THE utmost responsibility of every nation is to provide security for its citizens. Security means that everything is settled. Lives and properties are protected. The citizens do not live in fear. One of the problems bedeviling Nigeria today is the issue of insecurity. It is no longer news that nobody is safe in Nigeria today. Everybody lives in fear of the unknown and the Nigerian girl child is the most vulnerable. She is surrounded by cases of rape, unwanted pregnancies, gender inequality, discrimination, early marriage, molestation, domestic violence, diseases, abduction etc. The Nigerian girl child is blessed with multitalented abilities and despite the challenges life brings her way, she remains a source of strength to many. It is on record that rape cases have increased tremendously in recent times and this is quite alarming.
In Kano State alone, 547 cases of rape and other s3xual assaults were recorded in 2016 while 334 was recorded in 2017. Lagos State recorded a total of 162 cases of rape in 2016. According to the records, there is no month a case of rape of a girl child is not recorded. The Nigerian Criminal Code in Section 357 defines rape as follows: “Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or in the case of a married woman by impersonating her husband is guilty of an offence which is called rape. Though Section 358 says the penalty for rape is life imprisonment, very few of the culprits are brought to justice.
It is quite saddening how the Nigerian girl child is abducted and turned into a s3x slave, made a young mother and even infected with diseases at a tender age as in the case of the Chibok schoolgirls. She is abducted and forced to embrace and practise a new religion against her will, as in the case of Ese Eruru. She is turned into a punching bag, beaten and battered by her husband as in the case of Mercy Aigbe. In tertiary institutions, she is not safe as she is s3xually harassed for s3x in exchange for marks or fail her exams as in the recent case of a female student of Obafemi Awolowo University. She is also used as a political instrument as in the case of Dapchi school girls.
It is imperative that Nigerian women rise up to the defense of the Nigerian girl child. Being a woman is challenging yet amazing. It is our collective responsibility to make sure the Nigerian girl child is safe and educated. Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist in one of her speeches, said: “There was a time when women social activists asked men to stand up for their rights but this time, we will do it ourselves’’. The Bring Back Our Girls campaign group has been awesome in its fight for the abducted girls to be released. We need more female voices to speak against dastardly acts because each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for other women. Our strength lies in our unity.
Ejike writes in from Bayero University, Kano