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Gang rape and killing of college student sparks rage in Nigeria

Parnian Shahsavary / YJI

Enugu, NIGERIA – The death of 22-year-old Uwaila Vera Omozuwa has stirred up protests and outrage in Nigeria.

Omozuwa, a freshman microbiology student of the University of Benin in southern Nigeria, was raped by a gang and clobbered with a fire extinguisher inside a church in the city of Benin where she had gone to study, Vanguard newspaper reported.

A security guard found her unconscious body on May 27 and she was rushed to a hospital immediately. She died on May 30.

Protesters in Benin marched to the police headquarters in the city on June 1, demanding justice for the victim. On social media, Nigerians are using the hashtag #JusticeForUwa to demand an end to rape.

The next day, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted that he expects the police to “speedily and diligently” conduct investigations and bring  “all the culprits responsible for this barbaric act” to justice.

Police said they have started investigations and made some arrests in connection with the murder.

Omozuwa’s murder has sparked an outburst of fury and indignation on social media, with young women and girls recounting their own rape experiences and calling out their abusers on Twitter and Facebook.

Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo State in Nigeria, shared the state government’s post on his official Facebook page.

Using the hashtag #SayNoToRapist, which recorded nearly 70,000 tweets as of Jun. 3, Nigerians are outraged at the unending stories of rape shared by women, some of whom had these ugly experiences when they were teenagers.

All these stories of rape rankle me. It underlies a culture of sexual violence, especially against women and girls in Nigeria.

One in four girls have experienced sexual violence in Nigeria, according to a 2014 national survey done with support from the Center for Disease Control in the United States and unicef.

The violence, the survey explains, often takes place where the child should be safe – in their homes, in a neighbor’s home, and in school.

But a majority of the children never speak out due to fear, shame, stigma and a lack of knowledge of where to seek help. Only 5 percent of children who are victims of sexual violence ever got the help that they needed to recover, according to the survey.

In a typical African home, much attention is given to the girl child. She is taught how to cook, sit, talk, walk, behave and even think.

Our parents – especially our mothers – spend a lifetime grooming their daughters to be perfect in order to bring honor to their families and in their marriages.

Mothers teach girls standards of behavior which the child has to adhere to avoid being sexually abused.

One thing we often miss in this whole process is to apply similar standards to the male child.

We can only make progress when our society begin to teach boys and adult males to respect women and their bodies.

We must create a future where girls and women can live without the fear of being raped or abused.

It is not just girls who should often receive lengthy conversations on morality. Let’s begin to teach the male child to respect women and girls.

As we raise our voices to condemn rape, this is the right time to fix this problem.

Chinalurumogu Eze, a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International, wrote this commentary.

Parnian Shahsavary, a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International, drew the accompanying illustration.

Linus Unah, an Associate Editor with Youth Journalism International, edited this piece.

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