AUSTIN OYIBODE, EDITOR
Female lawyers under the aegis of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) have pledged to render free legal services to rape victims who report cases of rape and sexual assault to the association anywhere in Nigeria.
Member of FIDA and convener of Walk Against Sexual Abuse and Defilement in Asaba at the weekend, Awele Ideal Esq, made the pledge during a protest match against sexual assault and rape in Asaba, the Delta state capital.
Awele, who led other female lawyers across major streets in Asaba, said the recent rape and consequent death of 13-year-old Elizabeth Ochanya by her uncle and cousin in Benue state has brought to national light the plight of children, especially the girl-child, in the hands of their guardians.
She said FIDA, an international body of female lawyers, was ready to fight to ensure justice for all rape victims, hence she said the federal government and especially the attorney general of the federation should see the issue of Ochanya as a national offense and should be treated as such.
Elizabeth Ochanya was repeatedly raped for four years by her uncle, a 51-year-old lecturer in the Department of Catering and Hotel Management of the Benue state polytechnic, Mr. Andrew Ogbuja, and his son, Victor, a student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Markurdi.
“We join well meaning Nigerians to demand that justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done.
“We urge that this matter be seen as a federal offence against all children of Nigeria and the Attorney general should send a high-powered legal team to Benue state to watch this brief,” Awele said during the match in Asaba.
She told journalists that Nigeria should not fail her children, noting that children are gifts from God, hence they are parents’ pride and source of happiness to society.
According to her: “Rape is one of the worst crimes against humanity. A rape victim lives a daily life of nightmare and if she speaks up, she is stigmatized and lives the rest of her life in the shadows like an outcast.
“We undertook this walk to highlight the plight of children, particularly the girl child, who is abused routinely by relations.
“The walk today aims at raising awareness of the plight of rape victims who are stampeded by society, church and family members to keep quiet.
“The society keeps blaming the victim and not the perpetrators. We walk to say NO! A victim has right to justice and no amount of provocation gives you right to rape or sexually assault a child.
“Our walk is to raise awareness about the alarming cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence going on in homes in Asaba. The rape of a child by his relations is not a thing that happens in far away Benue, but it is also taking place here in Asaba.
“There are lots of victims like Elizabeth Ochanya in Asaba. We want them to speak up before it is too late. We shall render free legal and psychological support to any who comes to talk to us.
“We are not unaware that the male child is also sexually abused and raped. We urge all victims to speak up. We firmly believe that a well brought up un-abused male child, will not grow up to be a rapist.
“Everyone should be their neighbor’s keeper and if they hear, see or believe that a child is being abused, to report to either the police, lawyers or the ministry of justice.
“We call on teachers, FIDA, ministry of justice, to join in creating awareness against rape, child abuse and deprivation in Delta state.
“We thank all those who participated in this walk and urge you all to walk into your homes with this message; we are all responsible for every child under our care.”