Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai has said that drastic action is needed to tackle rape cases which, according to him, should include the vigorous enforcement of laws to prosecute rapists.
El-Rufai, who reiterated what the laws of Kaduna State provide, said that rapists should receive life sentences for the rape of minors and 21 years for the rape of adults.
The governor made this known at a webinar organised by the Movement Against Rape and Sexual Violence (MARS-V) penultimate Saturday.
The governor’s wife, Hajiya Aisha-Ummi, who was one of the panellists, called for ‘harsher and more extreme laws against rape,’ stressing that the lives of victims are being destroyed.
El-Rufai added that male children should be taught to respect women from childhood.
He listed fear of stigmatisation, the breakdown of the judicial system and lack of quality investigation as some of the factors that hinder the prosecution of cases of rape and Gender-Based Violence.
He called for the training of victims and law enforcement officers on the preservation of evidence for the successful prosecution of rape cases.
El-Rufai spoke of a seeming conspiracy of silence by traditional and religious leaders ‘where society as a whole insists on covering up cases of rape.’
The governor noted that parents cover up rape cases for fear of stigma, and stress ‘the need for mothers to sensitise their male children from childhood on the need to respect women.’
‘One of the primary challenges faced in the fight against Gender-Based Violence is the breakdown in the judicial process which results in delay in justice being served and it could also be as a result of corruption, personal beliefs and laxity of some judges,’ he said.
El-Rufai further stated that ‘most of those charged with the investigation of Gender-Based Violence are not well trained and can be easily compromised through corruption,’ adding that ‘incompetence is, however, the primary problem.’
The governor advised that ‘victims should also be sensitised on the importance of keeping evidence to ensure that perpetrators of such heinous acts are brought to justice.’
According to him, rape is a criminal offence that needs to be proven beyond reasonable doubt but there is often ‘no preservation of evidence after rape, either by the victims or by officials put in charge of investigating such cases.’
El-Rufai said that Kaduna State has put measures in place against rape and Gender-Based Violence, saying it is ‘one of the few states to have domesticated the Child Rights Act.’
Kaduna State enacted the Child Welfare and Protection Law in February 2018 after overcoming the challenges around the age of marriage.
‘Under the state’s Child Welfare and Protection Law, girls are not allowed to get married until they complete their secondary school education, which in essence means marriages can’t happen until the age of 18,’ the governor disclosed.
El-Rufai said that Kaduna State has also passed the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which will help to speed up the trial of criminal matters, adding that his administration has also established four sexual assault referral centres for medical and psychological counselling.
First Lady Hajiya Aisha-Ummi, however, argued that the present laws are not being implemented and that there is a need for more stringent ones to serve as deterrent to would-be rapists.
While noting that rapists are becoming more violent and brazen by the day, she asked: ‘Why don’t we have laws that are addressing these Gender-Based Violence issues?’
The wife of the governor emphasised the need for parents to speak up when their children are raped and not cover up the problem.
She called for a joint effort between both government agencies and NGOs to speak up with one voice in condemning rape and other Gender-Based Violence.
In her remarks, Minister of Women Affairs Dame Pauline Tallen explained that the rape wave has existed for a long time in Nigeria, adding that women and girls have always been disproportionally affected by Gender-Based Violence.
The minister, who said that for every one rape case that is reported, about 10 others go unreported, underscored the need to eliminate vices that violate the fundamental rights of women and girls.
Tallen also stressed the importance of a credible and verifiable database to aid the more efficient ways of carrying out decisions on GBV.
She called for collaboration between government agencies such as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and NGOs in tacking rape cases and other Gender-Based Violence.
The minister, who campaigned for girl child education, also advocated for the provision of one million sanitary pads for them, including more shelters for Gender-Based Violence victims.