It’s either a case of increased media attention, or indeed cases of pedophilia, molestation and sexual abuse of children is on a rapid increase in Nigeria. There are daily reports on traditional as well as social media about the occasional uncle, neighbor, or even parent taking advantage of minors in unimaginable cases of perverted sexual orgy. Whichever is the case, there is no doubt that children in our society have become very unsafe in the face of unspeakable atrocities perpetuated by adults around them.
We hear about these suspects being arrested by the police, but not their convictions. I am not sure how many make it to court rooms or if they are released soon after based on the now popular excuse of it being a “domestic affair” as the police are often known to say. What remains a fact and a very worrying one however is that such action, besides the traumatic impact on the victims, has the capacity to inflicting a lifelong damage to their health, perception of life, love and sex.
Already, life for many teenage girls is a painful tug of war filled with mixed messages and conflicting demands from parents, teachers, friends, family and oneself. Growing up—negotiating a path between independence and reliance on others—is a tough business and the tendency of older men hiding under the toga of being “uncles” to emotionally exploit and sexually abuse these extremely gullible youngsters summarises the issue under discuss here.
The period of adolescence is filled with intellectual and emotional changes in addition to other major biological and physical changes. It is a time of discovery of self and one’s relationship to the world around. Female teenagers- who develop faster biologically- are often at the greatest risk here. The sprouting breasts soon begin to induce a more than normal surge of the wrong hormones in the “uncle” who, combing persuasion and coercion, gradually turns into a secret lover.
The issue is made worse by the fact that these male individuals are persons the girls have known and trusted since childhood; people who buy them stuff and help them with their home work. People who bathed them when they were much younger and helped them get into their cloths. Persons they confined in and have received advice from. When these favourite persons begin to pull up her skirt, the little girl is often at a loss as to how to handle it.
This way, the unhealthy relationship continues right under the nose of the parents.
The long term implications of such childhood experiences can best be imagined. Some of these girls grow up into perverts, antisocial elements, frigid wives or very emotionally unstable adults. So many people are suffering this in our society though not too many might be bold enough to admit or talk about it. While such persons now depend on counseling and prayers for help, it is important we help others avoid such a fate. About a hundred percent of the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulder of parents.
I am not yet a parent and might not qualify to tell parents how to be parents. However, I believe I can remind them of their responsibility to their children. It is wrong to have a child and hand same over to a stranger to raise for you right in your house perhaps because you are so busy trying to get to the peak of your career.
Your children deserve your presence and constant monitoring. They also require your trust to be able to tell you when something is not going right. When due to your absence, or lack of attention, you let your children create parents out of your gardener or security man or even your blood brother; you should also be ready to accept whatever kind of teaching they get from these pseudo parents.
Men who cannot control themselves to such extent that they take leave of their senses and begin to violate underage girls are no different from animals in the wild and should be treated in the same way. We must continue to name them and shame them and ensure they face the full weight of the law. Our daughter or sister could be a victim.
Postscript: Some of the feedback i have received since this piece first appeared in Daily Times indicates that child sexual molestation is not restricted to girls. Perhaps, because it is grossly under reported, we tend to ignore the fact that boys are also abused. We must all stand up against this trend and protect our children.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/philipphamedl/1408259798/
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