Following many years of working at the busiest hospital in West Africa; Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital, Kano and volunteering at the SARC, Waraka Kano State, I witnessed what i will describe as incessant cases of rape. The age spectrum made me shudder in unbelief countless times: 8 day old female babies, 1 month old babies, 3 month old babies, 1 year and so on and so forth.
As a physician, one should be objective, detach sentiments but be empathic, Yes!. For me it was more than all that, it was something that made me lose sleep on many nights! My brain could not fathom what I was seeing almost daily!
When it came to the males, it was even worse. Some male kids could not deal with the experience especially following sodomization and turned to suicide following feelings of deep anguish, uncleanliness and guilt.
Of course, as a physician and scientist deeply touched by these happenings, the WHAT, WHY, WHERE, WHEN, HOW began to form in my mind.
In instances where the culprit was caught in the act, some families were pressured to drop the charges or were paid for silence and non disclosures. Others believed the stigma would spell doom for marriage prospects of their female children and so, many also complied.
For me, the worst of it all will remain the perpetration of act of sexual abuse by blood relatives; Fathers, grandfathers, brothers, Step- siblings against girls and boys only for me to hear family members asking hideous questions and making comments like’ What will you gain if you send the head of the household to jail?’, ‘What will you gain by sending the father of your children to jail?’, ‘ Why should her brother be sent to jail to waste his life, it was only a rape, he did not kill anyone’. Like, for Real? Are you kidding me? Did I just hear that? I go beserk in my mind but remain composed on the outside.
They are told to ‘Hush’, ‘Shhh’, ‘Keep Silent’, ‘Act as if it never happened’, ‘Shuru’. ‘Shuru’ is a native word in the Hausa language for Silence. The culture of silence, being the Shuru culture aids and abets the perpetrators of these evil acts against humanity. When i receive such reports and feedback, it makes me shake my head in disgust.
There was a case of this particular kid who had lost her mother and lived with her father who sexually abused her. The father’s sister and friend were aware, had confirmed it and brought it to my knowledge. They wanted the girl to receive healthcare. In my response to them I said ‘ The father would go to jail’ , they both refused claiming jail was not what they wanted. I asked further what consequence management plan they had for the girl’s father and they did not have any. So, i said you mean she would receive treatment and return back to the man? There was a test to be carried out and along with the girl, they supposedly stepped out to get the test done and never returned!
In my practice, even after it has been confirmed at grassroot level that a rape occurred, affected families seem amiss about the proper steps totake, this can be justified by the tangible anguish experience by the victim and the family and i understand it.
The Short Film, Shuru is how I lend my voice against the vice of rape in our communities.
My only request is that you lend your voice too. I am counting on you, the world too is counting on YOU.