VIDEO: COVID-19 Lockdown as Health Counsellers Raise Concern over Sexual Assault in Kano

COVID-19 Lockdown: Health Counsellers Raise Concern over Sexual Assault in Kano

Mohammed Dahiru Lawal


AREWA AGENDA – Despite being attached to the health sector workers, sexual assault Counsellors are not on the list of people cleared for movement under lockdown, a condition that could cause increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies in Kano State.

Hajiya Halima Ibrahim Bibi Farouk, Head of Counsellors at the Waraka Sexual Assault Referral Center (SARC), Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital Kano who decried the situation stated that despite the fact that the COVID-19 situation, and attendant lockdown has prevented a lot of victims from coming to the Center due to mobility issues, Ramadan fast and nature of movement restrictions, the Center still log in daily cases of sexual interference of which they are unable to attend to due to their absence as a result of the lockdown.

Hajiya Halima Ibrahim Bibi Farouk explains that alot of Sexual Assault cases remain unattended to at the Waraka SARC due to the lockdown.

Affecting Women Health

The consequence could be very dire, Hajiya Bibi Farouk explained, “When we get cases, we counsel and depending on how long, we take certain steps. For example, if the assault happened within 72hrs, we administer to them a drug called post-exposure prophylaxis, to prevent possible exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases from taking hold in their body. If it’s within five days, and a female victim is between thirteen to fifteen years of age, we administer Emergency Contraceptive to them to prevent unwanted pregnancy, then we carry out lab investigation to ascertain if they have contracted any infection or not and if the assault comes with injuries on private parts, a Medical Doctor will examine and determine whether it requires surgery or if administering only drugs will be fine. So leaving these things untended to will cause a lot of harm on women health. There was a time a girl was brought to us, she was raped but her people claimed she was hit by a motor bike and they took her to a hospital where the injury was just stitched, by the time she was brought here her private part was already getting rotten and greenish! There was another case of late presentation that after the Doctors examination and necessary intervention, he concluded that though she will be fine, she can never be normal again.”

She posited that late presentation and attention have dire consequences on both evidence and victims affirming that, “If we have to wait till the end of lockdowns, a lot of victims will be damaged and infected with HIV, other STD’s and unwanted pregnancies will be rampant.

Many Cases, No Attention

“We get a lot of calls about new cases but we can’t come and attend to them because we don’t have any evidence or identity to show for coming to the hospital as counsellors. In fact, I just brought my daughter to the hospital and cleaner was is just updating about the number of new cases that were logged but not attended to since the lockdown. We are the permanent staff of the SARC so if people come, they can’t find us, they don’t necessarily see the Doctors.” Hajiya Bibi Farouk lamented.

She disclosed that the SARC is a coordinated effort with Counsellors at the Ministry of Women Affairs, Doctors from Ministry of Health, Lawyers from Ministry of Justice, Nigerian Police Force, Kano State Hisbah Board, with most case referrals from the Police, Hisbah and self-referrals.

“Our Doctors, mainly Gynaecologist at the other wing but because this is a secondary assignment, they have to face their primary assignment at the other wing of the hospital before attending to this and since we as Counsellors and primary contact persons do not have a means of identification as primary health workers, we find it difficult to come here and attend to cases.” Bibi Farouk explained.

On the rate of new cases under the lockdown, her office assistant explained, “Yesterday alone two people came here, on Thursday, we got two from Dorayi Babba, one from Dala on Friday, weekend I was at home, yesterday (Monday) we got four cases.”

At the Waraka Sexual Assault and Referral Center, SARC, Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital, Kano

Hajiya Bibi Farouk explained that before the lockdown, the Center records on the average a minimum of fifty cases and sometimes up to 100 every month with a daily record of between eight to fifteen.

Lockdown and the rise in Sexual Assault

Speaking further, the Head Counsellor at the SARC Center explained that contrary to popular expectation, sexual assault is on the rise under this lockdown.

“Let me tell you something, this lockdown is bringing about more rape cases beyond what you can even imagine and incest is mostly the case. Father will rape his daughter, brothers rape their sisters, Almajiri too will rape, neighbours too. In fact cases are more prevalent within the family due to the lockdown.”

She revealed that on the day of the lockdown itself the Center logged in related report of three cases, one from Sheka and two from Rijiyar Lemo. The following day, two male case from Jakara were logged.

“Both Male and Female are equally affected by rape but female cases is more usually Children between the ages of even two and half, three, five and fifteen to 25years. Male child rape cases are more not that there is no female but we get more male cases in that category.” She explained.

Not Deterred by Ramadan

Hajiya Bibi Farouk also decried the spate of sexual assault cases, stating that despite the coming of the Holy month of Ramadan, cases are yet to decline.

The Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, a time of heightened devotion where Muslims are enjoined to fast by abstaining from eating any food, drinking any liquid, smoking cigarettes and engaging in even lawful sexual activity from dawn to sunset.

Sexual assault which can be categorised under unlawful sexual intercourse in Islam (Zina) is a major sin that incurs the wrath and anger of Allah, it is even worse when committed during the day in Ramadan and if the perpetrator does not repent sincerely, his loss is complete.

As stated in Qur’an 25: 68-70, “And those who invoke not any other god along with Allah, nor kill such life as Allah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse and whoever does this shall receive the punishment…”

The one who commits Zina during the day in Ramadan has to, along with repenting, make up that day’s fast and offer the severe expiation, which is free a slave; if he cannot do that then he must fast for two consecutive months or feed sixty needy persons.

Call to Parents

In combating the situation, Hajiya Farouk called on parents to stop hiding sex education from their children since they watch Indian films together with them noting that gone are the times when parents can successfully hide such things from children without running the risk of them learning it among peers and neighbourhood, possibly in a bad way.

“Teach them the way you know you can teach the religion and culture let them know what is rape, what are the consequences since from childhood let the Child know every part of their body when you are bathing them and the essence of every part on their body.” She emphasised.

She called for the inclusion of sex education in the civic education curriculum of schools, charging Islamic scholars to also play a part by intensifying sermons against such act.

Government Must Show concern

While lockdown remains an essential part of curbing the spread of COVID-19, not clearing vital key workers on Women Sexual health may lead to another health crisis on its own by eroding past progress and worsening situations. Government should therefore show concern by identifying sexual assault Counsellors as essential workers and show political will with legal backing to strongly persecute sex offences.