Nigeria like many countries of the world faced many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. One of such challenges is the issue of rape and domestic violence which became very alarming after hunger. Rape became more rampant and, in some cases resulted in the death of the victims. Most of the victims were minors and babies.
Sadly, it was perpetuated most often by trusted persons such as uncles, guardian, brothers, fathers and neighbours. Although the issue of rape had been in existence in the Nigerian society long before the COVID -19 pandemic, the lockdown seemed to have brought an alarming increase bringing it into limelight since everyone was forced to stay indoors.
The frequency of rape and domestic violence was appalling. Not a single day passed by without the news of a woman, girl or child being raped. These unsavoury occurrences gave rise to protests and demonstrations from many Human Right groups and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) across Nigeria demanding for strict penalties against the licentious act. The punishments demanded for the rapists by these groups included castration, life imprisonment and death sentence.
As Religious body that among other things care for the welfare and the dignity of womanhood, Religious Sisters of Charity (RSC) decided to lend our voices in solidarity with other concerned and right-thinking people to call for an end to this menace. The planning was not easy due to bureaucratic procedures like getting permission from the police before a demonstration could be held. We were eventually assigned six policemen for security. They were very supportive.
On the 15th of July 2020, six Religious Sisters of Charity joined by friends and colleagues converged at the Archangel’s Church in Satellite Town. The Redemptorist Parish priest had earlier given us the approval for the use of the premises. We were also joined by the Archangel’s College, members of Sancta Maria Helping Hands as well as the members of the Right and Welfare of Traumatized Wives and Youths Initiative (RAWTWAYI). The demonstration was done with the observance of the COVID-19 regulations which stipulated the wearing of face masks and social distancing.
Although July is in the heart of the rainy season, God however, blessed us with a beautiful and clement weather. The march started from the premises of Ss Michael, Gabriel and Raphael Catholic Church, Satellite Town and proceeded to Oriade Local Council Development Area with posters bearing the following inscriptions: SAY NO TO RAPE, SAY NO TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, RAPE IS A CRIME etc. We were received by the representative of the Chairman who addressed us and showed interest in collaborating with us towards working for a better society. Indeed, to the glory of God the demonstration went well. The event was covered by Journalists from the Sun Newspaper and Channels television.
We are grateful to God for the passion and zeal He endowed us in carrying out the above activity.
Sr. Justina Suekime Nelson RSC