Since time immemorial, rape which is one of the oldest crime in the history of the human race though has its punishment has continued to occur with no sign of ceasing but rather on the increase in virtually every part of the world. This act which at a certain time was largely perceived to have occurred as a result of lust does not seem to be so anymore.
Addressing this issue, it will be better to understand what rape means and what is the punishment for the one who indulge in such atrocity as provided by the Nigerian Laws.
What is Rape?
Rape as generally known to all can simply be put to mean an act of a man having forceful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl.
Going by the provisions of the law as defined under Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act which applies in the Southern part of Nigeria, rape is defined 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.”
Under Section 282 of the Penal Code which is applicable in the Northern Nigeria, it defines rape as;
“(1) A man is said to commit rape who, except in the case referred to in subsection (2) of this section, has sexual intercourse with a woman in any of the following circumstances-
- against her will;
- without her consent
- with her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt;
- 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 another man to whom she believes herself to be lawfully married;
- 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.”
Additionally, it is defined under Section 1 of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act as;
“(1) A person commits the offence of rape if-
- he or she intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his or her body or anything else;
- the other person does not consent to the penetration; or
- the consent is obtained by force or means of threat 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 the use of any substance or addictive capable of taking away the will of such person or in the case of a married person by impersonating his or her spouse.”
Punishment of Rape
Section 358 of the Criminal Code;
“Any person who commits the offence of rape is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without caning.”
Section 283 of the Penal Code;
“Whoever commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment for life or for any less term and shall also be liable to fine.”
Section 1 (2) of the VAPP Act
“(2) A person convicted of an offence under subsection (1) of this section is liable to imprisonment of life …”
A community reading of the definitions of rape as provided by the various statutes above prove that the offence of rape is one and the same anywhere as we can find some similarities in the definitions ranging from lack of consent, consent obtain by either force, fraud, intimidation and fear, as well as impersonating the victims’ spouse in the case of one who is married.
Reasons for the need for Amendment
With the current increase of this God forsaken act happening all over the world with Nigeria not being an exception, it is pertinent to note that the punishment as provided by our laws need to be amended to be more strict.
This is owing to the fact that a lot of the perpetrators of this act have also taken the habit of penetrating underage girls even below the age of 10 years. Therefore, series of the act of rape being committed this present day and time can no longer be termed as lust but rather an act of wickedness as even most of the culprits end up killing their victims either directly or indirectly as the victims may die due to loss of blood or committing suicide as a result of the trauma experiences or stigmatization by the society and sometimes as a result of trying to abort the pregnancy arising from the act. Some of the heartless reason we hear ranges from:
- A father saying that his daughter resembles the mother;
- I asked her out, she turned me down;
- She insulted my friends;
- She cheated on me;
- It is the work of the devil;
- She is my girlfriend etc.
Citing a few examples of this immoral and inhumane act, one which occurred sometimes in May, 2020 somewhere around Narayi, in the southern part of Kaduna State, where an 18 year old girl simply identified as Miss Jennifer was gang raped by a group of five boys said to be her friends after giving her a drink containing alcoholic substance which made her slept off while they engaged in the act and which presently had left her in a poor mental state.
More recent of such unruly and immoral act of rape which occurred on May 27, 2020 is the case of one Miss Uwavera Omozuma a 22 year old Microbiology student of University of Benin who was raped while reading in a church close to her house and after which she was hit with a fire extinguisher which all act put together resulted in her death some days later.
While the world is still in shock, grieving and calling for justice against the rape committed on Miss Uwavera Omozuma, there has been yet another occurrence of rape in Ibadan on one Miss Barakat Bello, a 19 year old student of Institute of Agriculture, Research and Training, Ibadan. The incident was reported to have occurred when she was attacked in her parents’ house at Akinyele area of Ibadan, Oyo State, on Monday 03 June, 2020 in the evening and afterwards she was stabbed to death.
Further to the above, it will be best if our Law makers can take a succinct look into this crime and opt for stiffer punishments as against what the law currently contains. Below are some recommendations:
- Castration: This is the removal of the testicles of a man, which when removed diminishes the sex drive because the body thereby have very low level of the male hormone testosterone. Having such kind of a punishment in place, it is believed that this will help reduce the rate of rape in the society because of what specie of human will such a man become if allowed to satisfy his sexual urge with a woman/girl illegally?
- Death Penalty: This is a means adopted for capital punishment whereby after a person is found guilty for the offence committed, he/she may be sentenced to death either by hanging, firing squad, lethal injection, electrocution etc.
- Domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015: The law makers of both the Federal and States level should work towards ensuring that the VAPP Act is domesticated by all states of the federation to regulate domestic violence and all forms of sexual abuses as report shows that only a few states and the Federal Capital Territory have so far sign it into law. The essence for this is that, it is evident that it is broader in scope than the Criminal Code Act and the Penal Code Act as its’ definition for rape shows that rape is an act which can be carried on both against male and female gender, as the fact cannot be denied that young boys are also being raped by women, so it will be better to address the issue before it becomes prevalent.
With the implementation of the above recommendations as against the life imprisonment contained in the relevant laws, it may be evident that the recommended punishment being more strict will deter would be perpetrators from engaging in the act of rape.
In support of the above recommendations is the understanding of the wordings of Per I.T. Muhammad J.S.C in the case of Shuaibu Isa v. State (2016) 6 NWLR (Pt.1508) 243 where his lordship by way of obiter referred to a rapist thus;
“A rapist is worse than an animal. He has no moral rectitude. He throws overboard, the limit of his legal rights and he can, shamelessly, deprive another person (more painfully, female children of under age) of their God given rights of protecting the chastity and sanctity of their body and mind. He is all out to pollute such chastity and sanctity. He has no respect for human beings! He can commit any atrocity. He is a cancer to the society. What a shame!”
In conclusion, while the act of rape continues to occur and our leaders continue to find better solution to curb this menace, sensitization programmes should continue to be organized for both the male and female gender on the act of rape.
Furthermore, there should also be sensitization programme on stigmatization. With this, citizens will be educated to understand that victims of rape are not to be run away from as it is evident that it is one of the reasons why most of the victims of rape do not speak out and eventually commit suicide. In trying to address this issue, the government should also put in place deterrent punishment for those who stigmatize against rape victims as a measure to reduce stigmatization.
Lastly, parents should also ensure to always mentor their wards on how to dress and relate when in the presence of the opposite sex be it colleagues, friends, teacher, strangers as well as close family members because it is evident that most of the perpetrators of this act are those more closer in relationship to the victims.
- Criminal Code Act Cap C38, LFN 2004
- Nigeria Penal Code Act, 1960
- Violence Against Person (Prohibition) Act, 2015
- Shuaibu Isa v. State (2016) 6 NWLR (Pt.1508) 243
Abdullahi Suleiman Esq; Writes from Lagos, Nigeria
 Section 357 Criminal Code Act
 Section 282 (1) & (2) Nigeria Penal Code Act 1960
 Section 1 Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015
 Section 358 Criminal Code Act
 Section 283 Nigeria Penal Code Act 1960
 Section 1 (2) Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015
 Shuaibu Isa v. State