Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has said that drastic action is needed to tackle rape and this should include vigorous law enforcement to prosecute rapists.
The governor who reiterated what the laws of Kaduna State provide, said rapists should get life imprisonment for the rape of minors and 21 years for the rape of adults.
El-Rufai also said that male children should be taught to respect women from childhood.
The governor made this known at a webinar that was organised by the Movement Against Rape and Sexual Violence (MARS-V) on Saturday.
El-Rufai also 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 successful prosecution of rape cases.
El-Rufai pointed out that there 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, emphasized ‘’the need for mothers to sensitize 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 also argued.
El-Rufai also 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 also advised that ‘’victims should also be sensitized 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 to fight against rape and Gender Based Violence as 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,‘’ he 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 centers for medical and psychological counselling.
The Wife of the Governor, Hajiya Aisha-Ummi Garba El-Rufai, who was one of the panellists, called for ‘’harsher and more extreme laws against rape”, stressing that the lives of victims are being destroyed.
Hajiya Aisha-Ummi argued that the present laws are not even 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 emphasized the need for parents to always speak up when their children are raped and not cover up the problem.
She called for a joint effort between both government agencies and Non Governmental Organizations to speak out with one strong voice in condemning rape and other Gender Based Violence.
In her remarks, Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, explained that the rape epidemic 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 other cases go unreported, underscored the need to eliminate vices that violate the fundamental rights of women and girls.
Dame Tallen also stressed the importance of a credible and verifiable database to aid the more efficient ways of carrying out decisions of GBV.
She also called for collaboration between governmental agencies such as 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.