It's ethically wrong to reveal the identity of a sexually molested kid, but the producers of "Alter Ego" didn't get the memo.
As expected, it was a star-studded event which kicked off hours later than scheduled. It was nothing new, Nollywood events are popular for their tardiness.
While guests awaited the screening of the movie which explores sexual abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, two young victims of sexual abuse were brought on stage to share their experiences.
The first victim was a 15-year-old, who was repeatedly abused by her father. She is currently homeless and lives in a church with her mother.
The second was a 7-year-old, who was raped at the age of four by her school teacher and now suffers PTSD and uncontrollable sexual desire. She also pokes herself with objects when the excessive urge kicks in.
Their stories were obviously shared to create constructive awareness and remind the public that sexual abuse and PTSD are real-life issues. Unfortunately and rightly so, the exposure of those underage girls infuriated some of the guests.
In advanced countries, there are laws that protect a rape victim’s identity. These laws which seem to be missing in Nigeria, prevent the disclosure of the identity of rape victims.
In a chat with several lawyers, I was made to understand that while there are no laws that protect the identity of a rape victim in Nigeria, a proactive judge could protect a victim's identity under Section 36(4) of the Constitution by conducting the trial behind closed doors with only persons connected to the case present.
If we don't have laws that protect these victims, what about our morals? The principles of right and wrong. There was nothing 'life changing' about exposing the identity of a troubled young girl.
Their names could have been changed. Their visual identities could have been obscured. These are done for several reasons, including security.
The event simply reiterates the fact that there's a fast decline in ethics and morals in Nigeria. Caution is thrown to the wind when dealing with sensitive issues.
At the premiere of "Alter Ego," the 7-year-old, who is either not fluent in English or isn't bold enough, was accompanied by a guardian who eventually shared her story. Why didn't the guardian walk up alone to share the story? Why were those kids exposed? Why do we get to publicly display the identity of victims and not the perpetrators?
If shots of their faces had been taken at the event, the dissemination of their identity through the mass-media would have done more harm than good to their psychological state of mind.
There are people who insist that revealing the names of victims takes away the victimization and shame associated with rape and treats it like every other criminal act. But, rape is not like every other crime. Most victims have been denied justice. It is a sensitive issue that shouldn't be carelessly handled as often done in Nigeria.
A minor has the right to grow up and decide to let go, heal, impact or share his or her survival or struggle with the world.
Protection of victims of child abuse, especially minors, should always be a priority.
It's important that the press, organizations and individuals treat cases of minor rape victims with care.
If only people could be held criminally liable for revealing the identity of a victim in Nigeria, maybe then more people will be tactful about the issue of sexual abuse.