On the heels of spiked rape cases in Nigeria, Kaduna State on Wednesday September 16 assented the State Penal Code Law 2020, with a provision, which prescribes surgical castration or removal of fallopian tubes in addition to death penalty for offenders convicted of raping minors below the age of 14. While the rape of anyone above the age of 14 comes with a punitive surgical castration or removal of fallopian tubes, and a life imprisonment in lieu of a death sentence. No doubt, surgical castration law is invasive, inflict physical harm, irreversible and in the event of miscarriage of justice, this deprive men that unjustly underwent the procedure the right to reproduce.
Apparently, rapists violate the rights of the victims, but surgical castration is not a proportionate punishment. While it is an extreme punishment, care must be taken to strike a balance between the rights of the victims and the perpetrators. The castration law is like killing a fly with a sledgehammer.
Before the latest amendment, which now includes castration and death penalty, Kaduna State had a carefully crafted existing law with the provision of a maximum penalty of 21 years imprisonment for the rape of an adult and life imprisonment for the rape of a child.
For the few reported cases, there are indications that the existing law is under-implemented due to prosecution delays and bottle-necks. Then, instead of advocating for inhumane punishment measures, there is a need to fully explore the existing law, which punishes convicted rapists without inflicting physical harm.
It is paramount to not only put in place excellent forensic crime detection system but timely prosecution of offenders. Efficient Forensic detection and analysis system will aid a stronger case for rape allegations and hasten justice.
Nigeria is party to Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates that: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation”. Quite worrisome, the castration law is also in contrast with the Section 2 of the Anti-torture Act of 2017, which frowns at infliction of pain and suffering as well as mutilation of body parts as a form of punishment.
In further complementing the existing laws, an innovative way of curbing rape cases is the open register approach by the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in which the names and photos of convicted rapists are made public. Other states could replicate this within their domains.
Until now, across the country, rape victims were reluctant to come forward to report their ordeals. Fewer reported rape cases could be attributed to stigmatisation and in some cases, family interference culminating an attempt to subvert justice, which undoubtedly embolden perpetrators. Quite applaudable that rape victims are now defying the odds and coming out of their shells to clamour for justice. Keeping the victims identity confidential will instill trust and encourage more reported cases.
Nigerian states should rather ease prosecution bottle necks and scale up convictions by strictly enforcing their respective existing laws towards serving as deterrents to potential sexual offenders.
fellow at African Liberty