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Incidence of rape, domestic violence and molestation of women “extremely disturbing and unacceptable” – Professor Hauwa’u Evelyn Yusuf

Professor Hauwa’u Evelyn Yusuf of the Department of Sociology Kaduna State University and Director, Center for Gender Studies, in this interview describes the incidence of rape, domestic violence and molestation of women as “extremely disturbing and unacceptable”. According to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, an estimated 717 rape cases were reported between January and May 2020, a figure that many activists dispute, considering the reluctance of many victims to come forward. She also commended the Kaduna State Government’s efforts in arresting the ugly situation. 

Question: Let’s start with your work as the Director- Gender Studies and of your Non Governmental Organization Centre for Study and Resolution of Domestic Violence. How bad is the incidence of domestic violence and is there any way we can compare domestic violence and rape. Are they comparable?

Answer: Rape is a form of domestic violence, so trying to separate them is to deny the fact that they are part and parcel of each other. Domestic violence is the type of violence that takes place within the home and the immediate society. So at times when you talk about domestic violence people begin to think of banditry, those ones are a little bit of domestic violence but yes they are still domestic violence as long as they are internal not external that is the essence of the word domestic. Domestic violence in the home is of different forms.

You have intimate partner violence…that is between husband and wife. There is violence within the home which covers the people around, the immediate extended family. Then you also have violence within the society, it is still domestic violence and sometimes rape can be within the nuclear family, it could be within the extended family, it could also be societal based that is when you have a complete outsider, somebody unknown to the victim. Rape is forceful intimate relations with same sex or opposite sex without the consent of the victim.

Now we also have another form of domestic violence which is pedophiling, it is a form of rape…by people who take pleasure in defiling children bellow the age of 18, since that is Nigeria’s definition of adult so anybody bellow, 17 years its considered defilement. But for me rape is rape no matter the age and it is worst when it is pedophiles, when people take advantage of children of one month, or three months like the Nassarawa case, or two years like the Zaria case. Rape and domestic violence have taken a completely new dimension that is worrying and scary, that you begin to wonder what is going on.

Question: Can you talk more about the dimension?

Answer: The new dimension is the defilement of under-aged persons and then the alarming rate of incest, yes incidences of a father sleeping with his daughter, in fact impregnating her. Same with brothers, uncles. That’s the dimension. The worst are clerics, whether Muslim or Christian, who are involved in rape and other forms of violence against children under their care. That is the new dimension and then the worst dimension is raping or defiling to death. 

Question: Part of the new dimension, is the violent nature rape has taken. In South Africa we have this terrible rape situation and in India too, in South Africa at the height of HIV-AIDS pandemic suddenly there was a jump in the increase in rape because with men raping minors, on the grounds that they can get cured. Is that what we are beginning to see in Nigeria?

Question: Well, I am currently conducting a research on the relationship between the high surge of rape and covid-19. I have not come across any of my respondents talking in that direction. Yes there could be some correlation between rape and COVID19, like that between AIDS and what we saw in South Africa. I have not seen that, but it’s too early and am just collecting data. You know for me every opportunity to collect data and write empirical papers is always welcome. But the issue is why the sudden upsurge and what sense can we make of what is going on?

Question: Still on the new dimensions, especially with the lockdown of about four months. Of cause there were Psychological issues, partners were forced to stay together, partners that used to be saved by going out …do these rape cases and incest in any way as a result of the lockdown – I’m not justifying it in any way?

Answer: Are you trying to say that perhaps the lockdown escalated it as a result of some psychological trauma….I disagree because what we discovered in our research is that some of these things have been happening …brothers sleeping with sisters, fathers sleeping with daughters. We have a father whose child has given birth to a baby, which couldn’t have happened within the last four months of the lockdown. We have a case in Zaria that the father has been defiling his daughter for more than six years.

We had a case of a step farther defiling his step daughter and the mother knew about it, but kept mute. We have a case here in Kaduna of a cleric defiling his house maid with the knowledge of his wife, of course they tried denying it. Now if we look at these incidences, they didn’t take place during the covid lock down period, so I do not think that all these happened because of the lockdown. Yes, there are people who used to play this away matches.

Question: How about women? 

Answer: I will come to women. I think I’m the first person to say there are many female criminals. I am a gender equity person. And I speak based on empirical evidences. More men play away matches than women. That is not to erase the fact that women could also or are also playing away matches. We know all those things but I am saying that here is a rift within the family before the lockdown and suddenly they have to stay and look at each other eyeball to eyeball. It’s possible for intimate partner violence to increase, it is very possible. I don’t want to preempt my study.

I’ve started seeing homes where they have been having quarrels but with the lockdown they were forced to accept the fact that “look we had agreed to stay together so we must stay together”. I think for me, the lockdown was a blessing in disguise for some couples, because yes, for the first time they were able to know themselves and it helped fostered a better relationship between them. While on the other hand, for some relationships, this lockdown was the worst thing that could have ever happened.

Question: Was it that they were sweeping things under the carpet? 

Answer: You know the conspiracy of silence. You know, this issue of divorce and stigmatization, forces many women to stay put, they can’t go anywhere. So, for a long-time people have lived with that kind of mentality, but here we are, knowing you must stay with each other. This is a case of whether you like am you no like am, we must stay together and whether you like or you no like this one na me and you. You understand that kind of a thing. And then husbands used to tolerate their wife’s behavior, knowing they would soon go out to catch their fun…suddenly they found themselves unable to.

I must confess that some of us women can nag from now till eternity, and in such situations the man has no option than to beat her up. That’s not an excuse anyway; no matter the circumstances a man should not hit a woman. It doesn’t make sense. So, this is how domestic violence develops. COVID-19 and the way we live is now the new normal, and for a long time, just like HIV.

Question: So there are good sides of COVID-19. Before now a mother wakes up, hurries off to work, drops off the children with and she has to leave the little child at home, not knowing all this while that there were relationships. Now, everybody stayed at home.

Answer: And because there is this trust, there is this natural trust that the father wouldn’t dare, there’s this natural trust that the mother wouldn’t dare. I mean, “Incest, nobody would”, that is the original African thinking. So a mother goes to work, her mind is at peace… In fact, in her presence the father laps the baby, which doesn’t arouse any suspicion. In fact, not just the father, the uncles, neighbors, “my wife, my wife, my wife, my wife”, nobody ever thought of it as any big deal. But with the current trend in domestic violence, rape and pedophile in particular, not even the father can be trusted.

Question: That’s the new normal?

Answer: That’s the new normal. I can’t leave my girl child with her father. It is not safe anymore because we have seen fathers defiling their daughters.

Question: There is that case of a father sleeping with his three daughters.

Answer: Yes, it happened here in Kaduna and he’s in jail. That’s one thing we are grateful to the Kaduna State Government for.

Question: Because it’s part of the policies and vigorous implementation of the laws it has put in place? 

Answer: We have a fantastic government when it comes to governance and especially on the issues of domestic violence. As far as sexual and gender-based violence is concerned in Kaduna state; I will rate the government above 90% and I can say this any time and anywhere. Why? Because we have a government that has zero tolerance for SGBV and the governor has ensured that the law doesn’t allow for bail for any rape suspect. And he has created four Sexual Assault Referral Centers within the states and these centers are doing fantastically well. When those of us who are in the field…sorry, I am in the field and anytime I hear ‘rape’, no matter how tired or sick I am, I will not sleep, because a crime has been committed and the perpetrator must be brought to book. My position has always been death by hanging for rape perpetrators , whether men or women. 

Question: The men will be very glad hearing this.

Answer: There is this misunderstanding about sexual and gender based violence. People only think that gender violence is against women alone. I recently dealt with the case of am Islamic Mallam that was abusing his male pupils. This is a form of gender based violence. We can’t overlook it. So just as we are dealing with those who are sexually molesting girl children, we are also dealing with those who are molesting the boy child and its fantastic for us in Kaduna State because our governor and his wives, I did not say wife, because they are all involved in working against sexual violence. I work with Ummi El-Rufai and she is always in the field with us. She goes to the field with us. So it is a case of fight to finish, zero tolerance for rape. 

Question: Why do people resort to rape. And I am intrigued about your inaugural lecture, especially your assertions that criminal tendencies among women out weights that of men because of gender and violence meted out on them.

Answer: What I said is that there are more female criminals than is reported, that their criminal tendencies are overlooked because we live in a patriarchal society. In the event of a robbery the suspect is usually a man, while in fact it can be a man. There are many women led arm robbery gangs, and they lead operations. I conducted a research on female criminality for my masters degree, and I had the privilege of actually living amongst them in Agodi prisons, for three months, and I got first-hand information on their modus operandi. Women criminals are fiercer than their male counterparts, they are merciless. I’m speaking with data. Part of the findings become perpetrators due to violence and maltreatment, many of which stem from growing up. And this explains the viciousness of women criminals. …their resolve not to badly treated like their mothers were. 

Question: So the violence, both sexual and physical, that she went through becomes the driver of her delinquency in adult life. So is that the connection?

Answer: It’s not an excuse but that is the reality. Women use their supposed weakness, emotions. I tell people that they should use the gender definition of femininity and masculinity. Femininity is associated with being gentle being complacent, being emotional. Feminity, Not female, not a woman, because we have men that are feminine in nature. Then you have masculinity, which is associated with aggressiveness, intelligence, and there are women that are masculine in nature. So, and that is why, when it comes to analysis, those of us in gender studies will tell you that you have to look at it from the gender lens. In fact, in I data collection don’t ask people whether they are male or female, ask for their gender description, which could be masculine or feminine. So, anybody can fall into any of those categories, depending on their characteristics.

And that’s why I enjoy participant observation mostly when I’m conducting data. I’m not a quantitative person I’m a quantitative expert, because with qualitative data, you can get information that somebody would ordinarily not give because you’re giving them quantitative instrument, you already have suggested answers, and the person is too shy to tell you that I’m an aggressive person so he chooses the subtle one, but in interaction with that person you begin to know. We must begin to look at social definition of our characters and personalities, that way you will be able to know everybody’s capabilities. You don’t just write everybody off, she can’t do anything, or he’s a man oh be careful. 

Question: So do we have an increase? 

Answer: My Masters thesis was on female criminality and my PhD on the Dominance of Domestic Violence in Kaduna State. I sampled data from the three senatorial districts, whether the Christian dominated area or a Muslim dominated area or the metropolis a metropolitan. Domestic Violence is on the increase, especially within the coronavirus, there are a lot of cases, of husbands bartering their wives. There are different forms of domestic violence, it’s not just rape, or battery. In fact, there is the psychological aspect of domestic violence…the wife never gets it right, be it cooking and dressing. The trauma, the psychological abuse which some people can’t take. In fact, psychological violence, has led to suicide in several instances. Which explains why some women prefer being beaten to the abuse, that sometimes extends to her parents. For instance, you were not well brought up. Then the economic version of domestic violence.

The man marries a woman, she has her skills or is educated, but the man refuses her being gainfully employed. This is economic form of domestic violence and it’s very rampant, especially amongst our people. Then, a lot of widowhood practices, all these are different forms of violence. So that’s why I say when we talk about domestic violence, it’s not restricted to intimate partner, it’s goes through the extended family, and the society at large. If a man dies, and the wife mourns him for one year, two years, five years, and she decides to get married, it’s a problem. But if a woman dies and the man takes a new wife, it’s not a problem.

Question: Prof. can I rape my wife?

Answer: That is intimate partner. Of course! A lot of men do it because they do not know it is rape. That is what I want to believe because we live in a patriarchal society. Everybody feels that once you have paid her dowry she is your property. Men must get this. A woman is not a property, just like a man is not a property. It’s a mutual relationship. So when you forcefully take your wife, it is rape.

Question: But is that criminalized in Nigeria?

Answer: It is a crime

Question: Does the law recognize it in Nigeria?

Answer: The question is, do you forcefully take what belongs to you? No. Even our dogs at home we play with them. That’s the essence of foreplay before sexual relations. Men are taking by force, because they don’t care about foreplay. Once you work on her, the moment she doesn’t agree, or he doesn’t agree, because that’s one thing you need to know, it’s both ways. Take off and try again. Men don’t just understand that they need to work on women. You can’t beat a women in the morning and expect her to cooperate in the night without asking if she is psychologically ready! The worse part, is making the advances to look like your apology. 

Question: I’ll ask you this because suddenly we see Hausa boys falling in love with much older white women, dancing, and this public expression of love. Am sure you saw Sokoto one. They were kissing.

Answer: Well the world has become a global village and we borrow cultures. That’s what’s happening. People are just trying to copy some cultures, cultural integration.

Question: But assuming he married a Hausa…

Answer: Its still cultural integration whether you like it or not. 

Question: So there is intimacy now? 

Answer: Not intimacy as such, but it has gotten to the stage that they both can sit on the same bed, even though they both sit apart, that use to be unheard of in Hausa land. You would have also noticed that during weddings, before now the couples never come together, but that is happening now. Before now the wife will be hidden inside the room and taken at night to his house. But now we are having dinners. We are having occasions where they come; they dance together in the open and all.

Question: So things are changing positively?

Answer: Yes, I refuse to be ethnocentric because I’m a trained Sociologist and a Criminologist for that matter. What I see is cultural integration, that’s my summary of it. And it could be positive or negative. …that’s life, and whether you like it or not, change is constant. 

Question: Let’s talk solutions, are women still justifying violence?

Answer: It might interest you to know that we still have a lot of women who justify violence. I want to stay with my children, if I leave who looks after them, he will take another wife and my children will suffer.

Question: Yes that’s the way to go even though the capacity is inhibited by the stigma? 

Answer: People are so scared of being called a divorcee to the extent that men now threaten women with it, because of the stigmatization. Women must realize that being divorced is not the end of the world. Winfrey Opera has openly come out on with the fact that she was raped. Rape cuts across culture, status and religion. 

Let me tell you SIB does not have face. It’s not just culture, it’s not just religion, even status. We have had professors that have been battered. We have had professor husbands, that have been battered. During my collection of data. I was approaching a house and we were hearing the woman’s voice “ you must kill me today”, and the door was locked so we all thought the guy was the one who was battering. By the time we opened the door it was the woman that was sitting on top of the man battering him and still crying, “you must kill me today” right here in Kaduna.

But the man is so egoistic that he will never say that he was the one being battered. Like I said earlier, we live in a patriarchal world and so you find more women being battered, more women as victims of SGBV than the men. Whether we like it or not, but that is not to say that men are not being battered. That’s not to say that men do not suffer, one form of SGBV or the other.

Question: How bad is rape in Kaduna?

Answer: Within the circumference within which I work it’s pathetic, It’s very alarming, because of the increasing rape of under aged persons. In the past victims used to be adults’s pathetic. It might interest you to know that there are more unreported cases of rape than reported cases this is because of the culture of silence, imposed by shame! In the northern part of Nigeria, the stigma and the fact that your child will never find a husband, ensures that everyone keeps quiet about it. Question: You remember there is this popular picture of a student of the Kaduna State University that came out openly that a lecturer raped her.

Answer: Selma….she was never a student of Kaduna State University. The rape incident happened while she was a student in the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, about 9 years ago. We must commend her for alerting Kaduna State University that the lecturer had found his way into our school. And I must also commend the management of the university for its swift response. I actually chaired the panel that investigated that issue at the university level and at the State level, working in conjunction with the Commissioner of Human Services and Social Development, Hafsat Baba. I housed Selma for more than two weeks in my house, after the investigation, like you know I am a member of the Kaduna State Sexual and Gender Based Violence Actors. 

Question: Was the lecturer eventually disengaged? 

Answer: He was immediately suspended and eventually asked to leave.

Question: Moving forward Kaduna State University….

Answer: Kaduna State University, through the Center for Gender Studies, has a Sexual Harassment Law that gives everybody, the sequential process to take if you feel you are being harassed….there are rules and penalties. 

Question: Give me an example.

Answer: If any member of staff feels he is being harassed by a superior or by a lecturer, there are avenues to report. You can report to anybody you feel comfortable with. That’s the starting point and that will trigger an investigation immediately. If the person you’re reporting is found wanting, he/she will have to go through the university disciplinary process, which might eventually lead to termination of appointment. Once you are off our hands, we will hand you over to the Law Enforcement and you are strictly on your own. If it’s a staff versus staff, we endeavor to establish, if the report is false, there is a penalty. The Kaduna State University sexual harassment law is comprehensive, it takes care of all situations.

Question: In terms of statistics, the Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development told me that more boys than girls are being raped in Kaduna State

Answer: I have no reason to dispute her figures. 

Question: Any help for the victims.

Answer: My own organization, the Center for Study and Resolution of Domestic Violence do counseling, and empowerment of people who have suffered one form of domestic violence. We have a shelter in Kagoro, that houses victims of domestic violence whether male or female. Here in Kaduna, talking about the Center for Study and Resolution of Domestic Violence, we try to empower by training them on different type of skills.

Question: Prof. is castration a way to go for rape if it’s a man, if it’s a woman, what will be done?

Answer: I am actually pushing for death by hanging. 

Question: Presently the victims, need to prove their case, because its a criminal offence, they need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Are you advocating for change? 

Answer: That’s why we keep saying that if somebody is raped. The first thing to do is take them to SARC, where we can take the evidence, which is very important. The law is changing gradually with the VAP law, and all that. And luckily for us the VAP law has been passed to law in Kaduna State. We are looking forward to the vigorous implementation.Question: Can you elaborate …

Answer: Yes, the Violence Against Persons law, it covers a lot of grounds. The VAPP law doesn’t directly talk about rape per say, but there are a lot of criminalities attached to the law that can actually help in rape case.Question: That’s the one that call for life imprisonment for rape of a minor and 21 years for the rape of an adult, that is Kaduna State law.

Answer: Yes, that’s the Penal code.

Question: Are we teaching our male children right, because the attention seems to be more on the females? 

Answer: Because we live in a patriarchal world, you often hear people justifying rape on the grounds that the victim is not properly dressed, the implication being that she attracted rape …..there is an urgent need to have a change of mindset. The question that those reaching this conclusion haven’t asked themselves is, how does a four year old girl dress that will make her attractive to a man? Question: Prof. are parents failing children in their responsibility?

Answer: Absolutely yes! We have this carefree attitude to the whereabouts of our children. We are not engaging them, we should take an interest in what is happening in their lives. 

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