On Thursday, Nigerian women announced plans to march in protest of rape and sexual violence. The proposed march, which has been tentatively scheduled for the International Day Against Violence Against Women on November 25, is in response to a recent online video in which a woman is gang-raped while pleading with her assailants to kill her. This incident is one of many that have recently gained rare public attention in the country.
One reason why rape cases receive low publicity in Nigeria is because rape is seen as rare in the country, due in part to a low rate of reporting. According to federal police statistics on the Nigeria Police Watch website, 952 rape cases were reported in 2009. In a country with a population of 140 million people, this number is considered inconsequential by the government.
Country officials believe that the low rate of reporting can be explained by the sense of shame that surrounds sexual violence cases in Nigeria. “Nothing has been put into action. Our laws are still not clear. The woman who wants to report rape does not have the confidence in the justice system in Nigeria. The police are not accountable to the people. There is a lot of impunity on the issue of rape and sexual violence in Nigeria,” said Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, executive director of the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre.
The Nigerian police force is often subject to harsh criticism because of its own participation in incidents of sexual assault. According to BBC News, a 2010 study by the Open Society Justice Initiative, police officers in Nigeria routinely take part in sexual assault, with a particular focus on sex workers.
Media Resource: The Guardian 9/22/11; BBC News 5/19/10; Open Society Justice Initiative Report 5/2011