After the police have investigated the Chrisland school “rape” case and determined who made the trending sex video, the producers’ names should be listed in a sex offenders’ registry. Whether those children were solely responsible or had adult collaborators, their actions amount to a sex offence. As the Lagos State government reminded everyone on Monday, producing or transmitting images that depict sexually explicit content involving a child is an offence that carries up to a 14-year sentence. That also goes for those that made the video. In addition to a prison sentence, those child pornographers should also be listed in a juvenile sex offenders register. Periodically, such lists should be reviewed to determine the risk they pose to society.
I expect some readers to argue that throwing such a huge weight of the law on children for making a sex video is too harsh. Yes, but that suggestion is a logical conclusion of the adultification of those involved in that incident, especially the girl whose mother took the case to the public. If you thought the girl in the video “acted like an adult,” you should not have problems advocating an adult treatment for her companions too. Those who saw the video and concluded the girl was not a victim because she seemed too worldly-wise in her actions must also agree that the boys who took an active part by witnessing and refusing to intervene should also be made to bear the full moral and legal responsibility for their own (in)actions too. It would be too much of a moral inconsistency to think the girl was mentally competent to understand the implications of her action and then treat the boys who provided the video evidence as children who did not know better. When you play adult games, children or no children, you either win adult prizes or bear the responsibility like adults.
Just so we are clear, as long as the girl and her sexual partner are both minors, there is no crime committed here. The punishable part is the recording and the transmission of what has become child pornography. Given how our society judges sexually active females far more harshly than men, it is that girl that will bear the psychological and social weight of the joint actions of everyone in that room for many years of her life. She might take herself for a Kim Kardashian now but she will eventually be overwhelmed by the immense pressure of relating to a magisterial public and predatory men. From much of the public commentary, you can tell that people are fixated on the girl and have overlooked the deviousness of the boys who thought the scene was worth recording. Anyone who raises their mobile phone to record their peers having sex and then circulates it cannot be taken as innocent. They have generated and provided evidence of their own crimes of child pornography. Treating them as too mentally incompetent to comprehend the weight of their crimes only further indulges them.
From the look of things, the children involved in the scandal look like they possessed their full moral and cognitive capacities and could have acted differently. The witnesses did not seem astounded or repulsed by the sight nor did they try to summon their teachers. Each of the kids in that hotel room that gawked or cheered, or recorded the sex scene without intervening, cannot be deemed a passive witness but an active participant. That kind of mischief should not get a pass. If their parents choose, they can enrol them into therapy to sensitise them to the implications of their deeds (and hopefully reform them) but that is their business. For now, their actions amount to sexual offense and it carries grievous implications.
As sexual offenders, it means they could spend the next ten years or more of their life declaring their offense everywhere they go. That means that when they apply to colleges or they want to get into line for certain career paths, they must state that part of their lives upfront to the party interacting with them and then leave it to the other party to determine whether they would continue to transact with them or not. It might sound harsh for a society where we easily circulate sex videos either to blackmail or as revenge porn, but the fact that we hardly punish it explains why people keep doing it. The children have learned from the adults and if we are not careful, that is how we will raise another generation of abusers who will weaponise sex videos.
Just recently, less than a month ago, a popular radio presenter had her sex video allegedly leaked by her ex-husband. To the best of my knowledge, he was not interrogated or even arrested for the offence. In recent times, there have been similar cases of sex videos released to the public and almost all of them just passed as another instance of a leaked sex video. Whereas there is really nothing like a “leaked” sex video. Such use of language (in the passive voice) merely serves to obscure the human agency that underwrites certain actions. Sex videos are not water in a cracked plastic bucket that can simply leak out on its own. People’s sex videos go public because someone somewhere captured and then released them to shame those involved. Sharing people’s sex videos is a game of power. Capturing someone in their private moments and holding the material evidence as something to potentially share with an indeterminate number of people is sheer power play. Anyone who does that should answer for it, be they adults or kids.
On a final note, two other things are noteworthy about the brouhaha that has attended the Chrisland scandal. First is the familiar noise from those who allege “parenting failure” and then dramatically shudder at the supposed rottenness of the younger generation. Unless we have some details about how the children’s parents raised them, it is premature to chalk down this issue to their negligence. Parenting is not an exact science; you can do your best for your child and they could still willfully diverge toward their chosen paths.
As for the hysteria about the morals of the younger generation, some people really need to calm the bleep down. They are too perfect for the real world and they seem to have lost perspective. How many of us can sincerely claim that this incident was entirely novel? Did some of us not attend secondary schools where our teen peers got pregnant by fellow teens? The Chrisland kids have not done anything their parents and grandparents’ generation did not do. The only difference is that they had a mobile phone to record it, simple. It is pointless dismissing an entire generation over a single sex video. The end of the world has not come and a few errant children do not define a whole generation.
The second thing is that Nigeria needs rules and regulations for schools that take people’s children on field trips and excursions. Nigerian schools tend to take safety for granted when they take children away from their parents for trips outside the school. Once, I had to approach a school that brought school children to the zoo. They came in a small bus that must have been crammed with about a hundred children. The other day too, a photo of schoolchildren on a trip surfaced. Those kids were in a boat on a river somewhere and were not wearing life jackets. If something had gone wrong on that expedition, the school officials would have wrung their fingers and issued silly self-justificatory press releases. These things should be better managed.
For Chrisland, what their children did wrong in Dubai does not exonerate their school authorities and their officials who had the responsibility to watch over them while they were in the care of their teachers. If some of those children ended up as content for a porn video, they cannot simply wash their hands off the responsibility by punishing those students. They must take some of the blame. What were they thinking when they decided to ship 76 children to Dubai for a sports competition? What was the ratio of teacher-chaperone to the students? If, as the reports alleged, the girl left her room on the 11th floor to go to the boys’ room on the 4th floor, it also means she could stray away or be abducted or trafficked. Their safety protocols need serious evaluations.