The recent disclosure by the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Pauline Tallen, that not less than two million women are raped annually in Nigeria is alarming. The minister stated this during the launch of a sex offenders’ register as part of the event to commemorate the 2019 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Abuja.
She also condemned the rising cases of sex-related offences in schools, corporate and faith-based organisations, and argued that there was no justification for rape or any form of sexual violence. In the same vein, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Amina Mohammed, observed that the increasing rate of violence against women had caused huge economic and psychological losses to individuals and the economy.
She gave assurance that the United Nations would support Nigeria and other countries to safeguard the rights of women and girls from violence. Mohammed further explained that EU/UN spotlight initiative was recently rolled out globally to end violence against women.
The revelation by Tallen shows that rape is assuming a worrisome dimension. It also indicates that the government is not doing much to stem the epidemic. We condemn the increasing cases of violence against women and girls and urge all tiers of government to work in concert to curb the menace. That is why Nigerians should support the advent of the sex offenders’ register for those convicted of sexual offences.
It is heart-warming that the sex offenders register, which will be domiciled with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), will have a website accessible to people. Such a register will hopefully deter others from committing the crime. Children should not be allowed to be around sex offenders. The victims of rape should break the silence and speak up.
We believe that the elimination of sexual violence should be the responsibility of all citizens. Experts define rape as a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without the person’s consent. It may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious or is below the legal age of consent.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines rape as a form of sexual assault while the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regards rape as a form of sexual violence. The WHO beliefs in family honour and sexual purity, attitudes of male sexual entitlement and weak legal sanctions for sexual violence are among the principal factors that lead to the perpetration of sexual violence against women, including rape.
The consequences of sexual abuse, according to WHO, include gynecological disorders, reproductive disorders, sexual disorders, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, depression and others. The Supreme Court in Jegede v. State (2001) defined “the offence of rape as the unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent or if 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 impersonating her husband.” Also, Section 260 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015 states: “any man, who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl without her consent, commits the offence of rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.”
To step up the fight against rape, we urge the 25 states that have not adopted the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act of 2015 to do so without further delay. It is regrettable that judges appear to be very lenient to offenders of rape. It is also worrisome that rape cases are difficult to prove in this part of the world, as, more often, the victims of rape are blamed for their misfortunes. However, in order to curb the rising incidents of rape, we advise that the life imprisonment term for rape perpetrators be given liberally.