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Rejoice Abutsa: We Cannot Continue to Ignore the Problem of Child Abuse in Nigeria

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dreamstime_m_7581536-2Walking through the Jos University Teaching hospital, it was clear depending on the illness, there is a ward for everyone. The one that is segregated is not the mortuary or the ward for mentally unstable people. It is that of young girls, suffering from VVF.

They lie at the corridor; a mat on the floor, a child by one breast, and they are almost, always absent. They never know what is happening around. Most times, the nurses or people around have to yell to get their attention. . They don’t notice who walks by, they don’t care. They know that the child needs food and so they just lie there and let the child take the food. Those are not even extreme cases. There are those that have the kids and never bother to feed them.

Last year, I was at the ward for mentally unstable people for a visit and I saw a young girl. It was easy to look at her and wish her the best life can offer. She was asleep when we arrived but when she woke up, we found out that her case was a little extreme. She started by screaming; she needed a little comfort and then stability. She was not fifteen then, but she has a child and having a child did not just cause her VVF, it destroyed her mentally. A chain is used on her.

When the child needs to feed, they take the child to her, a hand gets released but her legs remain chained. The people around are very careful not to get her angry. She goes to the toilet with the help of two able bodied nurses. Nobody is safe around her. People around say she was raped. They also say she wanted to get married and she became unstable almost immediately after the marriage. Someone dumped her at the hospital.

Many of them with children at the hospital are below sixteen but they look older. They have carried more burdens and have lived more years mentally than people twice older than them. That is the reality of many girls in our society. They are not old enough to care for themselves but they care for children. Children that should call them sister, say mama instead. There are people destroying their lives and walking freely. When it gets bad, they take them to the hospital and dump them there.

There has been very little coverage of the child abuse that goes on in our society. We get angry for a bit and then we forget- we relax and we move on with our lives.

We are careful about how we speak about child abuse. When a bride price is paid on a young girl, we give it a fancy name and call it child marriage. It is not child marriage, it is paedophilia and it is a disease, a disease for those who commit it and those who permit it. Calling it child marriage is giving it a fancy name.

A child is a precious gift and marriage is a blessing to those who get into it right, so why combine the two words for a crime that grave, a crime that has killed many girls and rendered many more useless. These girls lurk around, waiting for nothing, perhaps death – but it never comes.

Child abuse is a crime that has left someone, like the beauty I met last year, destroyed. When it happens, they never go back to who they were. Do the surgery, start the treatment, they just never go back.

I once wrote an article about how travelling to my village, for my Aunt’s burial exposed me to many girls between the age of 10-13 that were eager to get married. Those that were single by seventeen were already complaining about it. It was shocking, but true. It is poverty. It is the lack of enlightenment. It is the lack of a proper education. All of this especially, poverty is a violation of human rights. A girl will only be eager to be married at a very young age because she has not seen anything else to hope for.

It is poverty that litters the street with gross child labour. I see children as young as nine puffing a cigarette and who are you to talk to them? They need strength to go back to the mechanic stand. They need to boost themselves to push the wheel barrow and cater to their families from a very young age.

A gang rape case was recently dealt with here in Jos, by the Human Rights Commission. A young girl was raped and the oldest of the rapists was nine years old. If children engage in rape at that age, what would happen when they are older? Where do we trace the problem to?

There are a lot of young girls exposed to sexual harassment on the street. They are out at 5AM, they are mounted with very heavy goods and they are expected to sell everything before they return home for the night. Most of them do not enjoy the stress that comes with the sun, so they find a place to rest the goods; they go off and make the money by selling in kind. They return home and the next day the cycle continues. Others are resilient but even at that, their lives are not better. Our society suffers because mothers cannot even fight for their daughters and fathers are silent, some of them are part of the problem, so when there is a crime, when their daughters get abused, they choose to negotiate out of court because they see negotiation as a means of having a better life for a few months rather than going in and out of court to get justice and then ending up poorer. When parents believe the best they can get is a negotiation, they negotiate. It is not because they are insane, it is their best option.

Abusing children is almost a culture in our society; it has swept through the town. It happens frequently, so many times in a day. There are girls who also give themselves to it. They lack knowledge of what is happening, they want a better life, even if that better life is N200. Money takes away a lot of burden and they want just a little of it, they are willingly to give themselves for it. This is not a recent problem, we emphasise on it now because we are identifying with its effect more every day.

Sometimes we argue and say education is not important but what these girls need is an education, the right kind of education that forces aggressive ambition.

Photo Credit: Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang)

Rejoice Abutsa is a creative communications and brand consultant, who wrote and produced her first short film in 2016, as a student of the University of Jos. Aside from working with filmmakers in Nollywood to ensure they find the best marketing solutions, she works with a number of creative start-ups to offer digital communications strategy that suit the goals of their businesses. Connect on Social Media; Email: [email protected] Instagram: @rejoiceabutsa Twitter: @RejoiceAbutsa

25 Comments

  1. hadiza

    October 11, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    As long as Muslims remain in Nigeria, child abuse will never stop. Sixty year old disgusting men still marry ten year old girls because their stupid religion permits it. Their dirty prophet Mohammed was a paedophile and Muslim are too dull to evolve. They continue to think we live in the 16th century. All Muslims are paedophile. They bring nothing good to the world. Imagine a disgusting old fool forcing himself on a ten year old girl. can u imagine that?? disgusting, isn’t it?? I hate men so much. They are the reason for all the evil in the world.

    • A Real Nigerian

      October 11, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Hahahahaha! You’re so funny and you always make my day with your funny – yet accurate – comments. Keep it up!

    • artklub

      October 12, 2016 at 8:09 am

      Hadiza, you are disrespectful. What you state is not a fact. Pedophiles are found in every environment and culture, religion. Do not distract with your bigotry. Yes, under age marriage is a problem in Northern/Muslim community but sexual abuse is not only flourishing there. Its everywhere. Please bring your polarizing town DOWN and respect mind your mouth!

  2. tunmi

    October 11, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    How do things change? We are doing more of speaking out and challenging the norms. And BN would actually go interview Nate Parker

  3. xplorenollywood.com

    October 11, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Oh my how did Jos get this bad? Don’t remember it being this bad in 05-06! My word?????! Thanks for this Rejoice, the write-ups are straight to the point. More power to your elbows.

  4. Nahum

    October 11, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Our society and culture thrives on abuse. Leaders abuse the masses, men abuse women, women abuse domestic staff and children, but we all say nothing. We need to destroy this culture of abuse. It is killing us

  5. The Real Oma

    October 11, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    So sad to read this Abusta, but thank you for bringing to our consciousness the horrors we would rather not dwell on, especially on this day the world celebrates the girl child.
    Gosh, the sufferings you described are almost unimaginable, it is heart wrenching, we must all work hard to build a better world!

  6. A Real Nigerian

    October 11, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    What a disgusting country!
    There is no hope. Nobody respects children. Who is there to help? Who??
    The Northerners/Hausa-Fulanis are paedophiles and ignorant half-wits who marry CHILDREN and refuse to send them to school.
    The Yorubas constantly use CHILDREN for rituals.
    The IGBOS are well known for their BABY factories.
    While the lazy, drunken couch potatoes from the South-South train their CHILDREN to be kidnappers, armed robbers and militants and also brand them as witches.
    The women think CHILDREN only exist to give marry and give birth to other CHILDREN so that society will respect them as grandmothers.
    The men… well, men are pigs, enough said.
    So, who is even going to make a change???
    There is no way forward. Child abuse is a part of us black people as we place no importance on children. We only see them as means to elevate our social status and as a source of labour.
    This country cannot boast of 100 decent people.
    Nigeria is the worst country on the planet with the most repugnant set of people and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves!

    • Edd

      October 11, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      If only u had a decent job.. BN would have been a better place. Run along mate

  7. sherri

    October 11, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    @Hadiza, hating all men is a waste of time/ energy and giving your power away. all men or islam are not to blame.
    you are stronger and smarter than that! please channel the strong emotions to make a difference in any capacity.
    feel free to contact me if you need guidance.
    sending e hugs.

    @Abutsa,
    thank you for bringing it to the fore.
    How can we help?

    • ccc

      October 11, 2016 at 11:51 pm

      I blame the economy. If she had something better toto do wiwith her life, she wouldn’t go from post to post talking about men. I guess she didnt learn anything from chimanda adichie. Men shud only make u sweat 20% of the time!!!!! Hadiza, this is why we advice people to become feminist…..lol!!!!

  8. Mrs chidukane

    October 11, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    This article took me back to Stephanie Okereke’s movie “Dry”. I really don’t know how we can put a stop to this because it’s mostly a religious as well as cultural issue. If there’s any NGO that works to end this please bring it to our notice so we know where to make enquiries about how to help.

    • ccc

      October 12, 2016 at 12:00 am

      A good step would be getting women from that religion/region involved! If we as neutrals are the ones championing this course, it would seem like an attack on their religion! And hence reasonable progress would be hard! there’s no need to start by insulting their religion/custom…that would be unfair and would get us no where. we all have beliefs/customs of our own that might not go down well with others. what we need is to make people see the sense in them choosing the alternative…. which is giving the girl child a chance to live a life, were she is empowered to make her own choices!

  9. ccc

    October 12, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Speaking about abuse… Aunty bn I think you are abusing my fundamental viewing right. There’s is this black advert that covers half of my screen each time I open ur site! Its unfair!!!!

  10. gh_mikie

    October 12, 2016 at 2:07 am

    Nigeria brags of its wealth, yet the richest men and women roll in their dough, while a neighbors daughters suffers unimaginable atrocities. Why wont 200 girls get kidnapped and your president not even bat an eyelid? Instead send his twit of a wife to gallivant the nation?
    Its up to the people, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, change the culture in your little sphere and it will spread.

    Think of it, if a random terrorist can spread fear by one act, why shouldn’t a random citizen spread good will by one kind act?

  11. Nikky

    October 12, 2016 at 2:46 am

    For the life of me, I hate seeing children hawking stuff. I’m always torn between buying as much as I can so they can go home early and just be kids or not buying from them in order to teach their parents not to send their kids out to sell stuff. Children being outside like that is very dangerous, it exposes them to all sorts of terrible things. Ordinary Ese that was in her mothers shop was abducted to ugu Hausa,
    I wonder if there is a legislation that makes it illegal for children to be exploited like that. If there is, it should be enforced. If we’d not have any, plz law makers should look into it.. Using your child for free labor should be a crime

  12. Ola

    October 12, 2016 at 6:04 am

    My sister and I were just talking about this yesterday. She was telling me how she had to chastise her assistant at work for using young kids as house help. She told her these are kids like her kids these children are serving but unfortunately that they are from poor families

  13. De Duchess

    October 12, 2016 at 8:44 am

    This is so sad. look at all these scenarios. We need to do better, be better.

    Thank you for this insightful read. I would personally share this, a lot of people need to read this. If we ignore cases like this, what is our future going to be like.

    I think that we need growth from every aspect to grow as a society, we need more organizations that actually care about children, not those in it for personal gain.

  14. ijs

    October 12, 2016 at 8:44 am

    So what can we do to make a change

  15. kike

    October 12, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Please what can we do collectively to stop this?

  16. Rejoice Abutsa

    October 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I strongly believe education is key. Most of them are told education is wrong, they don’t aspire to anything, they just want to live. They have a daily routine and that is all they know. To them, to aspire to go beyond where they are presently is luxury. There are NGO’s impacting lives but it will be great if more people that are capable get involved.
    Look at the Nigerian economy, things are even worse now than they were before.
    If things are hard, they suffer more. On a normal day, they struggle to make ends meet and when everyone is complaining, how do they live a better life. It leads to abuse, these things are more connected than we think. They work twice as hard, they are more exposed and they keep meeting people that take advantage of them.
    I also strongly agree with @CC.

  17. Rejoice Abutsa

    October 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    And thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  18. Cynical

    October 12, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Gosh…… This article really touched me. This could have been any girl, but luckily we were born in a different family,environment. What always boggles my mind is how a man will enter a room with a small girl of 13 or so and still be able to get it up……I guess everyone isn’t ‘normal’. I really agree with the person who talked about education being the key,it has a way of empowering one, making you know you are worth something,that you have options. Thanks for drawing our attention to this, Rejoice…..nice one.

  19. nwanyi na aga aga

    October 13, 2016 at 10:20 am

    This reminded me of that Stephanie Okereke’s movie “DRY”. Whatever happened to that excellent movie? I wish I can wash the whole movie.

  20. Girl Child

    October 14, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    ACCESS and OPPORTUNITY: These are the keys right now to preventing sexual abuse of children because the abuse of a child can only occur, if a predator has both access and opportunity to a child. So the question is, who has access to our children?

    It is rather unfortunate that our Law cannot erase the lingering culture of child abuse because of its shortcomings which should be urgently addressed so that ENFORCEMENT OF THESE LAWS, will curb the resort to sentiment and pressure which allow child sexual abuse suspects to plead with the families of their victims not to be prosecuted.

    It is also important for us all to remember that the trauma suffered by these children CANNOT be restituted.

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