On Monday, I was at a state secretariat and just before I left, I saw a small group of people gather in front of the secretariat gate – protesting. I moved closer to the crowd who were not allowed to enter the secretariat and asked why people were protesting. You guessed right. It was a protest against rape.
This protest came after Azeezat’s rape and murder (although some other sources claim she was not raped). Before this was the 12 year old girl raped by 11 men and then, also was Barakat and Uwa, who were both raped and murdered. These recent cases definitely call for attention and worry about the safety of girls and women which are now being expressed both virtually and physically.
Rapists need to be reformed
The outcries and protests are valuable as they pressurize authorities to take actions they may have ignored. A major concern however is the message of these protests. What are people protesting for? The central idea in the outcries is to ‘end rape’ which is specifically about the convicting rapists
Many of these protests leave out a major aspect which is reforming rapists. When rapists are convicted, what happens while serving their jail term? Chances are these criminals are worsened, not properly rehabilitated and may never be functional.
Few years ago, BBC African Eye published a documentary about the horrific rape cases in South Africa. The story focused on the township of Diepsloot which is among the worst hit of rape cases in the country. Towards the end, a known rapist who had raped over 20 women and was also HIV positive admitted that he had been molested by policemen when he was only about 15 years and that the experience prompted him to rape women and girls.
Many serial rapists have past records of being raped. Therefore, protesting for conviction is not enough. Reformation in addition to conviction is what all rapists need in other to break the rape cycle.
Rape survivors need helped
Recently, the family of Jennifer revealed that their 18-year-old daughter had started behaving strange after being gang raped by five boys. After Jennifer’s rape, many took to social media to demand justice for her which was majorly about the punishing the rapists and not directly about her well being.
Many protests have focused on the rapists with an oversight on the rape survivors and their families. Rape survivors still do not have full justice even if the rapists are convicted and reformed. The rape experience made the survivors unstable and so justice has to involve making them stable again. This means providing mental care if they became traumatized and depressed and physical care especially if they became pregnant. Survivors also need to be kept back at work or school.
Restructuring protests for justice
There is a rape cycle and to break it, criminals need to serve their prison terms alongside rehabilitation. The goal therefore is not just to punish them but to ensure that even after they are punished, they are able to fit into the society. Rape survivors also need care for their own stability and well being. Justice extends to bringing them back to their normal self and making them functional.