By Lea Kelley
What is the punishment of rape in Nigeria? It varies in from state to state. The criminal code is applicable in all southern states. The penal code is applicable in all northern states. The criminal laws of Lagos are applicable only in Lagos state. The violence against persons prohibition act is only applicable in FCT Abuja. The child’s rights act is only applicable in states that have domesticated it. Sentencing also varies in states. Nationally, a 21- to life sentence is standard however it also varies in different states and circumstances. Osun state has declared life imprisonment for rapists. Sections 352-357 of the criminal code act states that assault with intent to commit unnatural offense (against the order of nature) is punishable with 14 years imprisonment. Indecent assault on males is punishable by 3 years imprisonment. Rape is punishable by life imprisonment, with or without caning. Attempt to commit rape is punishable with 14 years. Indecent assault on females is punishable with 2 years imprisonment. Abduction is punishable with 7 years. Abduction of girls under sixteen is punishable with 2 years imprisonment.
These laws are outdated and need immediate attention. How can an abduction charge for little girls be 2 years imprisonment? Are we really still caning offenders? It is baffling. The national assembly needs come together and work to change these archaic laws. Each and every state across the nation should work together to pass a universal punishment for rape, be it life imprisonment or capital punishment. Each state should have a department in the police force that handles rape cases, considering how rampant cases are. Sad to say but male Nigerian police officers do not handle rape cases appropriately. They would rather blame the victim than do their jobs, which introduces victim blaming.
Victim blaming is the number 1 deterrent of rape victims reporting their abusers, not just in Nigeria but also all over the world. Victim blaming is when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. We all know how crude Nigerian police officers are, the comments they would make is enough to shame a victim away. This is why it is necessary to have a department that specifically handles these cases, the officers in charge of this department should be trained on how properly handle such sensitive cases and female officers should run point interviewing victims.
Real change, however, starts at that top of the hierarchy of power. How do we expect laws to change if lawmakers don’t address these issues? The national assembly held a meeting on the rise of rape cases across the nation and to my absolute disgust it was suggested by 2 lawmakers that women are raped because they dress “terribly”. Of course a lot of men share these beliefs but for it to be vocalized at a national assembly meeting left me speechless. The lawmaker went further to clarify to us that men are not wood! Essentially, a man’s urge to rape a woman is determined by how sheer her blouse is or how short her skirt is. This is a perfect example of victim blaming. This harmful mentality needs to be cancelled out immediately.
We are living in tumultuous times and women need to be more careful. A woman should not have to live looking over her shoulder but we must guide our sisters, friends and daughters into safety. In the case of rape, ignorance will never be bliss. Females living in Nigeria must be hyper aware of the demons creeping in the shadows and hold onto caution with both hands. Let us not leave that girl drunkenly stumbling around the party to male devices. Let’s not leave our friends to walk home alone at night. Let us not keep silent about the attackers we know of, in an aim to “mind our business”. No rapist should be given a second chance to rape again. If a man can rape one woman, he can rape dozens of women. We must be our sister’s keepers, we must protect each other because the authorities certainly won’t. Women have been meek and silent on this issue for too long. A person that has experienced the life changing traumatic act of rape should not be called a victim, but a survivor and for those fortunate enough to treat them with empathy instead of sympathy should consider themselves lucky.
Some of us fear being tagged a “feminist”, we shy away from the word because of the ugly manner men sneer the word. Equal treatment for women has been laughed upon for decades. Men of this generation will laugh, “Oh, you’re a feminist? That means you don’t need me to pay for anything nau! You can handle it”. Then what do our women do? Deny the idea of feminism vehemently because after all who doesn’t want to be taken care of? Women do not realize that in that moment, they have given up their independence, their power. Women! You must not be a feminist to demand respect and want simple courtesy from a man. We must never base our self-worth of another’s opinion and never ever give up our freewill. Some men are raised to be masochists, to be “a man”, to be the provider and be in charge of their women. They will do whatever it takes to dominate and conquer. However, do not misunderstand me! Some women enjoy being dominated by their partner and to each their own, however it is their choice. That is the key word, we must all be aware we have a choice.
The topic of false rape allegation is unavoidable. It is the man’s word vs. the woman’s and in most cases the public is inclined to believe the woman. However, there are cases were the woman is lying or twisting facts to incriminate the man and we cannot ignore the fact. It is common in Nigeria for a woman to threaten a man with rape allegations to spite him and without proper exculpatory evidence the man could either be arrested or his reputation ruined. This is where we discuss the punishment for a woman falsely accusing a man. Should there be a harsh punishment for this act? I believe so, because it is criminal to go on a smear campaign for spiteful reason or even worse blackmail. There should be laws put in place to punish women that falsely accuse men but for that to be justified, we need to be able to trust the investigation process. How do we know the authorities will choose not to believe the woman, without following due process? With a nicely greased palm, anything is possible. These are the issues.
Today, we have rape cases strewn all over social media. The hash tag #SayNoToRape and #ProtectTheGirlChild are currently trending. Nigerian youth are carrying the banner. It is never too late to call for change, to call for justice. Justice for Vera Omozuwa, gang-raped in a church in Benin. She was assaulted with a fire extinguisher and raped by different men. Vera died in the hospital. Justice for Bakarat Bello, an 18-year old student found in a pool of her own blood in her backyard. Bakarat was raped and killed in her own home. Justice for the 4-year old girl sat on her mothers lap, telling the story of the uncle that put his fingers inside her. Justice for the pure water seller cornered in a market in Ado-Ekiti by three men armed to the teeth with broken bottles and raped in a dark corner. Justice for the 80-year old grandmother raped by a wheelbarrow pusher in the village. Justice for the 12-year old girl raped by 11 men in Jigawa. Justice for the 3-month-old baby raped by a young man. I call for justice for all the girls and women that we have all let down and disappointed by not doing ENOUGH.