AN ARTICLE WRITTEN BY
OGUNBIYI RICHARD ESQ.
Rape is one of the oldest crimes in human history. Rape is a crime in all countries of the world but definition and punishment differ from place to place. It has also been noticed that rape cases are reported more in the Western world than many other parts of the globe. For example, in Africa and Asia, rape victims usually lack the courage to speak out or report their experiences to the law enforcement agencies due to negative societal attitude prevalent in such climes. Rape thrives in secrecy and in a culture where victims are even blamed for what happens to them, instead of the perpetrators.
However, in attending to this all-time important subject, I have decided to break it down, both in terms of the language and style of writing. The article is written in simple language, devoid of technical words and phrases as well as legal citations and where citations are given, they are minimal. My experience over the years has made me know that a topic of this nature will be better understood, if prepared and delivered in a question-and-answer manner. That is exactly what I am doing here now. I have formulated about 40 and more questions, covering all the crucial aspects of the subject of discussion as it borders on professional perspective and I have also provided answers to them in accordance with the position of the Nigerian law, while references are made to foreign jurisdictions only when necessary.
1. WHAT IS RAPE?
In a simple language, rape may be defined as a sexual intercourse between a man and a woman or a girl against the will or consent of the female partner. Going by the provision of law, rape is defined under section 357 of the Criminal Code which applies to the Southern part of Nigeria as:
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 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 personating her husband is guilty of an offence which is called rape.
The punishment for rape under section 358 is life imprisonment. First there must be unlawful carnal knowledge. The criminal code defines carnal knowledge in section 6 thus: “When the term ‘carnal knowledge’ is used in defining an offence, it is implied that the offence, so far as regards that element of it, is complete upon penetration.”
The same section 6 further defines “‘unlawful carnal knowledge’ as carnal connection which takes place otherwise than between husband and wife.” Therefore under Nigerian law a husband cannot rape his wife. There is also a similar crime called defilement which is defined under section 218 of the Criminal Code thus:”Any person who has unlawful canal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 years is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for life. (2) Another important element to prove is consent. Did the victim consent to the sexual intercourse? The duty of the prosecution and the complainant therefore is to prove to the court that she did not consent to the rape. A careful reading of the definition of rape in our law shows that consent may be “obtained by force, threat or intimidation, fear of harm or by false and fraudulent misrepresentation” (Human Rights Watch 2007).
In the Northern part of Nigeria, it is defined under section 282 of the Penal Code as:
(1) A man is said to commit rape who … has sexual intercourse with a woman in any of the following circumstances:- (a) against her will; (b) without her consent; (c) with her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt; (d) with her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is the man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married; (e) with or without her consent when she is under fourteen years of age or of unsound mind.
(2) Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape, if she has attained to puberty.
The two definitions above show that in Nigeria, rape can only be committed by a man against a woman and not vice versa. In other climes, this is not the case because it has been recognized that a man may also be a victim of rape and it may be perpetrated by any person, including a woman. For example, in the USA, the Department of Justice defines rape as:
Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.
In the United Kingdom, rape is defined as:
A person ‘A’ commits an offence if—
(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,
‘B’ does not consent to the penetration, and
‘A’ does not reasonably believe that ‘B’ consents.
Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps ‘A’ has taken to ascertain whether ‘B’ consents…
A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.
A critical analysis of the UK’s definition of rape shows that the offence can only be committed by a man, though a man, like women, could also be a victim. Under the Department of Justice’s definition, on the other hand, both men and women may be victims or perpetrators. It is observed that both the US and UK’s definitions make use of the word “penetration”, instead of “carnal knowledge” or “sexual intercourse” as found in the Nigerian definitions of rape, which means that rape may be committed where a person’s vagina, anus or mouth is penetrated with penis, object or any part of one’s body whether there is sexual intercourse or not.
2. UPON BEING RAPED, WHAT SHOULD A VICTIM DO?
A victim of rape must first proceed to a nearby Police Station to lodge a complaint. A victim must not change her dress, must not wash or shower after the incident and must not remove anything from the scene of crime because doing so may negatively affect pieces of evidence that the Police may need to hold the perpetrator accountable. Usually, it is the Police that will take the victim to a hospital for medical examination.
It is advisable that medical examination should be carried out as soon as possible, preferably on the day of the incident.
3. IF THE POLICE REFUSE TO ACT AFTER A REPORT OF RAPE HAS BEEN MADE TO THEM, WHAT CAN A VICTIM DO?
A victim should write a petition to the Commissioner of Police in that State, giving details of the officers who attend to her on the day her complaint is lodged, the name of the Police Station and other necessary information. If this step does not produce a desired result, she may as matter of necessity contact a lawyer. There are equally governmental agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) that provide legal assistance and support to rape victims.
4. WHAT IS CONSENT?
It refers to permission or freedom and capacity to make a choice on whether to have sex or not. Consent refers the agreement of the two parties involved prior to the affair of sexual intercourse. Consent is a very vital element of rape and when this is lacking, then an ordinary sexual intercourse results into rape. Without consent, it is meant that the sexual intercourse was obtained by force, threat or coercion which is the interest of criminal law. When a woman says “no” to sex, her “no” should be taken as “no.”
5. CAN CONSENT BE WITHDRAWN OR GIVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A SEXUAL INTERCOURSE?
It is possible that a woman who gives her consent to a sexual intercourse at the beginning may later change her mind in the course of the “act” and it is also possible that a woman who does not give her consent at the beginning may later decide to consent to it. Can it be said that there is rape in any of the situations? Under the Nigerian law, it is doubtful if rape can be successfully proved in any of the two cases because “consent” is not clearly defined in the Criminal or Penal Code.
However, under the UK’s Sexual Offences Act, consent is extensively defined and it amounts to rape, if a man continues sexual intercourse after a woman withdraws her consent or starts a sexual intercourse where there is no consent, not minding the fact that consent is given midway.
6. IS RAPE COMMITTED WHEN A SEXUAL INTERCOURSE TAKES PLACE WITH ASLEEPING OR DRUNKEN WOMAN?
Yes. It is a case of rape because it means that there is no consent.
7. WHAT IS PUNISHMENT FOR RAPE?
The punishment of rape varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However in Nigeria, the maximum punishment for rape is life imprisonment. However, it may be less depending on the individual state differences and the peculiarity of each case.
India- life imprisonment or death
France- 15 years’ imprisonment to death
US- life imprisonment
UK- life imprisonment
Saudi Arabia- death
North Korea- death
Israel- 16 years’ imprisonment
8. WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR MAKING A FALSE ALLEGATION OF RAPE AGAINST ANY MAN?
There is no criminal penalty for making a false allegation of rape against a man in Nigeria. However, if after trial, a suspected rapist is found to be innocent of the allegation, he may bring a civil action (technically called malicious prosecution) to claim for damages. An action for defamation, after trial, is, on the other hand, not likely to succeed.
9. HOW CAN ONE ESTABLISH A CASE OF RAPE IN COURT?
In a case of rape, the prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:
1. That an accused person has sexual intercourse with a woman against her will;
2. That the act of sexual intercourse is proved by penetration of the accused person’s penis into the woman’s vagina;
3. That the victim is not his wife.
10. CAN RAPE BE PROVED WHERE A VICTIM DOES NOT SUSTAIN ANY PHYSICAL INJURY OR IN THE CASE OF A VIRGIN, WHERE HER VIRGINITY IS STILL INTACT?
It is possible to prove rape in any of these situations, provided that there is evidence to establish penetration and lack of consent. Sustaining physical injury is not compulsory, though it may help a case better if present. Rape is complete on penetration, even if the hymen is still intact.
11. IS IT COMPULSORY TO HAVE MEDICAL EVIDENCE IN PROVING A CASE OF RAPE?
It is good to have medical evidence in establishing rape but it is not compulsory. A case of rape may be convincingly proved, without medical evidence, where the accused person makes confessional statement or there is an eye witness. However, it is highly needful for the prosecution to get a medical evidence where the rape is contested.
12. IS A MEDICAL REPORT OBTAINED FROM A PRIVATE HOSPITAL ACCEPTABLE IN COURT?
Yes. It is acceptable. However, in practice, it is medical reports from government-owned hospitals that are usually tendered in court. This is so because there is this general belief that a medical report can be easily doctored or influenced and procured from a private hospital. This raises a question of credibility as such, a medical report from a government owned hospitals is easily and readily more acceptable than those procured at private institutions.
13. WHAT ARE THE DEFENCES TO A PERSON ACCUSED OF COMMITTING RAPE?
The defences available to an accused person are as follows;
a. Presence of consent
b. Lack of penetration
c. Marital relationship
14. IS A RAPE SUSPECT ENTITLED TO BE DEFENDED BY A LAWYER AT THE EXPENSE OF THE STATE/GOVERNMENT?
A rape suspect may obtain the services of a lawyer of his choice but if he is financially handicapped to secure one, the State is not obliged to provide him a legal representative free of charge, unlike in the case of persons standing trial for murder or armed robbery. These are capital offences where a suspect must always be defended by a lawyer. If an accused person standing trial for murder, for instance, is too poor to hire the services of a lawyer, the State must provide him a lawyer free of charge. However, a rape suspect may as well decide to represent himself without a lawyer.
15. DOES A RAPE VICTIM NEED TO HAVE HER OWN LAWYER?
Once a rape case is reported to the Police, the latter will commence investigation; take statements of the victim and that of the perpetrator and other witnesses, if any. The Police may also procure medical report and if, in their opinion, there is sufficient evidence in respect of the case, forward all the pieces of evidence compiled in a case file to the Ministry of Justice which will, in turn, ensure that the perpetrator is charged to court and prosecuted accordingly. A lawyer, from the Ministry, will be a legal representative of the State of as well as the victim. Rape, being a criminal case, is regarded as an offence against the State and this is why the victim will not have to pay any money to the Government lawyer for him or her to prosecute the perpetrator.
However, any victim who wishes may decide to secure the services of an independent lawyer who will also attend court each time the case comes up. Such a lawyer is called watching brief counsel because he or she can only be seen in court but cannot be heard.
16. WHICH COURT CAN TRY PERPETRATORS OF RAPE IN NIGERIA?
Only State High Courts can try perpetrators of rape in Nigeria because it is a serious offence. It is beyond the power of a Magistrate’s Court to handle, unless it is temporarily pending before such court within which it will be properly brought before a High Court. In order words, the gravity of the offence of rape is serious that a court of lower jurisdiction like the Magistrate Court cannot hear the case but a court of superior Jurisdiction like the High Court which has power to try serious offences such as Rape and Murder. This is so because the punishment and penalty for the offence of rape exceeds 2years imprisonment which a magistrate court does not have the power to impose.
It is important to know however that rape cases can go as far as the Supreme Court as it does not stop at the State High Court. Either party to the case may decide to appeal the decision of the High Court if found unsatisfactory and can proceed to the Court of Appeal and even up to the Supreme Court which is the Highest and final court of the land.
17. DOES A RAPE VICTIM HAVE THE POWER TO WITHDRAW THE CASE AGAINST A PERPETRATOR IN COURT?
Technically and legally speaking, the victim of a rape cannot after instituting a rape action in court withdraws the case therefrom. Once a case of rape is in court, only the Attorney-General can discontinue the case. Rape is a felony not being a minor offence, it is beyond the power of a victim to withdraw or discontinue it. In fact, it is an offence in itself for a rape victim to agree to discontinue or withdraw the case and the punishment prescribed by law for doing so is 7 years’ imprisonment. However, in practice, this position of law has been seen to be compromised in recent years. Also, in practice, a case of rape may be struck out by a court, if a victim refuses to attend court for the purpose of giving evidence.
18. IF WITNESSES REFUSE TO ATTEND COURT TO GIVE EVIDENCE, WHAT CAN A VICTIM DO?
A victim does not have much to do in this regard. The prosecutor knows the appropriate application to make to the court in order to compel any uncooperative witness(es) to be in court, though the victim’s assistance may be needed in tracing the address of such witness. As discussed earlier, a crime such as rape is generally a crime against the state which is prosecuted by the state. The victim though the nominal complainant has little row to play once the complaint has been made against suspect to the appropriate authority.
19. HOW CAN A WOMAN CONTRIBUTE TO HER BEING RAPED?
In law, once a woman refuses to have sex with a man, it is not a defence that she has earlier consented to kissing or to have willingly entered the house of the rapist.
20. HOW MANY RAPE CASES HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFULLY CONCLUDED IN NIGERIA?
There is no reliable statistics on the number of rape cases that have ever been concluded in the Nigerian courts but judging from cases reported in the law reports, many cases have been successfully concluded.
But experience has also shown that a lot of rape cases have gone unreported and even where they are reported, it is usually difficult to get witnesses because victims are often ashamed of coming out to testify in court, especially adult victims. This is so because of the societal stigmatization attached to rape victims make report of rape cases and of course its prosecution hardly found in our criminal justice system. Negative attitude and insensitive investigation methods of the law enforcement agents, e.g. the Police, are also a source of discouragement to rape victims.
21. IS A MAN ACCUSED OF RAPE ENTITLED TO BE RELEASED ON BAIL?
A man accused of rape is not entitled to be released on bail by the Police. Though rape is a bail able offence, the bail can only be granted by a State High Court. Upon arrest by the Police, he cannot be detained beyond 48hours. He must be taken before a court of law, usually a Magistrate Court which will order the detention of the suspect in prison custody, pending his proper arraignment before a State High Court. While the suspect is in the prison custody, a bail application may be filed on his behalf before a State High Court.
22. CAN A MAN BE RAPED?
Prior to this time, a man under the Nigerian law cannot be a victim of rape. However, the new law which is the VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015 by its definition, expanded to mean when a person intentionally penetrates the vigina, anus or mouth of another person with any part of his or her body or anything else without the consent, or where such consent is obtained by force or intimidation of any kind. By this definition, both male and females are capable of committing the offence and both male and female can be victims of the offence. The issue of rape being gender biased has been a jurisprudential issue in Nigeria for a while because our law, as it then was, does not recognize situations wherein a man would or could be raped.
The act also, in its progressive nature, took cognizance of the fact that sex now goes beyond the primary sex organs and thus, extended the scope of rape to include anus and mouth. This is because it was difficult in times past to bring an issue of forceful anal or oral sex under the umbrella of rape simply because such occasion was not envisaged or accommodated by our laws.
However, in places like the UK, a man may be raped (i.e. either by anal or oral sex) by another man. Under the American definition, a woman may be charged with rape, if the woman penetrates a man’s anus either with her fingers or any object. Under the UK’s law, however, a woman cannot be a perpetrator of rape because rape can only be perpetrated with the use of a male penis.
23. CAN A WOMAN BE CHARGED FOR RAPING A WOMAN OR MAN?
Before the coming into force of the VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015, it was not possible for a woman to rape a woman nor was it possible legally that a woman could rape a man. However, with the new law, this is all possible because the definition of rape is not gender specific as it could be perpetrated by any person either a man or a woman against either a man or a woman. Note also that, a woman may be charged with rape, if she aids a man in any manner to forcefully have sexual intercourse with another woman.
24. CAN A HUSBAND BE CHARGED FOR RAPING HIS WIFE?
Under the Nigerian law, a husband cannot be charged for raping his wife11. Contrastingly, in the UK and many other European countries, it amounts to rape if a man forcefully has sex with his wife.
25. CAN A MAN BE CHARGED FOR RAPING HIS DAUGHTER?
A man can be charge of raping his daughter. This indecent act is defined as incest under the Nigerian criminal justice system. The VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015 defines incest to mean an indecent act or an act which causes penetration with a person who is, to his or her knowledge, his or her daughter or son, granddaughter or son, brother, mother or father, niece or nephew, aunt/uncle, grandmother or granduncle it goes further to provide that any person who knowingly and willfully have carnal knowledge of another within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity without that persons consent commits incest and is liable on conviction of 10years imprisonment without an option of fine where sex was without consent, and where the two parties consent to commit incest, 5yeras imprisonment without an option of fine.
26. IF A RAPE VICTIM KILLS HER ATTACKER IN SELF-DEFENCE, CAN SHE BE CHARGED WITH MURDER OR MANSLAUGHTER?
She may be charged with murder or manslaughter, depending on the circumstances of each case. She may however be set free, if she is able to justify her action in the circumstances she found herself.
27. IF A RAPE VICTIM DIES IN THE COURSE OF A SEXUAL INTERCOURSE, WHAT OFFENCE CAN A PERPETRATOR BE CHARGED WITH?
The perpetrator may be charged with either manslaughter or murder, depending on the peculiar circumstances of each case but certainly not rape anymore.
28. CAN RAPE BE PROVED WITHOUT THE EVIDENCE OF A THIRD PARTY?
It may be proved without the evidence of a third party, (corroboration) especially where medical evidence strongly connects the accused person to the crime or the accused person confesses to have committed it.
29. CAN A RAPE CASE BE HEARD IN CAMERA OR A VICTIM BE ALLOWED TO WEAR MASK IN COURT?
Usually, a rape case, like every other case, must be heard in the open court where, though press-men may be barred, other members of the public may observe the proceedings. The rape victim cannot be allowed to wear mask. This is because the court needs to be able to see and watch the demeanor of the victim in order to form an opinion on whether she is a credible witness or not. No doubt, rape is a heinous; yet, the supposed rapist is presumed to be innocent and can only be found guilty, if the case against him is proved beyond reasonable doubt.
30. SHOULD RAPE VICTIMS BE ASKED EMBARRASSING QUESTIONS IN COURT?
It is most likely that, no matter what, a victim of rape may be confronted with certain discomforting questions under cross examination by the lawyer representing the accused. This is a task that must be performed in order to ensure that the accused person is not unjustifiably punished and bearing in mind that the punishment for rape is severe. However, the court is empowered by law not to allow questions that tend to expose the rape victim to ridicule.
31. SHOULD UNDERAGE CHILDREN WHO ARE VICTIMS OF RAPE BE REQUIRED TO APPEAR IN COURT TO GIVE EVIDENCE?
Like adult victims, children too must appear in court to give evidence if a perpetrator is to be held accountable. However, in some exceptional cases, especially where a victim is of extreme tender age, her evidence may be taken in camera. This is likely to be so upon the application of the prosecution. It is however recommended that some sort of protection should be afforded under aged children from appearing in the open court. It is important to note that this is already envisaged under the new VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015
32. CAN RAPE BE COMMITTED BY FINGERING OR ENTERING A WOMAN’S GENITAL WITH AN OBJECT?
Before the passage of VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015, it was not possible under the Nigerian law to commit rape without the use of a male genital part (penis). The Act has now expanded the definition of rape to mean when a person intentionally penetrates the vigina, anus or mouth of another person with any part of his or her body or anything else without the consent, or where such consent is obtained by force or intimidation of any kind. With this provision, rape can be committed by an object and not necessarily the genital organ. It is however immaterial whether the penetration either with the sexual organ or any object is only slight or that there is no ejaculation. All that is needed to be proved is that the penis or object penetrates the vagina, even if it is just its tip. Equally, under the UK and the United States law, rape may be committed where a person’s vagina, anus or mouth is penetrated with penis, object or any part of one’s body whether there is sexual intercourse or not.
33. CAN RAPE BE COMMITTED BY HAVING ANAL SEX WITH A WOMAN?
Before the passage of the VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015 anal sex with a woman may only amount to sexual assault but not rape under the Nigerian law. The new Act now take cognizance of the fact that sex now goes beyond the primary sex organs and thus, extended the scope of rape to include anus and mouth. This is because it was difficult in times past to bring an issue of forceful anal or oral sex under the umbrella of rape simply because such occasion was not envisaged or accommodated by our laws. However, under the UK and United States Criminal law, the definition of rape includes having forceful carnal knowledge or sexual intercourse with the victim through the anus or mouth.
34. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT OR DEFILEMENT?
In relation to rape, there must be a penetration of vagina with a penis without the consent of the female counterpart, while in a sexual assault, there need not be sexual intercourse at all. For example, inappropriate touching of a woman may amount to sexual assault. In the case of defilement, on the other hand, it is a sexual intercourse with a girl under eleven (11) years. It is immaterial in this situation whether there is consent or not as the law presumes that such a girl is incapable of giving consent. The crime also carries life imprisonment but the case must be prosecuted within two months of its commission.
35. IS THERE AGE LIMIT AS TO WHO CAN BE CHARGED WITH RAPE?
A male under 12 years of age is incapable of committing rape under the Nigerian law. So, if it is alleged that a boy below 12 years commits rape, as soon as it is established that the boy is below 12 years, the case will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, even if he has attained puberty. He may however be punished for indecent assault.
36. IS ATTEMPTED RAPE A CRIME? IF YES, WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT?
Yes. It is a crime and on conviction, it carries 14 years’ imprisonment.
37. IS IT A DEFENCE THAT A RAPE VICTIM DRESSES PROVOCATIVELY?
No. It is not a defence in law that rape was facilitated by the victim’s provocative dress.
38. CAN RAPE BE COMMITTED WHERE A RAPIST AND HIS VICTIM HAVE HAD SEX IN THE PAST?
Yes. A woman has right to refuse sex on a particular occasion, not minding the fact that it has taken place between them in the past.
39. DOES IT MATTER IF A RAPE VICTIM DOES NOT RESIST HER ATTACKER OR SHOUT FOR HELP DURING THE INCIDENT?
What is important is to prove that there was no consent to have sex and of course, there was penetration notwithstanding if the victim resisted or shouted for help. However, convincing a court on the issue of lack of consent may be achieved faster, if it is also established that the victim shouted or resisted in the course of the forced intercourse.
40. CAN A MAN BE ACCUSED AND TRIED OF RAPING A PROSTITUTE?
Yes. It is not a defence to the offence of rape that a victim is a common commercial sex worker. In Nigeria, prostitution is neither legal nor clearly illegal but a court of law will not come to the aid of an aggrieved party in this kind of “contract” because it is inconsistent with public morality and decency. For example, if a prostitute after collecting money from a customer refuses to give him sex, such customer cannot receive any remedy at law and he cannot justify rape on the basis that he has paid for the sex.
41. CAN A GUY BE ACCUSED AND TRIED FOR THE OFFENSE OF RAPING HIS GIRL-FRIEND?
It is not a defense that the victim is a lover of the accused. What matters is that the sexual intercourse was obtained by force or coercion without the consent of the victim.
42. CAN A RAPE VICTIM SUE FOR FINANCIAL COMPENSATION?
This is possible only after the rapist must have been tried and found guilty of committing the crime. The victim can explore the support and protection provided by the Fundamental Rights enforcement procedure and the provision of section Section 1 (3) and 2 (5) VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015 which deals with provision of support and compensation.
43. CAN A WOMAN RAPED SOME YEARS AGO STILL REPORT AT A POLICE STATION?
Yes, if it is possible to gather evidence which may be subsequently presented in court but in case there is no evidence, the implication is that the victim can no longer get justice. It is therefore advisable that rape incidents be reported as soon as they occur, at best within 24hours. A rape case can also be charged to court many years after its occurrence but unlike election petition cases or civil actions which has time limits within which an action can be brought or instituted therefrom.
44. IS IT LEGALLY PERMITTED TO ABORT A PREGNANCY OCCASIONED BY RAPE?
The Nigerian law on abortion is very strict. Abortion is only permitted if a pregnancy threatens a woman’s or girl’s life.
45. IS THERE GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR VICTIMS OF RAPE IN NIGERIA?
Prior to the new VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015, there is no special institutional support for victims of rape in Nigeria. Like other crimes, victims of rape need to lodge complaint of their experience in any Police Station close to the scene of crime. However, the new law has ushered a new development in the Nigerian justice system to the effect that victims of rape are now compensated. The Act provides that the court shall award appropriate compensation to the victim as it may deem fit and in addition, the rights afforded under chapter 4 (fundamental rights enforcement) of the Nigerian constitution, victims and survivors of rape and violence are entitled to comprehensive medical, social, psychological and legal assistance by accredited service providers and government agencies or Non-governmental agencies. Some NGOs exist that assist rape victims, especially in places like Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.
46. WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF RAPE?
Rape is a heinous crime and it usually leaves a victim emotionally disorganized. It may also lead to the following: (a) unwanted pregnancy, (b) transmission of sexual diseases e.g. HIV/AIDS, (c) abortion, (d) suicide tendencies, (e) trauma, (f) loss of self-esteem, (g) untimely death, (h) damage to body organs, among others.
47. WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF RAPE?
So many factors are responsible for the commission of rape. It is impossible to exhaust the list. However, some of the causes, both immediate and remote, are the following: (a) negative and judgmental societal attitude towards victims of rape, (b) drug abuse, (c) pornography, (d) seductive dressing, (e) spiritual reason, (f) poor, gender-insensitive, victim-insensitive and unscientific police investigation, (g) reluctance of victims to speak out and give evidence in court, (h) weak judicial system, etc.
48. SHOULD THE PUNISHMENT FOR RAPE BE REVIEWED?
The punishment may be reviewed which will require judicial officers not to impose penalty below 14 years’ imprisonment where rape is established, while in some other cases maximum punishment should be imposed, especially if established that the perpetrator is a serial offender. The law as it is appears to give judicial officers wide discretion in terms of the punishment they may impose. It is noted that in some cases, judicial officers impose penalty which is considered ridiculously low.
49. SHOULD THE DEFINITION OF RAPE BE REVIEWED?
In view of different advancements of the modern world, the definition should be reviwed and of course, the new VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015 has expanded the definition of rape ahead the purview of the Criminal Code Act and the Penal Code Act. Since the core ingredients of rape are lack of consent and penetration, definition of rape has been expanded to allow for the possibility of a woman committing the offence against a man and her fellow woman. Women has also be considered capable of committing the same offence of rape in as much the sexual intercourse was obtained by force, threat or coercion without the consent of the man. Also, the definition of rape is now expanded to allow that rape can be committed by an accused using objects and not necessarily the sexual organs on any part or opening of the victim which include the anus and mouth. It is suggested that the US Department of