Rape and defilement and its attendant consequences on the psyche of victims have become a common feature across the country despite passage of Sexual Offences Bill in June 2015, which prescribes life imprisonment for rapists including those who have sexual intercourse with minors. We however, sought lawyers’ views on ways to tackle the menace
In Kano State, there are between 10 and 15 cases of rape being reported daily, according to the ploice.
Head of Sexual and Other Related Offences Unit of Shahuchi Police Station, DSP Jemimah Ayuba in a chat with New Telegraph described it as painful especially as 99 per cent of victims were minors while perpetrators adults.
She said “we have received complicated rape cases at this station. We have a case where a father raped his three biological daughters. We have also arrested a rapist that raped a six-month-old baby.”
In Lagos, Justice Commissioner and Attorney-General, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, said that a total of 4,035 cases of rape, defilement, sexual assault and abuse, were handled by the government between June 2015 and June 2016.
In Niger State, a 35-year-old Ahmadu Musa at the weekend allegedly confessed to the State Child Rights Protection Agency how he sexually abused a 4 year-old girl in Minna.
Musa, a resident of New Market, near Gwari Market, Chanchaga Local Government Area, who allegedly admitted that he sexually abused the victim once could not recall the exact date and month.
Musa said: “I saw her passing in front of my house, I called her to buy pure water for me, I then lured her and had sex with her.
“The second time I called the girl to the uncompleted building and I was about removing my trouser to urinate before the act when I was caught.”
Abdulmumini Aliyu, Chairman of Drugs and Crime is Haram (DC Haram), who allegedly apprehended Musa told the agency that Musa was an unrepentant criminal who had been convicted for various crimes in the past.
“Musa has been arrested on several occasions for various crimes. He has served several jail terms and each time he gets released he will commit another crime.
“Today, luck ran out on him when he pretended to send the victim to buy him pure water and then lured her to an uncompleted building to sexually abuse her again.
“Thank God for a Good Samaritan, who noticed his strange behaviour and decided to follow him to the uncompleted building where he lured the victim and raised the alarm before he was caught.”
In Ondo State, it was not different.
At the weekend, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu vowed that his government would not handle rapists with kid gloves as he was ready to implement laws on rape and child abuse.
According to the governor, no rapist and child abusers would be left off the hook as his administration’s zero tolerance for rapists would ensure that “those that err are brought to book”.
These issues have laws that back them up and the ministry works with other ministries to see that the desired result is achieved, Akeredolu said.
Notwithstanding laws against rape and defilement and some awareness by non-governmental organisations, cases of rape are on the increase by the day.
Rape is being described by many as an act of unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim. Defilement, on the other hand, connotes a violation of someone’s chastity.
However, the rise in cases of rape and defilement which are forms of gender-based violence against women across the country is not only alarming but quite worrisome.
Hardly will a day pass without the news of adults that were shamefully caught in the act of having carnal knowledge of female children. Indeed, rape cases now feature as a recurring decimal in public and private places including the ivory towers, with victims cutting across all ages, old, young, kids and even infants.
An indication to the upsurge in the nefarious act was given last year by the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, when he revealed that a total of 4,035 cases of rape, defilement, sexual assault and abuse, were handled by the government between June 2015 and June 2016.
He made the damning revelation while briefing reporters at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre in Alausa, Ikeja, on the activities of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) in the last one year.
The Attorney-General disclosed that the DSVRT has handled 192 cases of which 89 were domestic violence, 62 on defilement, 18 rape and 6 attempted rape cases, 10 child neglect and seven child abuse. He added that 90 cases are still pending in court.
He said agencies of government, including DSVRT, Office of Public Defender (OPD) and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), have been mandated to ensure that perpetrators of these nefarious acts were brought to justice and victims given succour.
He said: “As regards provision of shelter for victims, the Ministries of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and Youth and Social Development and their strategic partners have played key roles in ensuring that victims are evacuated to a safer environment of shelter homes.
“All the victims of sexual assault received medical attention from Mirabel Centre and state hospitals, and so far, 50 of such cases have been charged to court.
“As we all know, gender violence, violence against children and all forms of inhuman treatment against the less privileged have been very critical issues for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. “Right from when he was sworn in, he has said that these are issues he would pursue with passion and diligence. He has since then given support to the DSVRT, OPD and related agencies including the police to fight this scourge in other that it should be eliminated.”
Despite all these threats of prosecuting offenders, reports from non-governmental organizations, the police, state prosecutors and the media, indicate that cases of rape and defilement are on an alarming scale in the country.
However, lack of comprehensive official statistics make it difficult to establish accurately its true scale, the extent of direct state involvement in perpetrating gender-based violence against women, as well as the failure of the state to prosecute and punish perpetrators of rape.
In one of its report, an international human rights organization, Amnesty In ternational, argued that lack of official record of rape connotes complacency by the government in addressing violence against women in Nigeria effectively.
It is on record that the Sexual Offences Bill, which prescribes life imprisonment for rapists and those who have sexual intercourse with children under the age of 11 years, was passed by the Senate in June, 2015.
However, notwithstanding the existence of the legislation, cases of rape of women, adolescents, mothers and even grand-mothers as well as reckless defilement of babies across the country have been mounting by the day.
Discussions on the growing menace took the center stage at the weekend as some members of the wig and gown expressed deep resentment about ravaging scourge to the society.
The lawyers while baring their minds in separate telephone interviews with New Telegraph Law called for a strict application of anti-rape law in the case of anyone found guilty of indulging in the act.
To them, partial application of the extant law is a major factor contributing to the growing cases of rape and defilement in the country. They also want government to address the issue of youths’ unemployment, saying ‘an idle hand is a devil’s workshop’.
The lawyers believe that joblessness makes people to become idle, saying this ultimatelywould lead into some of these nefarious activities.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola, attributed the upsurge in cases of rape and defilement to failure of Nigeria’s criminal justice system.
While calling for a strict application of the law in the handling of all cases of rape and defilement, the silk wig also suggested a 3-month timeline for the hearing of the cases by the court.
He said: “I think the rise in cases of rape and defilement is as a result of failure of our criminal justice system. When you look at both the criminal and penal codes, there are enough provisions there to deal with the menace.
“But the administration of criminal justice system is too slow in dishing out punishments. Again, the kid gloves being used by the judges and magistrates to deal with the situation is not helping matters.
“For instance, if we apply the law as it is, it would have been very helpful. Some sections of the penal code provide for life imprisonment, while some provide for 21 years imprisonment. But sadly, we found out that some judges and magistrates are imposing a prison term of three years or less. This should not be so. Anyone caught in the act, who was tried in the law court and found guilty should be made to serve out the maximum punishment.
“Besides, cases of rape should be heard within three months. In essence, it is the failure of our criminal justice system that put us in this mess. If the criminal justice system is efficient, it would not be as bad as this.
“Left to me, if I have my way, the punishment prescribed for rape in the Bible and the Quran should be applied. Those involved should be stoned to death. The two religions prescribed death sentence for any accused person who is found guilty of rape. Bu in the absence of that, we should apply the punishment prescribed in both the criminal and penal codes. This will serve as a deterrent to others who intend to go into the crime.
“Also, while the trial of any suspect lasted for three months, he or she should not be admitted to bail. With these stringent conditions, anyone who is nursing the evil act will think twice before engaging in it.”
To an activist lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, one sure way of reducing the menace was for government to ensure it engaged the large army of unemployed youths in the country. He believed anyone engaged will have no time for such indecent acts.
The lawyer also called for an amendment to the law on rape in order to make it less stringent saying the requirements to prove the offence in court wa too tedious.
Adegboruwa said: “For me, I believe that the issue of unemployment makes people to become idle and this ultimately led them into some of these nefarious activities.
So, I think all hands must be on deck to engage the large army of jobless youths in the country. There is a proverb that says an idle mind is devil’s workshop. So, we must create employment for people. If you are gainfully employed and busy, your mind will probably not go into all evil acts.
“Secondly, I think there is a need for us to amend the law on rape. The requirements to proof the offence of rape in the law court are too stringent and tedious. In most cases, they are difficult to prove. The consequence of this is that the offenders usually get away with the crime, while the victims are left bruised, traumatized and disgraced. Once the prosecutor can prove penetration, force and lack of consent, these should be enough to get the offenders convicted.
“The third part is cultural. In our clime, the stigma that is attached to the victims of rape is too overwhelming that the victims prefer to remain silent rather than exposing whatever is the wrongful act and those involved.
“For instance, if she is a married woman, in some culture, you have to do public cleansing for her husband to have anything to do with her again. The same thing applies to anyone who is not yet married. A cleansing will have to be done for her to get someone to marry her.
So, I believe that the stigma attached to the victim is too burdensome. The victims should not be made to suffer double jeopardy in suffering from being raped and at the same time, societal condemnation.
“Another issue is the manner in which the law enforcement agencies treat the victims, which I think is discouraging. The police need a re-orientation regarding the setting up of separate departments towards assisting victims on how to offer them protection.”
National President of the Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwumadu, emphasized the need for government to deal with the socio-economic conditions that gave rise to social imbalances. He also opined that every offender must be made to face the full weight of the law.
He said: “If we are to wriggle out of the problem, we must refocus and redirect our energy as a country towards dealing with the socio-economic conditions that gave rise to the social imbalances that we are witnessing at the moment.
“Even the Constitution, under Section 16, abhors a situation in which the wealth of the nation is concentrated in the hands of a few. It is expected to guarantee equitable distribution of resources in such a way that we don’t have social strife as we have it now. If we rededicate our energy as a country towards the creation of jobs and availability of resources in equitable manner, we will creatively begin to deal with some of these menaces. These are suggestions that fall within the premise of long-term measures.
“As it is now, the offence of rape and indecent sexual acts are clear criminal offences that attracts very serious and heavy penalty. As a matter of fact, there are a few states that have upgraded their legal regimes, Lagos state inclusive, to make rape case, almost a capital offence.
But despite all these legal reforms, the incidents of rape have been on the rise. The question is, what is responsible for this? It is largely due to the absence of the socio-economic conditions that I had earlier talked about. These are things that will guarantee even and equitable distribution of the country’s resources.
Therefore, the more laws that were made in the face of the strictly hopeless and jobless population, the more barren they become. This is because the first condition of humanity is survival and as such, it is the instinct of survival that is driving those who engage in the act.
“In the final analysis, I think we must adopt both the carrot and the stick approach. The carrot will be by a conscious rededication of energy and determination of the government to provide job opportunities and the enabling environment where employable people will have the means to eke out a living.
The stick will be to enforce the laws in respect of recorded cases”.
To another lawyer, Ige Asemudara, also listed factors contributing to the upsurge to include non-application of the full weight of the law as well as complete breakdown of morality in the society.
“There are a lot of factors responsible for the upsurge in cases of rape and defilement in the country.
The first thing is that the full weight of the law has not been applied. If the full weight of the law had fell on those caught in the act previously, others will have been deterred from engaging in such nefarious activities.
“For instance, under Section 357 of the Criminal Code, the penalty for rape is life imprisonment with or without caning. This means that if anyone is found guilty of committing the offence of rape, he will be sentenced to life imprisonment while the court also reserves the right to ask that the individual concerned be flogged. But I have not seen or read up any case where that full sentence has been passed on anybody. If previous offenders have been sentenced to imprisonment for life and that has come to the public domain, people will be deterred.
“The second thing is that the awareness about the penalty of the offence is so low to the extent that many people are unaware of such.
“Thirdly, in Nigeria of today, there has been serious moral degradation. There is a total and complete breakdown of morality. What actually led to this is that every institution in this country that is saddled with the responsibility of monitoring moral activities in the society has collapsed. For instance, the church has collapsed.
The mosque has also collapsed. Even, our entertainment industry is not teaching any morals. The kind of videos that we see and are being watched by people are not properly censored. So, it is the effects of this religious and institutional break down that are now being felt in the society.
“Another thing is that Nigeria does not have a serious psychiatric programme. There are a lot of people who are sick upstairs, probably as a result of the state of the economy and things like that. One will be left to imagine what was exactly wrong with a father who sleeps with his daughter or for an uncle to sleep with his niece.