Two days ago I watched transfixed by horror as one woman narrated the story of how one man sexually abused her young son, Hassan, in a Hausa television station.
The woman, who is a food seller, said the man didn’t show any remorse; in fact, he pretended he didn’t know the boy. The man also abused her son’s friend, Hussaini, whom he would call and give something sweet to take near the tea café (mai shayi).
When the man was brought in a car to the area and one of the boys was asked to identify him, the boy started crying that they should not allow the man to get down because he said he would kill him if he told anybody what he was doing to him.
In any event, after threats from the man and his friends or hangers on, the woman prevailed and the case is now in court.
However what would cause you to have goose bumps was when the boy also narrated his ordeal. His face was blurred to protect him. He appeared to be about ten years old.
According to the woman Hussaini’s mother refused to seek justice, saying she had left him to God.
“I urged her but she refused,” she said.
This is a very sad and disturbing story. In fact, there were some graphic details that indicated the man might be sexually abusing these children for ritual purposes, such as to get rich as those engaged in this despicable act are suspected of doing.
The story exposes the rot in our society where there is a cover up of a well known child abuser.
If you are poor and don’t have influence you would be threatened and intimidated to drop the case and let bygones be bygones.
Where the man used to go and call Hussaini and give him sweets should have raised suspicion. A man who is not related to a small boy to always be calling him aside and giving him something to eat is not right, after all what is his business with a small boy?
But as usual people look the other way, may be innocently, but some may be aware of the man’s habit and choose to keep quiet.
There are many such cases you hear now and then, but it is time such offenders are severely dealt with to send a strong message that their behaviour would not be condoned.
It is believed that sexual abuse of minors or child molesters have always been around but they carried on because people were afraid to challenge them by raising the issue. They were afraid of stigma or they buried it if the molester was a family member, or if the molester was from a wealthy family or an influential member of the community.
Even in those days, it was believed only girls were sexually abused, not boys!
Days were when young mothers were warned to protect their small daughters from such abuse, but now it must include young sons as well.
Imagine all those small almajirai roaming about. They can fall into the hands of such child molesters and their lives may never be the same again. And their parents sent them to Qur’anic schools far away from home, where young girls would never be sent, as they cannot be exposed like that and they need to be protected. Well, the young boys have become vulnerable too.
Due to more awareness people are reporting such cases now. They are encouraged that keeping silence would make the offenders go on committing the offence, blissful in the knowledge that people would rather die than report the abuse because of stigma and so on.
Human right groups take such cases to help the vulnerable people to seek justice. The way the media report the cases where the offenders are made known to the public also helps.
In folklore and in a bygone era when traditional rulers held sway, offenders of some crimes were banished from the village. Nobody can banish anybody now; however such molesters should be kept in prison as an official ‘banishment’ from decent society.
How about Hassan and Hussaini who were abused and introduced to this horrific aberration early in life? How would they see life, how would they view other men? How would they view the society that doesn’t protect them?
It takes courage and determination for Hassan’s mother to seek redress for her son against a powerful man. If the offender is sent to prison, it may also make Hassan feel that he has some hope in the society, that the society has not completely abandoned him.
In this regard both small girls and boys should be diligently watched over. You cannot be too careful.