By Olufisoye Adenitan
In this special report titled “Poor infrastructure and Sexual Violence in Secondary Schools” Nigerian journalist Olufisoye Adenitan reports on how girls have been more vulnerable to rape cases as a result of poor toilet facilities in schools in Ondo State, southwest Nigeria.
“It was a beautiful morning, I was on my way to drop my brother at school and also proceed to my school along the store area, after Prayer Centre Church along Idanre Road, Akure, Ondo State, three men blindfolded me and raped me,” 18-year-old Hannah* recounted.
“After the incident, I decided to drop out of school,” she stated further, adding that the perpetrators started threatening her parents who were trying to seek justice.
The southwest security network codenamed: AMOTEKUN, got the perpetrators arrested while a human rights lawyer, Tayo Dada decided to take up the case from there. The rapists are now in the Nigerian correctional centre awaiting trial.
There is also a case of a 14-year-old SS1 Student of Akure High School who was gang raped by three male students of the school during school hours.
Akure High school located in Akure, the state capital of Ondo State was founded in 1974. It has over one thousand students but without a single toilet facility. This forces students to relieve themselves in the bush.
According to the victim “I was feeling pressed to use the toilet but because there was no toilet in the school, I went to a nearby bush, unknowingly the boys were laying ambush for me and dragged me back into the bush and raped me.”
“One of the boys had approached me a few months back for relationship and sex and I declined until he recruited his friends to rape me. The boys were my seniors and I knew them by name,” she narrated.
The victim revealed that after the incident she went straight to class in excruciating pain until her mates discovered a blood stain on her school uniform and raised alarm.
An investigation reveals that the school administrators immediately called the police for the arrest of the boys who are currently at the juvenile centre in Akure.
The vile act generated heat from parents, stakeholders and community leaders on the increasing sexual abuse of school girls.
Some of the parents, Mrs Ronke Agunloye, Mrs Mojisade Adegbuyi and Kikelomo Paseda expressed fear that if something urgent was not done, it will affect the enrollment of girls in schools for the 2022/2023 academic session considering the vulnerability and poor state of facilities especially toilets in the schools.
Violence against Women and Girls is often perpetrated in the guise of harmful traditional practices and it is encouraged by some social norms, one in four girls never feels comfortable using a school latrine.
Girls are more vulnerable to harmful practices because violence or ritual discrimination are normalized by social norms.
This practice ranges from female genital mutilation, child early marriage and forced marriage, female infanticide, breast ironing, rape, period stigma, and virginity testing among other social norms.
Each year, 150 million girls are raped worldwide by a close person or someone in the family circle, and 30 per cent of females globally have reported that their first sexual experience was forced.
According to the Linking Partners for Niger Delta Development on sexual violence against children in Ondo State, in 2022, there were more than 30 incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation reported between 2018 to 2021.
Recent data shows an increase in reported incidents of child sexual abuse in Ondo State.
According to UNICEF, one in ten women who have experienced violence try to seek help from security operatives.
After Hannah’s rape experience AMOTEKUN, a security network in the southwest arrested three perpetrators but the families and some community leaders came begging the father of the victim to settle out of court.
“They came to my house in Sienna bus begging me to withdraw the case from AMOTEKUN after I resisted they started threatening my family, especially the victim’s mother,” he recounts.
Socio-economic and evidence-based facts truncate justice in cases of rape, but Hanna’s father believed that he will get justice for his daughter as the case will resume hearing, on January 27th 2023 as the perpetrators are still in custody.
According to a human right lawyer, Mrs Chamba Sagba notes that justice system in Ondo State has improved with the passage of the VAPP Act.
She cited a rape case in Akure that started on December 8th 2021 and closed in December 2022.
“Although there are particular cases when GBV happens between families, there are cases of abandonment and relocation because they prefer to settle out of court without exposing their families and community pervading justice system.”
According to her, Section 218 of the Nigerian Criminal Code: A person cannot be found guilty of rape or defilement without evidence and the patriarchal nature of the society has compelled women to be silent.
CSOs Improved advocacy against rape
Mrs Folasade Bamigboye, the executive director of Kids &Teen Resources Centre, a local NGO in Ondo State, had embarked on various advocacy campaigns in collaboration with local government, farmsteads, and rural communities on the dangers of sexual violence
“Gender-based violence should not be treated as a family matter, it is a criminal offence and violation of human rights.”
Similarly, the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Ondo State chairperson Jumoke Ogunjebi said women and girls experienced a lot of changes in their bodies that necessitated a lot of hormonal imbalances which could lead them to use the toilet facilities in schools and homes more than their male counterparts.
“Girls require a good toilet for their overall well-being and psycho-social balance,” she said.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in our Secondary school in Ondo State, government should do something urgently.
The government recently passed into law the VAPP law of Ondo State.
The state is one of the 34 states in Nigeria that have domesticated the law to protect the rights of women.
To achieve the desired result of eliminating violence and making both illiterates and literate understand the law, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs with support from UNFPA simplified the law into local languages.
However, regarding the necessary toilet facilities in schools, investigation reveals that there were no toilet facilities provided for over one thousand students schooling at Akure High School.
In a telephone interaction with the Ondo State Director of School Services, Dr Akindele Ige, they are working on the issue.
“We are working out modalities to fix a toilet in the school ASAP,” he said.
A professor of philosophy of Education, Mathew Ayeni advocated for trained education administrators and professionals that understand the pedagogy of teaching and principles guiding the profession to help in addressing the situation.
“In the 21st century, basic infrastructure and learning tools are parts of the fundamental rights of children in schools,” he said calling on educationists to push for the right learning environment which promotes the safety of learners.
During the 16 Days Activism against sexual and gender-based violence in Ondo State, the commissioner for women’s affairs, Dr Bunmi Osadahun empathised that one of the key solutions was the regular engagement of traditional rulers with their subjects on SGBV.
“The VAPP Act will not spare any offender,” she stated.
One of the traditional Ruler in Akure, Iralepo of Isinkan in Ondo state, Oba oluwagbemiga Ajimokunola olofin-Adimula at a consultative forum on sexual and gender-based violence maintained that traditional institutions would not tolerate any forms of violence against girls and women in their domain.
“Rapists will not be tolerated in my domain, I will expose them, “Iralepo of Isinkan.
Dr Yomi Oshatimi, a local psychiatrist identified stigma and post-trauma stress disorder as major issues the victims of sexual abuse had to battle with as well as an anxiety disorder.
He added that shelters give immediate relief and boost the confidence and sense of security of victims.
As more girls continue to be sexually abused, the government has been charged to be more responsible in providing necessities in schools that would reduce the vulnerability of girls.
Gender advocates should also intensify efforts at ensuring the enlightenment of stakeholders in charge of the affairs of the girls as well as an improved justice system and penalty for those who want to subvert justice in the name of “family matter.”
At this time the implementation of the VAPP Act was critical to the stipulated punishment for offenders.
This story was supported by African women in media, as part of the Reporting Violence against women and Girls initiative.