Since the COVID-19 lockdown, crime wave has increased, especially cases of rape, defilement, sodomy and bestiality.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdown, according to the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Nigeria, should not be an excuse for rape and gender-based violence.
Activists have said rape cases occurred every five hours across the country. Some have called for the death penalty for rapists while others, castration.
In Edo State, a 22-year-old University of Benin (Uniben) student, Uwaila Vera Omozuwa, was raped and killed in a church. In Ondo, Tope Onifade’s two daughters were defiled by their father. In Osun, the headless naked bodies of a woman and her child were found in a gutter.
Equally, in Enugu, Baby Ebube Christy Umeh was violently abused with a razor blade by a neighbour; and a woman battered her six-month old baby with razor cuts because the father refused to marry her.
In Cross River State, Chioma, a 14-year-old, was raped by her landlord’s son who is a 31-year-old father of three, while in Jigawa, a 12-year old girl was raped by 11 men.
In Yobe State, Halima’s hand was cut off by her husband for not taking permission to attend a wedding.
The President of FIDA Nigeria, Rhoda Prevail Tyoden, said it was unacceptable that the police who were mandated to arrest and prosecute were not forthcoming; leaning on compliance with COVID-19 regulations, which include social distancing in their stations and decongestion of cells, as excuse.
Tyoden said the police would rather push parties for “settlement and compensation” of the victim regardless of the severity of such offence.
The offence of rape is complete where the rapist compels his victim to submit by forceful threat of imminent death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain or kidnapping, to be inflicted on anyone or where he has substantially impaired her power to appraise or control her conduct by administering without her knowledge drugs, intoxications or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance.
Before now, the Criminal and the Penal codes provided punishment for rape. However, the extant law now is the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPPA) 2015, which is a landmark legislation on the prohibition of all forms of violence against persons in Nigeria.
VAPPA prohibits all forms of violence against persons in private and public and provides maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.
Section 1 of VAPPA has expanded the definition of rape to “making penetration of any part of the body.”
Today, the punishment for rape is life imprisonment with or without whipping, while attempted rape carries 14 years with or without whipping.
The police are also to keep a register of rape offenders. Where the offender is guilty of damages, he also has to pay for the damages.
The essential ingredient of rape is the absence of consent on the part of the woman. Consent is where a woman submits freely to the intercourse. It is not consent where intercourse is obtained by fraud, force, threat, intimidation, deceit or impersonation. Thus, sexual intercourse with a woman who is unconscious, insensible or sleeping is rape.
In matters of rape, sexual intercourse is deemed complete upon proof of penetration of the penis into the vagina.
As a matter of law, corroboration is required to ascertain rape. A conviction can only be valid when there is such corroboration in support of the evidence of one witness to prove rape or defilement.
According to FIDA, all states should ensure that they have in place the enacted laws or had reviewed their laws to deal with this menace adequately.
In a letter to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), all the Chief Judges (CJs) nationwide and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), FIDA demanded that the police who have the responsibility to arrest and investigate must be well-equipped to fight the menace diligently to secure convictions that will serve as deterrent to others.
FIDA insists on the arrest, prosecution, conviction and punishment of offenders and has called on the CJs to designate special courts to handle gender-based violence matters and the establishment of sexual referral centres (one-stop-shop) with rapid response teams attached: comprising the police, doctors, lawyers, social welfare officers, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. to reduce trauma and aid the preservation of evidence for effective prosecution of perpetrators and free medical (including psycho-analysis) treatment for victims.
After setting up a committee to address the rising cases of rape and gender-based violence in the country on June 11, AGF Malami, on June 18, hosted a rally organised by the Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) and the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and confirmed that the Federal Government (FG) was planning to set up special courts to tackle the menace.