By Gift Jonah
Child Abuse has become a major problem in the country. Boys and girls are being molested daily at home, in the neighbourhood, schools, market places, churches. Although the Child Right Act directly addresses this, applying it to apprehend offenders has not been easy because many incidents are not reported to avoid stigma, reported cases are usually poorly handled by the police and getting justice from the court can be a long term process. But with FIDA driving the process, justice can be achieved.
From the recent street campaign against child abuseby a coalition of non-governmental organizations in Rivers State organized bythe World Education Network, a Port Harcourt based international body, June 27,2019, we bring you pertinent questions and answers that address deep issues onthis menace.
Why the Rally against Child Abuse?
“This case is aserious case in the society that is why we said we need to speak out butsomething actually prompted why we engage on this work. A child of 10 wasabused in Ahoada East in Rivers State by a man of 44, the man stopped her, andasked, ‘Please get me biscuit and groundnut”. Innocently because it is therural area, she obliged, got those things for him and the man shut the door andraped her. She was bleeding out blood.
We learnt aboutit and got a call through to the mother to verify and she confirmed it is true.We took it up and we said we have to speak up. While the case was in the policestation, we discovered that it’s not even the first case, they had like threecases and that was the fourth that same day in that same community! So we triedto speak out and tried to engage people and say no we have to put a stop tothis. That is why we are here today in Port Harcourt. We got FIDA involved, we got AWLA involved,we got Nigeria Police, Red Cross Society, News Agencies and UNICEF are involvedso that we put a stop to this.” Amb. Smith, coordinator World Education Networkand rally convener explained.
What ofchildren that are afraid of this kind of experience and so keep quietbecause he/she doesn’t want mummy to come and start a quarrel then because ofthat they don’t want to report even when they knew that the thing is wrong, sohow do we correct that in a child?
We should talkto the parents to know how to react when a child speaks. I get to speak a lotto parents and I tell them a child would hardly ever come and stand and lieabout sexual molestation, almost impossible. It is impossible for a child tocome and say uncle did this and it is a lie. Pay attention, and when they comeand say, don’t say heh! Heh, and start shouting, they won’t tell you tomorrow.What you do is to say, let’s go and see uncle, am going to handle him or thankyou for telling me. When you do that, if another person tries anything thechild will talk but when you enter panic mood, the child will say ho, anytime Itell mummy, mummy will start shouting, I don’t want shouting and she/he keepsquiet. So parents have to be educated on how to react when a child would talk,that day when my children told me, I said thank you for telling me, thank yougood children, don’t forget what I told you, then I went outside. That UncleRobinson almost died that day, if my husband has not come back at the time hedid, I think I would have been in jail by now. Ofcourse, he lost the job thatday.
Alsocontributing, Friday, one of the human rights field workers said many of theabuse cases are not being reported to the appropriate authority. “Those thathave not been reported are many, very many”. Certain things continue to happenthat is why he is here to suggest to the campaign against child abuse on how itmight make a change and end it.
An issue like this going to the police station, theypay money. Reporting a matter like this at the police station, like these kindof cases, you pay up to N15,000 and sometimes they are not even coming toarrest the person, so how are we handling this kind of situation?
FIDA!! FIDA is free (FIDA is not in the rural area like that), it is ok I have seen people come from the rural areas to FIDA and FIDA will go there. FIDA is our best port of call for now that you can access without money.Educate people about FIDA, they don’t know, right now Rivers State has a law and I was part of drawing up that law in the former two Houses of assembly about abuse. It is there but it is the implementation that is the problem, therefore we go to FIDA, there are lawyers, they have the law in their hands but they also have the backing of the government to go after people who do such things to children. So, if there is no other place to go, go to FIDA. Don’t go to police, because I know that most of the time we go to police the matter goes nowhere because the person that has been accused can pay a lot of money and drop out of it but you can’t pay FIDA. African Women Lawyers Association AWLA, that is another group, they also will step out and fight for the right of a child. Infact some of them have began to collaborate with humanitarian groups where, if the child is in danger because they spoke up, they remove the child especially if the father is the one raping the child. They remove the child and put him in a foster care and the child would be safe there. So these are two places you can go.
Infact, if youwant to be unanimous with FIDA, you would be ok with that, if you want to beunanimous with African Women Lawyers, you would be ok with that. So these aretwo places you can go without looking for money.
What of a situation where you ask the parents andthe parents refuse saying, don’t take this incident to anywhere?
Forget theparents; if you are out to help that child, that parent is a destructiveparent. That parent is more concerned about themselves than the help of thechild; you have a responsibility to report outside the parents. Whateverhappens with the case, you have done your duty.
Community is notfather, mother and children, community is everybody leading them; so if you seethat the parents are exposing the child to danger you report anyway. Again, youcan be unanimous and then they will investigate and find, they will reach thechild, the child will speak when they see somebody they can feel safe with. Youdon’t say because the parents say don’t talk, you keep quiet, you go and talkso that that child has a chance to be removed from that destructiveenvironment.
What of a child that stays in the same room with the parents and the child end up going to school to practice what he sees? I have seen a case like that, the other one abusing her friend because she learnt it from home. What will you do in that situation?
You educate thechild, not beating, not shouting. Sit the child down and educate the childabout what happens with children and what should happen with adults. This thingis for adults unfortunately, you have seen it very young, and you are notsupposed to be doing it, you have to hold yourself till you grow. Mummy andDaddy are married, that’s why they are doing those things. You are not married,so it makes it wrong. Educate, children learn quick, very, very quick.
I called theparents and tried to counsel them but they are in denial…
Not denial, whatcan they do? They can only afford one room. What can they do? Parents are notdoing anything wrong. it is just that circumstances have forced them into sucha situation where the children have to witness these. So your best bet is thechildren, educate them.
We want toknow about the teachers because the teachers in school can see some of thesechildren doing this, and even if they know, they hide it. What will you say ofteachers in schools, you know they come across them both male and female whatcan they do?
Teachers are in a very critical place to helpthis situation. What you can do is, so that nobody will come and accuse you ofah ah and you are putting our children’s lives in danger go to your schoolauthority, let them develop a curriculum- either a concept education or KnowYour Body… and then you use that as a platform to teach the children what isright, what is acceptable and what is wrong. Children believe their teachersmore than their mothers at home, because when the mother is talking, they willsay my aunty said, my teacher said, so teachers have a very very critical roleto play in helping children avoid being ridiculed.
What aboutchildren being molested by their parents and sometimes they will want todisplease the actions of the parent but the circumstances whereby they aregrown, educated, they are wealthy but disassociated with their parents mosttimes find themselves in helpless state. How can they handle this kind ofscenario?
They should go to FIDA, look for an adult that you can call tell to take you to FIDA. If you can’t go to FIDA, go online type, FIDA. If the parents are the ones molesting the child, FIDA can take the child from the parents and they can place the child in a safe place where the child can further her education and move on.
What about a child that was molested by a parent andkept quiet until she was 16 and even up to 34 with the parent dead still nothappy?
Abuse bringstrauma and trauma messes with your life, that is why we are advocating withothers, don’t keep quiet till you are 16. Say something; get the boldness tospeak up, whatever will happen let it happen. You can look at how old she wasstill carrying the scars of what happened at age two. It is not worth it. Hadshe even gotten a chance at 32 to speak, others died like that; others diedwith it and it is not their fault. So it is never ok to keep quiet. As we startshouting it now, don’t keep quiet, don’t keep silent, speak!
I just heard awoman yesterday, her uncle was sleeping with her at 17 got her pregnant, thefamily was covering it, she gave birth to the child and then ran away to theU.K and left the child with her mother. The same uncle went and start sleepingwith the child, the same uncle is sleeping with the child that he fathered withhis niece and all the call, the family said that they can’t talk. Look at thelives he is destroying.Who is that man, why would he still be walking the streetfree, he should be in jail. So always, the cry is speak up, don’t keep quiet;speak up. The more we speak out, the less this thing will happen because peoplewill start knowing; the public shame, then the law coming after you, there arehuge deterrents, but if they get away with, then nobody will be afraid tomolest a child.
How to avoid molestation
…When You Molest a child, you force the Child to Become Adult Overnight
Mrs. ChristieBature OGBEIFUN, the chief executive officer of 180 Degrees RehabilitationCentre, Port Harcourt said, some children have been going out to sleep with menfor money, not because that they choose to be that way, but because it’ssomebody who sends them that and none of them is happy with the way they areand some people claimed they were born gay, these ones were not born gay.Somebody interrupted them, one at the age of nine (9) the other one at the ageof twelve (12).
How do they doit? “Come and buy me bread”, as an obedient child, as you are returning thereare not going to come to the door to collect the bread from you where theystood to give you money. They will go inside the house and they want you toenter.
“Don’t enterinto a man’s house even though you are a boy if you notice that the person isacting so funny don’t enter. some of them have a lot of money to give to children. They will give youmoney, they will say, “Oh that uncle that is so kind to me, that aunty is sonice to me, Oh that aunty is so generous”. Watch it, the moment they startcrossing certain lines, watch it.
Another thingthey do, and they can be giving you that money for a long time, and waiting,planning until they have given you so much, when they now say come, and you sayno, they say ah, after all the things I have been given you, then you startfeeling guilty and you now say ok, this uncle used to give me a lot of things,then you go. Wahala dey! And then when they have started crossing the lineswith you, they will tell you this is our little secret, keep this our secret isme and you oh! We don’t keep any secret for anybody, there is nothing likesecret, tell him that the only person I keep secret with is my mum, my dad, myaunty, you are not my aunty, you are not my uncle, I will not keep secret withyou. Tell the person. ‘I don’t have secret, secret will kill me, I refuse tokeep secret”.
And then I willtell you another thing, beware of people who want to always put their hands onyour shoulder, touch you, ‘hello my dear’ they cannot talk to you without beingphysical. Boys!!! Don’t say na man like me, they are molesting little boys now, men are molesting boys, women aremolesting boys, stop thinking na only girls them dey abuse, boys are beingraped, boys are being defiled, molested, nobody has the right to open yoursexual doorway too soon.
“When you molesta child, you force the child to become an adult overnight. So the body is anadult but the mind is a child. Immediately there is a conflict there because amsuddenly awakened sexually but my mind is still a baby and then you find littlegirls at eleven (11) getting pregnant because they didn’t know that such apossibility was there, you find little boys at twelve (12) becoming fathersbecause nobody told them. Am telling you, now your sexual doorway should remainclosed till you are at least 18. Don’t say ‘Ah, it get as de body dey do me’,hold the body. All of us have capacity to hold the body, body doesn’t have tolead us, do you understand? Then if somebody is doing that, stop hiding it,stop covering such people.
#Gender And Accountability
Constance Meju is gender equity and environmental justice advocate and publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper