Sexual Abuse And Religion
Wemimo starts with a short intro: Religious organizations all over the world have been said to be more prone to sexual abuses than most others and most importantly often gets covered up in cases of minors and adults alike and it is because they are big enough to move the perpetrators of these abuse to another place where people don’t even know about their reputation.
The institutions generally have standing influence, or connections that enable them evade secular justice sometimes for decades. The question is; what is it about religion that fosters sexual abuse and how can we stop these abuses that have become quite a thing in religious houses?
Sherif takes the conversation up: There have been quite a number of enquiries by governments across the world on issues of sexual abuses of minors and adults by supposed men of God. Nigerians intentionally sugar-coats the situation they find themselves. In respects to massive cover-up of sexual abuse by religious leaders, we bring up this show.
Wemimo quickly emphasized on the incident of sexual assault on the popular photographer Busola Dakolo, wife of singer Timi Dakolo. She made allegations against Pastor Biodun fatoyinbo and it went viral with protests in Lagos and in Abuja. Hashtag #NoToRape trended for days because of this issue.
Favorite Sankore Quotes
"The state has comprehensively failed Nigerian men and women. From bottom to the top, the law is vague." ~ Rotimi Sankore
"The Nigerian law is deficient. The law doesn't talk about assault of boys. It doesn't cater for the gaps and the anomalies present." ~ Rotimi Sankore
"Many countries have now gone a step further to develop a code of conduct in relation to minors." ~ Rotimi Sankore
"The Catholic church is still paying tens of millions of dollars to victims of sexual abuse. They are also still apologising." ~ Rotimi Sankore
"Many victims are not aware that they are abused. One needs a certain level of understanding and education to know." ~ Rotimi Sankore
"Many minors don't know how to handle such issues of intimacy. They most times don't know what is happening to them." ~Rotimi Sankore
"Over 3000 priests and bishops have been reported to have abused boys and girls" ~ Rotimi Sankore.
After that, many women came out with their own versions of suffering sexual abuse by the pastor. Wemimo says she read one about two sisters who were raped by the same man and they both could not tell each other. It was until the latest allegation over the weekend that these girls got to know that they were both raped by the same man. The incident has empowered more men and women to come forward and relate the abuses they have suffered. They realized that they were raped by the same person and went over there to accuse him and they got a video of the man on the floor rolling and begging for forgiveness.
Rotimi Sankore takes up the conversation by looking at what the global picture looks like and he tries to explain what happens in different places. “Now, what we know is that there are many countries in the world where there is public enquiry into sexual abuse, especially of minors in religious institutions. So this is not peculiarly a Nigerian thing. The importance of underlining this is to learn from what has happened in other places.”
He also explains that there is a public enquiry going on in the UK which also involves the religious denominations. It covers all denominations, such as mosques, churches, and all other religions present in that country. “What they’ve been able to establish is that anywhere religious leaders have unchallenged authority especially over minors who are boys or girls, there is an increased risk of sexual abuse,” says Rotimi.
Over three thousand religious leaders have been indicted worldwide, as Rotimi adds, and it is because the catholic church is one of the oldest, and he referred to Wemimo’s perspective that when a priest has been known to some people to be a pedophile, the church could just transfer the person.
“We can’t allow that to happen in Nigeria! We have to learn from what has happened in other places. If you cover up and transfer, the perpetrator just gets bolder and rises in the hierarchy of the religious institution until the person has accumulated dozens, if not hundreds of victims over 30 or 40 years.”
What is sexual abuse?
Rotimi responds by saying that it is any intimacy that is non-consensual starting from fondling. If a priest or pastor invites a chorister and invites he or she for practice in the evening and when the person gets there finds himself alone with the pastor, while he engineers intimacy starting from fondling to taking off the boy’s or the girl’s clothes. That is the commencement of the abuse.
Statistics in Nigeria says about one in every four females are abused and also one in every ten boys is abused. But in developed countries, parents and school teachers inform students on how they can recognize sexual abuse from the early stage. In this way, if a child quickly shouts for help an arrest could be made. But in Nigeria, Rotimi says, people are often not aware when this line has been crossed. So, they don’t interpret it as sexual assault.
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Resource Person: Rotimi Sankore (Journalist, Data and Policy Expert)