Dise Ogbise is the chairman, Nigeria Bar Association, Sagbama branch and the immediate past chairperson, FIDA, Bayelsa. She is also a Chief Council in the state, Ministry of Justice as well as Executive Director, Do Foundation. In this interview with JOHN ODHE, she speaks on the increasing rate of rape and defilement in Bayelsa state, its consequences and the measures to curb it.
What is your take on the increasing cases of rape in the state?
It's an issue people keep talking about on a daily basis. Even as the executive director of Do Foundation, I have had lots of complaints about rape. A lot of persons are being raped and defiled. The general name is rape but legally, rape is having an unlawful carnal knowledge of an adult while defilement is having a carnal knowledge of a little child. So defilement and rape is an issue in Bayelsa state.
As the chairman of NBA, are there some issues of rape before you?
Yes. In the Nigeria Bar Association, we uphold the rule of law. We deal with the issues of human rights violation. Defiling a child is a violation of the right of that child. Having an unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman is a violation of the right of that woman.
Can you give a statistics of the rape cases you handled as FIDA chairperson and the number of such cases that have been reported to your table this year?
We had a lot of them. We have over 50 reported cases of rape and defilement coming to us just this year. Then if we want to have a thorough appraisal of what I did in the past three years that I served as FIDA chairperson, I will tell you that we had more than 200 reported cases of rape and defilement from the period of 2015 till this moment.
In your fight against rape, have you witnessed the conviction of a rape culprit?
Yes. In short, I won't forget in a hurry, the conviction of paedophyte that defiled two little children -the boy, through the anus and the girl, through direct penetration. The man was convicted and he is still at Okaka Prisons till now. As we speak, most of the matters are still in court. So we are very sure of more convictions.
A high profile politician in Bayelsa state is also currently facing trial over an alleged rape of a lady. Are you aware?
I am very much aware but I wouldn't dwell so deep into that matter because the issue is already in court. I do know that there is a department in the ministry of justice that is handling that matter. That's why I don't want to discuss it in details.
What do you think should be done to stop this menace of rape cases in the state?
There are so many things to be done to stop the cases of rape and defilement in Bayelsa state. Number one is advocacy. All stakeholders need to come together and condemn the act of rape in its entirety. That is what my NGO, Do Foundation is doing in all nooks and corners of Bayelsa state. We need to create the awareness that rape and defilement is evil against humanity. Other NGOs can come together and collectively say, this problem must stop. Another way to fight this problem is to stop stigmatization of rape victims. Imagine a situation where a woman is raped and she goes to the police station to report herself and she is questioned, why are you dressed like this? Also, if a rape victim confides in you and you go out there and begin to tell everybody that this woman has been raped, the next victim would not have the confidence to reveal her ordeal to anybody. You see a lady that has been raped, she cannot get married. She cannot relate freely with her peers even though it was not her own fault to be raped. Therefore, we must guide against stigmatization of victims of rape and defilement in our society. Moreover, people need to know that there are non governmental organizations that offer free legal services to rape victims. This awareness has to be created from time to time so that victims who cannot afford legal services should know that all hope is not lost. The society must also show an unconditional love to victims of gender based violence.
For instance, a woman that has been raped or a child that has been defiled needs proper love and care. They need well trained psychologists kept in a particular place to deal with them on how they can come out of that trauma. A child defiled by her own father needs to be taken to a protective home. We thank God for the government of Bayelsa state with the help of the ministry of gender and children affairs. They said such a home is already being built where such children would be taken for proper care. If a child that is defiled by her father is still kept with him, he will keep defiling her. Of course, such children would not have trust in society and would grow up to become something else. Finally on this, people also need to know that the punishment for rape is life imprisonment. If they are aware of this, they will tread with caution.
Is there any condition under which adult rape victims should be blamed?
How can somebody be blamed for being raped? No. Anybody that is raped should not be blamed. We have heard of woman being raped in their offices. Can you say she should be blamed because she was raped in her own office? Let me sound this very clearly, no matter how seductively a woman is dressed, it can never be an excuse for any man to rape her. What about those children who are still putting on diapers and a man still goes to defile them? No victim of rape should be blamed.
Can a man also be raped?
One of the ingredients of rape is penetration. That is why it is very difficult to prove if a man has been raped. A man can easily say he was indecently assaulted by a woman. Even at that, the man must prove how he was indecently assaulted.
Is it wrong for a rape case to be settled out of court?
Anybody that attempts to settle a rape case out of court has committed what the law calls compounding felony. No rape case should be settled out of court. There is no reason why any man should rape a woman or defile a child. If anyone has such issues, let them report to the NBA and relevant NGOs like the Do foundation where I am the executive director. Rape case should not stop in the police station. It should continue in court until the perpetrators of this evil are committed to life imprisonment so that others would stop.
What if the culprit is very wealthy and decides to compensate or pay-off the family of the victim?
That is why both the perpetrator and the family of the victim should be arrested. No matter any amount of money you pay to the family of rape or defilement case, it can never wipe away the memory from that victim.
When you were in FIDA, how did you fight against rape and defilement?
We did it in so many ways. One, we collaborated with the media. We ensured that the whole world knew about the perpetrator of every rape case reported to us and also ensure that the matter was charged to court. We also embarked on a door-to-door advocacy on the ills and evils of rape within Yenagoa and the local communities. I also let people know that rape and defilement attract life imprisonment. We also made people know where they should go to get justice and also interpreted some of the laws to the people's understanding. We made people to know that the Bayelsa State Child Rights Law 2015 that protects the rights of children was in existence.
How would you advise the young girl on the street about this rape issue?
To the young girls out there, I advise them to protect themselves by avoiding late movement on the streets especially when they are alone. They should know where to go to and at what time they should go there. They should enlighten their fellow girl child on the bodies that protect them from human rights violations. People should know that these bodies exist and they can run to them for help. Finally, our young girls should dress decently so they don't attract those men that are ready to rape our women and defile our children.