuma once had a scandalous encounter of alleged rape of a female family friend.
Fast forward the discussion to Nigeria and what immediately comes to mind is that we are yet to come to terms with the serious issue of sexual violations of vulnerable girls.
It is a notorious fact that sexual harassment and rape are twin evils that dominate the crime diaries in Nigeria but sadly, both the police and the court system have yet to embrace the challenge of stamping them out through critical prosecution and heavy punishment.
Take for instance the many cases of sexual violation of little girls that such states like Katsina and Kano have become very notorious, not many of these sexual predators have been held to account.
The major factors encouraging the expansion of these gruesome crime of rape and sexual molestation are simply because the extant legal framework makes believable evidence difficult to come by so as to fastrack conviction difficult must be demolished and in its place, Nigeria should strengthen law’s against rape and sexual violence.
Another strategic issue to be tackled before Nigeria can take up the cases of such sexual abuses with the kind of zeal that the United States’ and European ladies and societies have embraced, is the urgency of the now to train the police and to sufficiently empower the policing departments that ought to handle matters involving such delicate sexual violence.
The Nigeria police as it is currently constituted, have very funny priorities and the bulk of the operatives do not have the skills, competences and determination to wage law based war against sexual harassment.
Apart from the fact that some police operatives are some of the worst species of sexual predators, the policing style in Nigeria has made it easy for some commissioners to waste human resources in chasing after such irrelevant cases that are not really of much national emergency and therefore do not post much of a challenge to such a level that sexual violence constitute.
Take for instance, the Lagos State police command reportedly paraded 3 brothers for selling love portions to prostitutes.
The Lagos state police command is said to have arrested and paraded three brothers who specialize in making ‘spiritual’ soaps for business owners in order to attract customers, according to a report by LIB.
Korede Ojo, Ifedayo Ojo and Akinola Faleke who all reside at Folashade Street, Maruwa bust-stop, Lekki Phase 1 reportedly operate from their home. They have a shrine with blood stains from fowl which is where they produce the spiritual soaps that they sell to their customers.
Speaking about the incident, one of the suspects, Akinola Faleke said: “It was my brother who rented the house where they operate from. We make soap for people who are unable to sell their market. When we give them the soap, they will use it to have their bathe and this will attract customers. We give the soap to all the business people no matter the type of products you sell. We usually collect 3,000 – 5,000 from our victims.”
Akinola revealed that they sell most of their products to prostitutes who operate in the area.
He said: “I moved to this area on the 25th of last month. So I have mostly sold to all these ladies who do ashewo business.”
The Lagos state commissioner of police, Imohimi Edgar revealed that suspects will soon be charged to court.
The question for the Lagos state police commissioner is: what level of charges will you bring against persons who were selling love portions to commercial sex workers and is again is prostitution legalized in Lagos?”
I sincerely think that the hierarchies of the police beginning from the headquarters should indeed sit up and go back to the drawing board, dust up all the relevant laws against sexual violence, embark on massive training and capacity building of their operatives and officers and concretely set up viable department to take charge of fighting against sexual violence.
The Inspector General of police and the relevant committees on internal security in the national Assembly should work out measures for amending some of those stale laws against rape to bring the legal frameworks on sexual violence up to speed to meet up with the global best practices.
The civil society and community leaders should partner in this revolutionary process so we put an effective check against the pervasive cases of sexual violence.
The Federal and State ministries of women affairs and such forward looking organisations like Federation of Women Lawyers should continue to mount pressure on the different segments of stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria becomes a law friendly society whereby the fundamental human rights of all citizens and most especially the vulnerable members of the society are promoted and protected. As it is now, most states don’t have proactive ministries and agencies that coordinate the mainstreaming of respect for human rights of vulnerable girls and children even as the Federal minister of women affairs is a very weak link in matters that revolves around human rights of women and children. The current minister Aisha Hassan is more of a career politician and not a passionate defender of the human rights of Women and Children. There is the need to put the square pegs in square holes so to galvanize the movement for the entrenchment of strong anti- sexual violence laws in Nigeria.
In doing all of the above, there is the need for the National Assembly and the Federal Executive Council to reassess all the available statutes against sexual violence and domestic violence with a view to redressing the loopholes so as to combat these disturbing trends of domestic violence.
Finally, the National Assembly should work out acceptable legislative frame work for the country to set up a sexual offenders central recording system so convicted sexual predators are watched for life and prevented from re-offending. These mechanisms are critical if we must enthrone good governance standards.
Professors D.A. Guobadia and Epiphany Azinge states these much in their jointly edited book titled Globalisation, nationsl development and the law.
They wrote that: “Good governance involves, above all, improving the social and material conditions of the people.”
Quoting the United Nations, the editors reminds us that the World body has identified several attributes of good governance which include the following:(a) Territorial and ethno cultural representation, mechanisms for conflict resolution and for peaceful regime change and institutional renewal;(b) Checks on executive power, effective and informed legislatures, clear lines of accountability from political leaders down through the bureaucracy;(c) An open political system, which encourages an active and vigilant civil society whose interests are represented within accountable government structures and which ensures that public offices are based on law and consent;(d) Attention not only to central government institutions and processes but also to the attributes and capacities of sub-national and local government authorities and to the issues of political devolution and administrative decentralization.
Fellow Nigerians, now is the time to wipe out sexual violence of all varieties so we become a civilized community of human persons to be at par with others around the developed climes.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)