The nationwide lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has played a major part in the increasing number of unreported cases of child molestation, domestic violence and gender-based violence being experienced in the society the past few months. This is part of the submission reached by stakeholders at a one day Public Discourse organized by the Child Rights Office of the Justice, Development and Peace Movement (JDPM) of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo. The event featured participants from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), Oyo State Command; Ministry of Women Affairs; Social Welfare Department, Oyo Zonal Office and members of Justice of Peace (JP’s); Neighbourhoods Initiative for Civic Engagement Promotion (NICE-P). Others were OmoIyakunmi Foundation (OIK); religious leaders; artisans; market women; traders; Landlord/ lady Associations; Okada Riders; transporters; amongst others.
The lead facilitators at the forum, Assistant Superintendent Commandant (ASC) Afe Olurotimi, in his presentation noted that contrary to most public perception, boys can also fall victim of sexual abuse just like the girl child. “Child molestation is for underage children while rape is for those above 18 years of age. But the truth of the matter is that whether underage or matured, sexual abuse is a condemnable offence under the law.” He explained that in defilement, there is threatening of victims by the abusers while in rape, there is a higher possibility of forceful penetration of the victims by perpetrators through the physical force that causes injuries.
He equally observed that many parents keep pornographic materials on their smartphones, laptops, ipad and other electronic gadgets which their children can access at will and urged parents, guardians and caregivers to be careful and watchful. On marital instability, the Principal Social Welfare Officer from the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Inclusion, Oyo Zonal Office, Mrs. Olaposi I.B identified loss of family values as a major reason for increase in rape cases. According to her, when the house lacks peace, the child suffers the most because they are vulnerable to many abusers who exploit their predicament to lure them into danger. Mrs. Olaposi warned that marital instability could also occur if couples are not working, especially when the husband alone is fulfilling all marital responsibility. She therefore urged housewives to assist their husbands by contributing to the smooth running of the house financially and in other necessary areas.