Due to the increase in reported rapes cases in Nigeria that have tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic, technology giants in the country have developed the SmartRR application that victims can use to report the crimes to authorities without going to the police in person as well as protecting the victim’s identity.
According to U.N. Children’s Fund, one in four girls have been victims of sexual violence which accounts for thousands of rapes that go unreported.
A Nigerian programmer has created an application for rape survivors to report the attacks and seek help while avoiding social stigma.
The 22-year-old Nigerian student Angela Felix not her real name says her cousin raped her during last year’s pandemic lock down.
According to her, she was too ashamed to tell her family or police, she instead considered suicide until she stumbled onto a mobile application that probably saved her life.
“What got my attention with the app was the fact that I do not need to be in touch with the person before reporting my case or getting help, So, I decided to try it. So, I downloaded the app, stated my case and you could imagine that it could help.”” Felix said.
The SmartRR app allows rape victims to report the crime to authorities without going to the police in person. Users can also get counseling and support online. It effectively shields the identity of women who previously wouldn’t report the rape due to fear or stigma.
The app is currently operational in the states of Adamawa, Cross Rivers, Lagos and Borno.
It’s creator, Dirug Samuel, says he was motivated by the rise in reported rape cases during the lock down.
“It’s simply kind of solving the issue of stigma because you can report to your service provider and you can be in contact with your service provider without nobody knowing that you’ve asked for help except you, the service provider, and maybe the perpetrator who knows what happened. So, with that, it increases reporting,” said Samuel.
According to U.N. Children’s Fund, a few thousand rapes are reported each year across the whole of Nigeria, a country of more than 200 million people, meaning countless thousands of rapes are going unreported.
The Hope and Rural Aid Foundation’s Bibiyana Adams hopes the app can help to reduce on numbers and also help victims without putting their lives in danger.
“There are so many referral channels, but we discovered that the SmartRR is easier, the guiding principles are inclusive; the need for confidentiality is there. So, you can’t use it without the consent of the survivor.” Adams said
While better reporting should help, critics say Nigeria’s legal system still fails most rape survivors.
Saadatu Umar is with the Nigerian Association of Female Lawyers in Nigeria’s Northeastern Adamawa State.
“The issue of conviction is a very big issue and a big step for us. If we can have conviction, it will serve as a deterrent to others and that will minimize the cases of rape,” said Umar.
Despite the jump in reported rapes during the pandemic, Nigeria’s national police force said last year there were only 103 convictions nationwide.