Covid-19 pandemic should have been a time for sober reflection for mankind as it seems to force us into the future we were not prepared for and whilst we are still trying to get a hold on how to handle the future, we are now faced with another epidemic (RAPE). Around the world, rape and sexual abuse have become everyday violent occurrences which affects close to a million women and girls over their lifetime. Victims of rape are treated as mere object of sexual gratification… without regard for the personal autonomy and control over what happens to their body… rape is one of the most repugnant affronts to human dignity and the range of dignity-related rights, such as security of the person and integrity of the person…”
Despite the pervasiveness of these crimes, our laws are insufficient, inconsistent and not enforced. The issue of rape is not centered around women, as underaged boys are also being defiled.
On the other hand, the police force who should be relied upon for help seem not to cooperate efficiently, as there have been several reported cases of victims reporting to police and responses were that they needed money to fuel vehicle before they could take action.
A major reason rape has become rampant is the fact that the society stigmatises the victims, a lot of times, victims parents request that it be kept secret to avoid been mocked by the society, but unknown to them that the perpetrator who might be a close friend, relative or neighbour will be empowered to continue in the evil act. So, in my opinion, we are all at some point responsible for indirectly empowering these perpetrators.
We call on our judiciary and the police force because until it is reported and the police force takes action, the judiciary will be constrained to take action. Its time to ensure the enforceability of our laws, even though there may be need for further amendment of some of our laws in terms of definition of these offenses.
See Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act which applies in the Southern part of Nigeria, rape is defined 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.” (We must understand that rape has gone beyond just a man thrusting his manhood into a vagina, every form of sexual act by a man towards a woman is rape, because for example, where a man decides to use his fingers in perpetrating such evil act to an infant in mine opinion is rape because with that finger, he would be able to deflower her. Hence the need for amendment of the Criminal code Act)
See also, under Section 282 of the Penal Code which is applicable in the Northern Nigeria, it defines rape as;
“(1) A man is said to commit rape who, except in the case referred to in subsection (2) of this section,has sexual intercourse with a woman in any of the following circumstances-
- against her will;
- without her consent
- with her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt;
- with her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she believes herself to be lawfully married;
- with or without her consent, when she is under fourteen years of age or of unsound mind.
(2) Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape, if she has attained to puberty.” (attainment of puberty or being married should not be a license for a man to force his manhood into his wife if she’s unwilling; hence, the need for slight amendment of this section, also, the need to include “any form of sexual act without consent”, the definition of rape should not be limited to only the male organ)
Lastly, see Section 1 of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act as;
“(1) A person commits the offence of rape if-
- he or she intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his or her body or anything else;
- the other person does not consent to the penetration; or
- the consent is obtained by force or means of threat 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 the use of any substance or addictive capable of taking away the will of such person or in the case of a married person by impersonating his or her spouse.” (Whilst the VAPP Act seems like an upgrade of both the criminal and penal code, its important to clarify that penetration of any reprentation of hole in a female should not be limited to the male organ but with whatever instrument. Because we do not want an upgraded situation were perpetrators would come up with defence that they didn’t penetrate with their male organ. So i just want that to be clear.
Its a shame that the world is currently battling two epidemics at the same time. It is time for everyone of us to play our parts to help in restoring the glory of mankind and our nation.
Onosen Divine Alegbe
Chairperson, Legal Committee of the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA)
She may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org