The issue of rape is not an abstract issue as it has unveiled its ugly mask in every society, and how do we describe the brutal nature of this shameless masquerade in Africa, especially in Nigeria? What is it about our societies that make vulnerable the female gender to all sorts of abuse and in the case of these paper; rape.

What could have triggered the increase in recent times? What could have caused perpetrators to sexually assault their victims? These questions are not easily answered, because in rape cases questions are easily asked but answers are much more difficult and inconvenient to answer. 


The closest thing to an answer is the close shoulder, the emotional reaction that one receives when the issue is mentioned.

It is understandable when there is an emotional response, but that is not enough. There is need to get to the root of the matter and understand it, by undertaking an in-depth research so as to take well-informed actions.

Otherwise we will remain in the dark on how to curb this scourge and the alarming dimensional increase witnessed in recent times. 

Rape is the act of forcefully having sex with someone against their will. Others have defined rape as a sexual penetration by one person against another person without the consent of the victim.

However victims of rape have no age limit as babies, and the aged are vulnerable to this menace. Interestingly 90% of victims of rape are female. Rape is a denial of women self-preservation; it is the intrusion of their privacy, it is an inhuman and violent act. 

Rape victims are usually ashamed, humiliated, afraid, and there is little or no law to protect them. Even the law enforcement officers that are meant to protect these victims also assault them in different ways, even sexually.

The Act of Rape 

The Nigeria communal code refers to 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.

Today however, rape is seen as an act of power or dominance of one person over another. According to Brigneti and Egbonimali (2002), rape is an act of sexual violence that involves intercourse without consent or against someone being unwilling to engage in the act.

The issue of rape cannot be trivialized. It cuts across race, tribe and class. It is a universal phenomenon. And it is endemic. It is an issue that has been subjected to debates by human rights bodies all over the world (Human Right Watch/Africa). Rape is the most gruesome form of violence against women.

It is a denial of women’s right of self- preservation. It is an intrusion into the right of privacy of the victim. It is a particular kind of human violence which carries powerful meanings in any culture, ancient and modern. The act of rape is not new.

The problem is that it is on the increase and the effects are becoming more harmful to the victims and their relatives. A nationwide survey undertaken in 2005 by the CLEEN Foundation, a Nigerian NGO, which promotes public safety, security and justice, found that only 18.1 per cent, less than one in five of some 10,000 respondents who had been raped had reported the offence to the police.

According to CLEEN’s figures, 2,241 cases of rape and indecent assault were reported in 1999; 1,529 in 2000; 2,284 in 2001; 2,084 in 2002; 2,253 in 2003; 1,626 in 2004 and 1,835 in 2005.

 Rape as a global concern

Rape cases are not limited to Nigeria alone. Other countries of the globe have their own side of the story too. A Ugandan court sentenced a teenage girl to a six-hour jail term for killing her rapist father. The 58-year-old man had been raping the daughter repeatedly from the time she was 13 years old. Also a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. Statistics show that in North America, there is a high probability of a woman being a victim of sexual assault during her life time. For instance, six men riding in a Bus in New Delhi, Indian’s Capital, raped and battered a 23year old female medical student and she died as a result of the fatal internal injuries. The death of this Indian rape victim sent shivers around the globe, exposing how the sad trend is affecting many societies and putting more women at risk. (Sunday Sun, January 6, 2013). 

Between 2009/10 and 2011/12 there were an estimated 78,000 victims of rape per year in England and Wales 69,000 females and 9,000 males (Nation Mirror, 2014) Due to the concerns over women’s rights, heralded by the re-emergence of women’s movements, sexual assaults and their debilitating consequences for the victims have become one of the pressing and central issues in the last decades.

Consequently, many social scientists have turned their attention towards understanding the dynamics of rapists and their motives, the institutional and cultural factors promoting rape, and of course, the various factors affecting the assault on rape victims and their reactions. 

To combat the growing number of rapes, more and more people are beginning to think in terms of prevention and not only of ways to deal with the debilitating aftermath of this sexual assault. Only recently, the Lord Bishop of Osun State, Nigeria, Anglican Diocese, Rev Afolabi Popoola, link the increasing cases of rape of minors by men in the state to rituals.

Types of Rape

Date Rape: this is a type of rape in which the individuals have agreed on social engagement. The assailant may be an acquaintance or a person one have been dating. 

Power Rape: power rapist sexuality want to capture, conquer and control their victims. 

Gang Rape: this is when a group of people participate in the rape of a single victim.

Anger or Retaliatory Rape: it involves expression of hatred and rage towards the victim. 

Sadistic Rape: This rapist is obsessed and forces the victim to act out a part in some sort of role-play, it could involve mutilation, or torture as a means of getting the rapists excited.

Causes of the increase in rape scourge in Nigeria

The state of Nigeria poorly defined criminal laws and weak law enforcement creates an environment where rape is committed with freedom (Amnesty International 2006).

As a result of the inadequacy of the law in solving this problem, women advocates are presently trying to prevent future rapes by educating the public, ensuring that quality services are provided to victims in order to .encourage accountability and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

According to the Child Rights Law in Nigeria (31(2) enacted by the federal government in May 2003, anyone convicted for rape is liable to life imprisonment. But nobody seems to be enforcing the law. Thus women and girls continue to be raped and molested (Odeh, 2013). N

igeria economic and political conditions, as well as social norms support stereotypical divisions between men and women. Other causes of rape include alcohol and drug abuse, idleness, pornography, psychological disorder, and bad company, At any rate, experts, in considering the persistent nature of these rape cases in Nigeria advance the following causes for the unfortunate reality:

1.  Exposure to Modernity

Adolescents in Nigeria today are being bombarded by modernizing influences. They read about sex in novels, books, magazines and newspapers.

It is said that the adolescents also “Watch various types of pornographic movies aside from being exposed to sexually overloaded advertisements in newspapers and the television.

All these and the sexually graphic music, movies, obscene literature directed at the adolescents arouse their interest in sex. Some parents allow their wards to spend too much time watching television programmes where sex is used by most manufacturers to advertise their products. 

These adverts help put the younger generation under terrific pressure to go into sex by all means. As a result of this exposure, the adolescents are perpetually under pressure to experiment on sex, even if it means raping.

It is believed that some of them desire to experience it once, just to know how it is. But they become captured by the power of immorality. This situation makes raping inevitable among the Nigerian youths.

2. Mishandling of Rape Cases

Another concrete reason why it seems that rapists go about their business with impunity is not unconnected with the lax rape laws in the country (Ejim, 2013). It is observed that “The laws in Nigeria appear to further victimize and humiliate women.

They do not bring justice to them”.  The rigorous requirement involved in producing authentic evidence of rape such as getting a medical report, as well as a police report and within the shortest possible interval of any rape incident in question, seems to trivialize the whole matter.

It is an open secret that some policemen in Nigeria are fond of treating rape victims as though they are the offenders themselves (Ejim, 2013). In some cases, it is held that the police after demanding in vain to get bribe in order to investigate rape cases, accuse the victims of consenting to the sexual intercourse with the rapists. 

It is an established fact that police in Nigeria seems to contribute to the culture of tolerance for sexual violence against women. This probably may account for the reason an Abuja High Court Judge, Umoh Enah, recently lampooned the Nigerian Police for its poor handling and prosecution of an alleged rapist.

3.  Peer Group Pressure/Influence

Some literature posits that most adolescents are led into sexual promiscuity by peer influence. Peer group is an important factor in the upsurge of rape cases in Nigeria.

Innocent youths who keep regular company of rapists may easily learn their evil ways, no matter how careful they think they are. Most adolescents, in trying to remain relevant and to gain the continued approval of their friends try to experiment sex through raping. 

It is often said that children who are more influenced by their parents are more likely to adopt socially acceptable sexual behavior than those who are more influenced by their peers. 

4. Myths about Sex

There are quite a number of myths about sex which serves as an impetus to the growing incidents of rape in Nigeria. Okoro (2011), in his studies revealed that it is a common belief among many ethnic groups that: Without premarital sexual intercourse, boys are bound to have small testicles, suffer from pimples, have difficult erection and not be able to perform well when married.

Girls, on the other hand are bound to have small breasts, experience early menopause, painful menstruation and painful nipples when breastfeeding their babies. In addition, some HIV infected men hold to the superstitious belief that if they have sex with a virgin, that they would be cured of AIDS (Garland, 2003).

This perhaps lure most people living with HIV and AIDS to resort to raping innocent girls in the society in their quest for a cure. A typical example is the case of a 66 years old HIV and AID patient who raped an eight old girl in Asaba, Delta state, Nigeria (AIT NEWS, October , 2016 ). 

5. Influence of Indecent Dressing

Indecent dressing among women and girls are inappropriate mode of dressing that often exposes parts of one’s body that ought to be covered from public view.

This mode of dressing often attracts the opposite sex and causes them to have lustful thoughts that may eventually lead into raping women (Diara and Nweze, 2011).

Indecent dressing engineers sexual desires in men, culminating in sexual seduction. According to Eze (2011) “It has become fashionable, particularly among the youthful female folk, to dress so half nakedly that some parts of their body that are supposed to be ‘hidden’ are exposed to the public”.

Ladies attract men by wearing sexy or transparent dresses (Okpara, 2005). This type of fashion is particularly rampant among College and University students, and it has become a common mode of dressing for the masses in Nigeria today.

A survey by Ayogu (2011), sheds light on this and said  some parents buy clothes for their children to wear with such negative “Inscriptions like: I am a sexy girl, Hug me tight, Lovely babe-sexy babe,! Devil’s advocate”.

Expectedly, the wearing of these psychedelic and ludicrous dresses that advertise ladies nudity, side by side the unusual painting of their faces presents a very strong pull to rapists to carry on their vices.

6. The Nature of Adolescents

Adolescents generally have very strong desire for sex. This propels them into wanting to experiment on anything including rape in order to satisfy their sexual drive.

This is said to be motivated by their hormonal increase and activities which often create an upsurge in the sexual interest of the adolescents. Psychologists believe that adolescence period is a time of sexual activeness, with their sexual drive developing to the highest point (Benwell, 2002).

This period is the most critical and precarious stage in the adolescents and it is marked with confusion and turbulence.

7. Poor Parental Upbringing:

As a result of Modernity, some parents over-pamper their children by not enforcing strict disciplines on them. They themselves engage in extra-marital affairs incautiously, before them ,and so they are more likely to foster children that are rude, arrogant and wayward (Obasi, 2007). Most children under this setting may probably become rapists.

8. Poverty and Economic Factor

Poverty is a major problem affecting many families in Nigeria. Poverty and economic down turn have forced many families into allowing their female children and teens to hawk things for sale, even at unholy hours and places to augment the family income, thereby exposing them  to avoidable danger of being raped by rapists.

9. Declining Moral Values

The eroding social morality has resulted in some parents having passion for their own biological children, pastors fancying their female converts, and lecturers lusting after their students.

Effect of rape on the victims

According to Ashiru & Orifowomo (2015), rape devastate the lives of the victims and their families, causing severe physical and psychological pains and sufferings, including death, sexually transmitted infectious diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

It is a form of gender-based violence which knows no border. Rape is a global pandemic affecting both the young and old, people of various classes and both the uneducated and educated, regardless of their race, ethnic background or religion. Sadly, women and girls are the most affected of this crime.  

Brigneti and Egbonimali (2012) opined that “If virginity is what makes women honourable, rape is an easy weapon to permanently damage them” In the opinion of Obasi (2017), “Rape leaves painful memories and lifelong consequences on the victim”.

It inspires permanent damages on its victims. Rape equally degrades as well as violates a whole tribe or nation. According to Inuwa Sani, a Child Psychologist, the trauma that follows this bitter experience is better imagined than described.
Alhassan (2013) captures the consequences thus: In the months following a rape, victims often have symptoms of depression or traumatic stress. They are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs to control their symptoms.

Other effects includes self-blame, lack of control over feelings and thoughts, drug or alcohol dependency, physical injuries, sexually, transmitted diseases, poor self-image, unhealthy sex life, depressive or post-traumatic stress disorders in their lifetime, longtime negative effects on sexuality and inability to form or maintain trusting relationships are common. 

The way forward 

1. Parents should build a strong, healthy and open relationship with their children and be very vigilant. They should closely observe their children for any sign of vulnerability or abuse.

Parents should also know the right time and place to discuss sex related issues with their children and get to know the company they keep. Furthermore, they should educate their girl-child on the dangers of rape and places to go to so that they are not caught up in this menace. 

They should also be careful about entrusting their children in the hands of persons they do not know or trust very well. Parents should ensure that the girl-child put on clothes that do not expose essential parts of their bodies.

2. Civil Societies and NGOs should initiate elaborate enlightenment campaigns against rape and rapists. They should exhibit zero-tolerance to rape by engaging in rape intolerance attitudes and as well as dispelling sex myths in Nigeria using the media.

3. Hawking by children and female teenagers should be completely banned.

4. For the fight against rape to be won, every perpetrator of rape should be exposed and made to take full responsibility for his or her actions.

Under no circumstance should such a one be shielded or protected by parents, teachers, religious institutions, non-governmental organizations, governments or the media. All Nigerians must rise up in condemnation of this social epidemic.

5. There is need for the upgrading of the existing obsolete laws so as to ensure better protection of rape victims. The laws on rape should give more protection to victims. Every case should be given a chance to see the light of the day in the law Courts in Nigeria and severe sanctions should be melted out on the perpetrators.

6. All rape victims should be shown much love and care to reengineer their self-esteem. The legislature, state ministries, women groups and the Federal Government should take up these cases and offer all necessary assistance to the victims.

7. The high cost of Bride price often hinder matured males from getting married. Bride price or dowry should be reduced drastically so as to encourage every male adult to have a wife or a sex partner in Nigeria.

8. The international community, including the United Nations and African Union should encourage and support Nigeria in implementing fully all international and regional treaties, declarations, resolutions and recommendations aimed at condemning, prohibiting and preventing all acts of violence against women.

All cases of violence must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice in accordance with international standards of fair trial and without recourse to death penalty, and reparations provided the victims.

They should also support and encourage initiatives by the Nigerian authorities, women’s groups and Human rights organizations in their fight against the rape scourge and other forms of violence against women in Nigeria.

9. Civil society groups should demand that women in Nigeria be treated as equal members of society, and also help create an environment that supports and address all forms of violence against women that have become common place in Nigeria today by raising awareness through the media; building community structures and processes to protect women; and providing assistance to victims of violence.

10. The judiciary and legal system should ensure that all cases of rape, in particular when the victim is a minor, are heard behind closed doors.

11. The inspector General of Police, the Nigerian Police Force and heads of the security forces should systematically and comprehensively document all reports of gender-based violence, including rape, make this information publicly available, and submit it to the Federal and State governments, as well as the National Human Rights Commission.

In addition, they should promptly investigate all complaints of gender based violence, including rape, and refer such cases to the appropriate judicial authority for prosecution.

12. Violence in Nigeria will not be corrected by reforming the criminal justice system alone. To curb this menace, Nigerian women activists and organizations must rise in large numbers and continue to draw attention to the injustice against women victims of GBV, particularly rape.

13. Activism, Advocacy, women walking together to fight the scourge, hard fight for change is what is needed now. Women must take action now by working together.

Women activists and their organizations have tried in the past to confront violence against women and challenge the gender inequality that promotes that culture of violence. Laws may help, however women activists can and must do much more.


Rape is a hurdle to economic development, a public health problem, and a violation of women’s fundamental human rights. Rape victims tend to be silent as a result of humiliation and intimidation by the police, as well as the “embarrassment” of public acknowledgement.

Rape is pervasive in Nigeria and is likely going to worsen if no steps are taken immediately to end this scourge.  It is very worrisome that Nigerian females now lose their virginity through rape.

The persistence of this menace in modern Nigeria is no doubt a thing of grave concern to all in  the society, including the academia, legal, religious, medical, and political circles of the day.

In order to reduce the scourge of rape in Nigeria, I suggests that all social institutions, parents, Churches, Civil Societies, NGOs, and government agencies should as a matter of necessity and urgency provide qualitative sex education and guidance to the teeming Nigerian youths.

This will no doubt help bring the current rape menace to the barest minimum in Nigeria. Perpetrators of rape should be exposed and punished appropriately. 

The State authorities should systematically and comprehensively document violence against women, including rape, and make this information publicly available.

Government agencies should ensure that all women who have been subjected to violence, including rape, have access to redress, including compensation, rehabilitation and guarantees of non-repetition. 

The fight against the rape scourge requires a multi-faceted approach. There is need for rapid response to documented cases of rape and for post rape care services to be set up in all Local Government Areas in Nigeria to cater for both adult and child survivors.


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