Researchers in Nigeria and the United States team up to examine the HIV implications of rape in Nigeria in an article titled “Rape in Nigeria: a silent epidemic among adolescents with implications for HIV infection”. The article was published ahead of print in a letter to the editor in Global Health Action (http://www.globalhealthaction.net/index.php/gha/article/view/25583).
[Photo: Mr. Brandon Brown presenting on rape in Nigeria at the Symposium on Gender Equity and Global Reproductive Health at UCSD]
The prevalence of sexual coercion and abuse among adolescents in Nigeria ranges between 11 percent and 55 percent. Little is known about the rape experiences of adolescents living with HIV. A recent study in Nigeria showed that 31.4 percent of adolescents reported rape in their first sexual experience, with significantly more reported cases of rape among girls living with HIV compared to their HIV negative counterparts.
In our article, we highlight the limitation of the Nigerian legal system to provide rape victims with justice. According to the law, rape can only be committed by a man to a woman and it involves only penal and vaginal sex. In addition, a victim of rape needs to establish that penetration occurred, and proof must be provided that consent was not given. Overall, the low prospect of receiving legal judgment for rape offences stifles enthusiasm in seeking legal recourse.
There are several rape cases pointed out in the media but missing from the scientific literature. The recent rape and abduction of 276 female adolescents in Nigeria by Boka Haram have stirred up discussions about rape of girls and women within the context of conflict in the country. Unfortunately, there is still little public dialogue linking rape and HIV infection, including rape among married couples. The general population, government, and lawmakers need to understand the epidemic proportions of the crime and its potential long term impact on victims including mental health issues and AIDS. Additional efforts must be expended on rape prevention in Nigeria.