Passing the sex offender bill by the Senate may be one thing but proving a case of rape against the culprit may be another as Teddy Nwanunobi, and Nwakaego Ohaegbulam establish in this report following the passage of the recently passed Sex Offenders Bill by the Senate
Yusuf, a cobbler and his friend Akibu, a bouncer who are neighbours to Mrs Akeem mother of twin 6-yearold girls at 23 Okearin Street Lagos Island, were in the habit of calling the twins to their room to assault them by inserting their fingers in their private parts. The girls-unsuspecting mother came to know about this when she observed a swelling around their genitals while bathing them.
When she inquired to know what happened, they told her that it was ‘Bro’Yusuf who had been assaulting them. The question on the lips of many was: what could make a full-grown man to seek sexual pleasure from under-aged children. The alarming rate at which rape incidents are being perpetrated across the country, has become worrisome as it has reached a crisis point where the average Nigerian particularly the men, are no longer trusted by women.
In recent times, cases of rape transcends beyond the adults to children some as young as 3-years old. In 2014, the Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Ade Ipaye disclosed that 113 rape cases were prosecuted at the High Court following the Signing of Executive Order to establish Sex Offenders Register to serve as a database to individuals and organizations while providing names and personal details of convicted sex offenders in the state to a central database.
With the establishment of the Sex Offenders register, rape victims would have heaved a sigh of relief that respite had come their way. One thing howvere is for a person to be raped, it is another struggle to give reliable evidence that would aid the conviction of the perpetrator. A major challenge in the fight against rape is the difficulty in establishing the crime and getting the culprits punished. In many cases, the number of the convicted is a far cry from the huge figures announced by the authorities.
Unfortunately, the police that should be at the forefront of this fight end up frustrating cases. They have been sometimes accused of thwarting evidences and handling the cases shoddily. In some cases, they arrest suspects only to free them without the knowledge of the victims or their relations. As a result, many of the incidents end up not being reported, as the victims are average Nigerians who could not spend their limited resources to pursue cases that may not yield positive results.
This is further compounded by the fact that the manner the police handle rape cases, puts the blame on the victim coupled with the fact that the victim is made to answer some ‘ridiculous’ questions such as “what where you doing there? Why were you putting on that dress? Where is the evidence that you were raped?”.
When rape victims consider these hassles, they prefer not to prosecute further. While many blame the victims for their woe, some others blame the parents for reneging in their duty to inculcate good morals in their children leading to moral decadence in society with its attendant consequences: rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution and other social vices. However, respite has now come the way of rape victims as sexual offences, including rape, child sex tourism and people,who deliberately infect others with HIV/AIDS will attract a life imprisonment. This followed the passing into law of the Sexual Offences Bill 2015 by the Senate. The Bill, which was sponsored by the Chairman of the Committee on Navy, Senator Chris Anyanwu, is expected to pass concurrence in the House of Representatives. The Bill, which had been pending in the Senate since 2013, also prescribes life imprisonment for gang rape, 10 years for incest, another 10 years imprisonment for child pornography or more and a fine of N2 million.
While sexual offences, offenders will go to jail for 14 years. Presenting the report during the Senate-in-Session yesterday, Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Umaru Dahiru, explained that the Bill sought to redefine and consolidate existing laws on sexual offences. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Anyanwu who represents Imo East, expressed happiness on the passage of the Bill. “(The Bill) seeks to make a comprehensive legislation on sexual offences by criminalising certain acts such as sexual tourism, child pornograhpy and cultural and religious sexual offences in our criminal jurisprudence.
The new also provides for effective witness protection programme in order to protect victims and witnesses in trial for sexual offences. It also provides for compulsory documentation, supervision of sexual offenders and medical treatment for victims, which is in line with the global trend and finally, and most importantly, it provides for adequate and stringent punishments to perpetrators,” she said. She however added that that passage of the bill was a parting gift from her to the public and a fulfillment of her mission in the Upper Chamber. In addition, the new sexual offences law also criminalises people who deliberately lace drinks with drugs with intent to stupefy and sexually abuse, prostitution of persons with mental disabilities, among others.
Senate President, David Mark expressed delight on the efforts of the committee to evolve a stronger law against sexual violations. According to him, “I want to particularly thank and congratulate Chris Anyanwu, the sponsor of the Bill for the passage for initiating the process of this amendment.”
Meanwhile, Senator Anyanwu said that the bill had mandated the storing of names of sexual offenders in a database for institutional and social discrimination and that convicted offenders would be subjected to compulsory medical examination while “those that however, bring false sexual allegation against any person would also be liable for punishment. Culprits would never be employed in any institution where they may pose a risk to unsuspecting persons.” With this new law, criminals who drug and sexually abuse people, lure persons with mental disabilities into prostitution among others will be severely dealt with by the long arm of the law. It is the expectation of every Nigerian that the perpetrators of sex related crimes would be convicted faster than expected. It is also expected that the security of the rape victim would be guaranteed. This would also encourage victims to speak up when they are abused.