On Wednesday 9th January, the Bumper Breakfast on MiTV hosted three advocates to discuss the abuse of the boy-child, which they argue is not talked about half as much as the abuse of the girl-child.
Boys Lives Matter
According to lead campaigner of #boyslivesmatter and convener of “Gender Mix”, Nkechi Idiaye, a study carried out by the National Population Commission (NPC) in 2015 found that one in four boys are sexually abused before they turn 18.
“Did you ever realise that those who molest these boys are people that they know? They are not strangers,” says Idiaye, who has declared that 2019 is the year of the boy-child. “I have had men talk to me that they were molested by an aunt or the maid in the house. I have heard so many stories that people within the home, people they see on a daily basis, people they trust and open up to are those responsible for molesting these boys.”
Almost tearing up on set, Idiaye declares:“Every time you molest a boy, you break that boy and when you break a boy, you break a man; and they are so many broken men around us. We need to begin to question the past.”
Programme co-host Tomisin Ojo wonders why boys who were abused kept mute about their ordeal. “A child should be able to come out to say daddy/mummy this is what happened. A child who has loving parents should be able to tell them, but why don’t they do that?”
Lawyer and litigator Zeniat Abiri says that is the case because most parents didn’t create the atmosphere for the kids to open up to them when such a thing happens, their wards opting instead to confide in strangers and peers, who know no better than they do.
“There is a lot lacking in the aspect of sex education for a child to realise that this thing is actually wrong,” she says. “The predators make the kids feel it is normal and say stuffs like ‘i want to teach you how ro be a big boy’, and by the time the kids realise that this is actually wrong, it may have gone too far to be stopped. And the damage is done.”
Midway into the conversation, Ojo points out that It has been said time and time again that boys who have been molested turn out to be molesters when they are grown.
Damaging the boy child
The results, according to actor and model Seun Kentebe, is that the boys lose their sense of belonging.
“You don’t know who you are anymore, you lose focus; you are now unsure of yourself by reason of the abuse you have suffered. You have no one to talk to, no form of expression and they become who they end up being,” he says.
Kentebe adds: “Because the child grows up without a role model and without confidence, and with such pain on the inside, he may become open to any form of solace and most time it always comes from the wrong end of the society… which end up moulding him to become an abuser himself.”
And when parents get to know of the abuse, they also prefer not to talk about it.
“The issue of stigmatisation — put another way, the concern about how friends and family will see them — is the reason a lot of parents do not want to associate themselves with the fact that their sons have been sexually abused,” adds Kentebe. “They believe they will be seen as people who cannot protect their own children.”
There are laws, and there are laws
Responding to the question about how much stigmatisation actually affect the child in question in the long run, Zeniat believe that stigmatisation is not as scary as people make it sound.
“It is keeping the stories inside that gradually kills this boy child, that makes him lose hope in the society, that makes him unable to heal properly from the abuse; so it is a thing of weighing the interest of the child against the perceived stigmatisation, which in my opinion doesn’t really exist,” she says.
Abiri is saddened that there has been much documented cases of prosecution, though there are state and federal laws against sexual abuse of boys and girls.
For example, there is the 2015 Criminal Code of Lagos (Section 259). Under that law, according to Abiri, any form of penetration is punishable by life imprisonment. The applicable law in abuja is the Violence Against Persons Revision Act (Section 1).
So what needs to be done to tackle the societal shortcoming on the subject? Idiaye: “There is a need for us to start advocating more for our boys. We all have to sit up and look into boys’ abuse again and again if we are going to bring about change in our society. Things are going so bad.”