Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
From the Nigerian nightmare of rape epidemic have emerged some cacophonous voices. Castrate rapists, plead some Nigerian women! No, put them in the innermost part of the correctional centres, say others! Or, better still send them to spend interminable time in jail! No, send them to special court for offenders, say National Assembly lawmakers debating the sexual harassment bill. Let them handle their cases with dispatch!
To all these, the Ekiti government has now added its own voice in a unique way. It has decided to introduce into the mix the name-and-shame sex offenders’ policy. To be executed via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, in which the names and faces of convicted sex offenders are boldly displayed for members of the public to view, it is meant to be a sort of shame-switch strategy in which the rapists, rather than their female victims, as it is usually the case in Nigeria, would be the ones to cover their faces in shame.
Reasons behind state government’s policy
To confirm this fact, all you need is to check out the confirmed Twitter handle belonging to the Ekiti State Ministry of Justice, responsible for administering justice and overseeing state legal and legislative services: https://twitter.com/ekiti_MOjustice?s=20. And, to check out the photo of the latest convicted sex offender, Ajewole Dada Filani, on the state government register, all you need is to visit the government Facebook website:
The state government policy of naming and shaming convicted sex-offenders is an administrative tactics geared towards giving succour to victims of sexual assaults while instilling fear in their tormentors. It is also meant to serve as a deterrent it is hoped, to others from committing the same offence in future.
Explaining why the state government came up with the policy, Barr. Atane Shirley, Special Assistant on Gender and Vulnerable Persons, Office of the Attorney General, and Legal Adviser, office of The Wife of the Governor of Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Fayemi and Head of Prosecution, FIDA Ekiti, told Saturday Sun that “it was in furtherance of the state government’s zero tolerance for all forms of sexual violence and to encourage victims of sexual offences to speak out and report crimes of this nature, knowing that they will surely get justice and protection in the state.
She then referred the correspondent to relevant statue that supports the policy. A section of it read: “In line with affirming the Ekiti State Government’s commitment to implement measures aimed at the continuous reform of the Criminal Justice System to protect and promote the RIGHTS OF VICTIMS OF SEXUAL OFFENCES, the GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (PROHIBITION) LAW 2020, was enacted.
“Section 43 of this GBV (prohibition) law 2020, provides for the naming and shaming of all Sex Offenders. It made provision for the SEXUAL OFFENDERS REGISTER, “which will be kept at the office of the Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice of the State.” Therefore, any person convicted of a sexual offence shall have his/her name registered in the Sexual Offenders Register.
“Section 44 of the Law, however, prohibits the publication in any manner, any information which might directly or indirectly reveal the identity or name of the victim(s).This section further provides for stiff penalty on anyone who contravenes this provision.
She added: “To a large extent, this has gone above whispers and it has encouraged victims of sexual offences to speak out and report crimes of this nature, knowing that they will surely get justice and protection in Ekiti State.”
Residents express their views
But mixed reactions have, however, been trailing the development. While some residents are full of praises for the government on the steps it has taken to publish, via social media platforms, the names and photographs of convicted rapists and allied sex offenders, one of those interviewed by Saturday Sun, a lawyer, warns that, from the legal perspective, it could be a violation of their rights.
Applauding the move, Pastor Victor Olulodun, resident of Ado-Ekiti, pointed out that it would serve as a deterrent to other rapists, adding that the Bible in its entirety was never in support of the shameful act of rape as the consequence that followed was death.
“Naming, shaming of offenders by publishing their names and photographs on various online platforms for the crimes they committed which earned them prison sentences will instill fear in the minds of others who are nursing the same notion or who have the tendency to rape,” he said. “It will make them to know that the same fate awaits them if they do such. Even in the Bible, rape is strongly condemned. The penalty for it was death according to Deuteronomy 22:25-26. A man found guilty would be put to death. I strongly commend the government for the policy. I think it is targeted at helping the future of the young generation; those lacking power to fight back.”
Prof. Lanre Adebayo, a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, also believes it is a step taken in the right direction as it would make rape unattractive to potential rapists, invoke stigmatisation on convicted criminals and cause victims to be cautious of their fate, post-conviction.
“Like in all ventures where cost-benefit analysis is done before one embarks on a business, with this policy in place, a conscientious criminal would think twice before carrying out such criminal activity,” he opined. “This is because it is an additional cost of engaging in a crime of rape, apart from the shame of imprisonment. Naming-and-shaming also helps in stigmatising the criminal at the community level where women or men will be cautious of interacting with such offender post-conviction. Parents may not entrust their daughters or sons into his hand. That way, it will help in reducing the probability of occurrence reoccurrence of rape behaviour. The policy also publicises the offender and brings their offence to public attention through media exposure. By this, the offender has no hiding place in all the local governments of the state. When they are encountered after their release from the prison everybody is on guard in their interaction with them.”
The policy is quite in order, says Evang (Mrs) Boladale Stephen-Amzat, a gospel music minister who noted like others did that “it will serve as deterrent to others nursing similar idea of raping and taking advantage of the innocent and vulnerable in the society.” Mrs. Bola Babalola, a restaurateur, added that it will, to a large extent, give sexual security to residents, especially women and girls who are the major targets as well bring emotional succour to victims of sexual violence. “It will also take its toll on the name of the family of the offender and somehow give it a bad image.”
Miss Fajeminigba Olajumoke, a nurse, Miss Ogundipe Faith, a senior secondary school student, and Mr. Lawrence Osayomi, a university student, also praised the state government for taking such a bold step in addressing the issue of the increasing incidences of rape. “The policy would teach others who would want to venture into such dastardly act a lesson,” said Fajeminigba. “It will also help in reducing the menace in the society.” “The development is a very good one and it is coming at the right time,” Ogundipe threw in. “Raping is so bad for kids and I am still growing. I pray the publishing of names and photographs of sex offenders will go a long way in teaching offenders a lesson and causing a scare in the hearts of those who might be nursing such thought.”
“It will help especially our women and girls who are on the receiving end,” Osayomi noted. “Some of these offenders, after committing the offence, will hide under the influence of alcohol, drugs, the devil or whatever. But putting into consideration the trauma and stigma, they would suffer if their names and photographs are made public through such platforms, I bet you they would not want to travel down that path again. It is in light of this fact that I urge the Ekiti State government to go beyond social media platforms and publish their names and photographs in newspapers, television, billboards for the benefit of those who might not have access to social media.”
Calling the policy a good one, Mr. Oso Mayowa, aluminium fabricator, said it will help to scare potential criminal from committing such act. “The whole idea will serve as a scare-crow to frustrate the so-called monsters living among us,” he observed. Like Osayomi did, he also called for a broadening of the scope or space.”The government should take it beyond social media platforms and publish the names and photographs on billboards, flex banners, etc, and locate them in conspicuous places like markets and other crowded places for all eyes to see. By so doing, it will avail people the opportunity to see the offenders and to also allow for a comprehensive knowledge, as more people will get to learn from what rapists are facing under the law and it will help reduce incidences of rape in our society.”
Lawyer differs from others
But taking an opposing view in his reaction, Barrister Opeyemi V. Ogunremi, said that, judging from legal angle, it could be a violation of the rights of convicted persons. “The naming and shaming policy of Ekiti State government on sexual offenders is just a new administrative policy of the state to publicly ridicule sexual offenders such as rapists in the state,” he remarked. “I don’t think there is any enacted law to that effect but an administrative policy of the state to further deter the public from committing the offence. Though many people see it as a welcome development but legally it could be a violation of the rights of convicted person. I, therefore, recommend that there should be a law that the state can rely on in carrying out the naming and shaming of sexual offenders beyond the administrative policy.”