Police and government officials in northern Nigeria’s city of Kano have reported an upsurge in incidents of child rape and said that young girls are now unsafe in the city.
In one incident a 70-year-old man allegedly raped a three year old girl, Suleiman Abba, Kano’s deputy police chief told IRIN on Thursday. “Child rape is becoming rampant in Kano and we are worried that if nothing is done to stop the problem it will go out of the hand.”
In the last six months, police in Kano, the commercial hub of northern Nigeria, recorded 54 cases of child rape and made 60 related arrests. “In some cases the victims are gang-raped,” Abba said.
The number of cases is two thirds higher that the number recorded in the first six months of 2007, he said.
Kano reintroduced a strict version of Islamic law in 2001 which prescribes the death penalty for rape, but Aminuddeen Abubakar, an Islamic scholar in Kano said the penalties have done little to solve the problem.
“I know of a particular case in which the victim was raped to death,” he told Agency France Press.
The suspects are usually males between the ages of 45 and 70 while their victims are mostly girls of between three and 11 years. “We have cases of young men raping minors but the number pales by comparison to the rape cases involving older men,” Abba, the deputy police chief, said.
He added that the number of reported cases is only the tip of the iceberg. “Many are never reported because parents will want to save the honour of their daughters and protect their families from embarrassment,” Abba said.
The police began to notice an increase in child rape in 2004, he said, adding that it became pronounced in 2005 and then reached an alarming rate in 2007.
Experts gave a number of reasons for the phenomenon. “Some [men] have this superstitious belief that they can cure themselves of [sexually transmitted diseases] particularly HIV/AIDS, [through rape]” Abubakar, the Islamic scholar, said.
“Others believe that they can become rich if they commit this wanton act of irresponsibility,” he said.
He also said “the most vulnerable victims of this inhuman act are girls that hawk articles on the streets and alleys of this city.” Girls selling kolanuts, packets of fried groundnuts and detergents on their heads are a common sight in Kano.
“These girls are lured by rapists who pretend they want to buy their wares,” Abubakar said.
Several parents told IRIN their answer is to ensure their daughters are always accompanied when they go out. “The situation has become so bad that you have to monitor every movement of your daughters,” housewife Hadiza Kabir said.
“You need to warn her not to get close to a strange face and to run home if she is beckoned,” she said.
The police said there are major hurdles to prosecuting suspects, even when there is enough evidence for a conviction because many parents are unwilling to press charges because of social stigmas.
“We can’t prosecute without witnesses,” Abba said, “[so] the case is dead and you have to let the suspect free,” he added.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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