The Problem Statement
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund reported in 2015 that one in four girls and one in 10 boys in Nigeria experience sexual violence before the age of 18.
The criminal and penal codes of 1990 are the laws guiding rape justice in Nigeria. The code is deficient in many ways.
For instance, the code defines rape as having unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent, or with her consent if it was obtained by force or by means of intimidation.
The Policy Solution
The Senate has passed a bill amending the criminal code, changing the jail term for kidnapping from 10 years to life imprisonment.
The Bill titled, “A bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Code Act CAP C.38 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004” is sponsored by Oluremi Tinubu. The amended code defines rape as;
Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.
The bill which seeks to remove gender restrictions in the issue of rape, and recognize males as rape victims too.
The bill also removes the statute of limitation, which means there would be no time limit for when a rape matter can be decided, thereby eliminating a time frame for prosecuting cases of sexual abuse by increasing the period from two months to as many years as the victim decides to seek action.
“The bill will address lingering issues starting with statute of limitation in the prosecution of rape and as well as defilement cases and it will curb the menace which has been on the rise.
“That the statute of limitation has been omitted from the violence against persons act 2015 which is the prevailing law of the subject matter.
“The bill seeks to amend the criminal code act of 1916 and not that of the states. The bill emphasized that “any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or be means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape” and the bill maintained gender neutrality in its amendment.
NIGAC Constructive Position/Take
However, there are loopholes in the implementation of the law, coupled with the excesses of implementation agencies.
In organized societies, the first step towards establishing a claim of sexual violation is getting medical examination done with a rape kit and if these are not available, then the government should ensure that every hospital has a rape kit, most especially the general and teaching hospitals.
The kit helps to confirm further the criminal act and this will also help medical evidence.
The rape testing should also be free and the government should try to implement the beautiful policies made on rape ACT in the past and also formulate new laws that will prohibit the criminal ACT, encourage victims/survivors to speak out.
Civil societies and Non-Government Organization should also be encouraged to continue advocating for the menace called RAPE through enabling policies.
Legal services in defense of rape victims should be made free, this will encourage more rape victims to seek for justice.
The truth is, rape is a delicate issue and should be handled with great care because if not properly handled by the necessary agencies, future survivors and victims’ might be forced not to speak out.