The recent sudden surge in the number of rape cases of women and defilement of children and babies as young as 2 months in Nigeria is worrisome and signals a rapid decay in morality and the need for the scourge to be out rightly condemned and immediately addressed.
The action is best described as an evil act, perpetrated by evil people to achieve their evil desires without minding the effect on their victims.
Between January and May this year, the Nigeria Police says it has received a total of 717 reports of rape cases in the country. This number however excludes many others who have refused to come forward and report their cases for fear of stigmatization, threat to their lives and many other reasons. This number is quite alarming and indicates an urgent call for action.
The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said many suspects were arrested with 631 cases successfully investigated and charged to court while 52 cases remained under investigation.
The rapists in most cases are said to lure especially the minors with money, drug their victims or kidnap them and forcefully have canal knowledge of their victims and then threaten to kill their victims should they attempt to report such acts to either parents or the authorities.
Section 357 of the Nigeria Criminal Code Act states, “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 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 in the case of married women by personating her husband is guilty of an offense which is called rape”. The punishment for such as specified by section 358 is imprisonment for life with or without caning.
Recently, rape cases appear to have taken a different dimension as the victims are killed by their attackers after being brutally raped while those fortunate to survive are dumped in the bushes or uncompleted buildings and left for death by their attackers. Due to the recent upsurge in the evil act, many Nigerians are calling for a more stringent punishment against the perpetrators to stem the menace as against the customary act of arrest, detaining and release of culprits by the Police. Some are suggesting that the perpetrators if found guilty should either be killed or castrated to serve as deterrent to others who are considering similar acts.
Just recently, outraged and concerned citizens and groups took to the streets in protest across the nation to register their displeasure over the dastardly act of rape and to call on the government in every state to declare a state of emergency on Gender Based Violence with particular emphasis on rape of any kind.
Amongst recommendations by activists, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA Nigeria recommended as follows:
“All states should ensure that they have in place the enacted laws or have reviewed their laws to deal with this menace adequately.
Call for the implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, the Child Rights Law, and other related laws. All states that have not adopted the VAPP ACT should with utmost urgency adopt the Act.
Also, that the enabling structures and facilities that will ensure the effective implementation of the VAPP Act be put in place, this includes and most importantly the setting up and efficient running of the Implementation Committee provided for by the law.
The Police who have the responsibility to arrest, investigate these cases must be well equipped to fight this menace diligently to secure convictions that will serve as a deterrent to offenders.
FIDA insists on the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and punishment of offenders.
Request the setup and activation of ‘Gender Desk’ in all Police posts or stations manned by trained personnel and the free opening of case files for Gender-Based violence cases.
Call on the Chief Judges in all states to designate a special fast track court to handle Gender-Based Violence matters; while also issuing practice direction on GBV cases and children related matters to ensure we expedite the prosecution of such matters in court. Also, the group appealed for the establishment of the family court in line with the provision of the Child Rights Act/ Law and the provision of all machinery to ensure it begins operation speedily.
Called on the Attorney General of the respective states to graciously grant FIATs without unnecessary bureaucratic protocols to persons/ bodies (such as FIDA) desirous of aiding this fight against sexual predators, so they can prosecute such criminal cases directly.
They further demanded for the opening and operation of the Sex Offenders Register across all states of the Federation in line with the provision of the VAPP Act/ Law.
Sadly, even when a bill was sponsored by a member of the Nigeria House of Representative, recommending “castration” as punishment for any rapist to serve as deterrent to others, it was rejected and thrown out by majority of the legislators at the green chamber. Although the lawmakers called for stiffer penalties against persons found guilty of rape but did not support castration of the victims.
They cited weak institutions, poor enforcement, poverty and unacceptable social practices as some of the reasons sexual violence against women is on the rise. This calls for government and all institutions responsible, to activate and implement all existing laws that are meant to tackle such crimes and enforce them without compromise.
By that, it will encourage victims and relations to speak out even if the perpetrators threaten to kill or harm them if they reported the incident, because they will know that there will be justice for them at the end.
People should desist from stigmatizing victims of rape of any kind in the society as this account for the many unreported cases of rape in the society today.
The victims and relations on the other hand, need to speak out against the evil act and all stakeholders need to raise their voices and act against the menace so as to reduce the evil act in the society to it barest minimum.