The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, recently revealed that the Nigerian Police Force recorded 717 rape cases between January and May 2020. This means that while the world was busy battling a pandemic, rapists in Nigeria were busy taking advantage of the lockdown to perpetuate this crime.
Nigeria has a few laws against rape and sex-related offences: At least five legal provisions are available in Nigeria to protect rape victims and help them get justice: The Criminal Code, Penal Code, Criminal Laws of Lagos, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, and the Child Rights Act. However, evidence shows that it lacks the will to enforce them. Some of these laws are even yet to be domesticated at the state level, where their implementation can be monitored effectively.
A 2019 survey published by NOIPolls stated that about one in every three girls living in Nigeria has experienced at least one form of sexual assault at 25. The rising number of rape cases, however, is not complementary to the number of rapists in jail. The wheel of justice in Nigeria, particularly as regards sexual violence, is really slow and the laws live only on paper. Most of the few cases of sexual violence that received justice did so with the support of non-governmental organizations.
More so, many Nigerians see rape and sexual assault as an avenue for trading blame and raising discourse about dressing and morality, making it difficult for victims to speak out about their ordeals. The stigmatization at police stations makes reporting rape cases even more difficult than it inherently is.
Enforcement of existing legislation is the first step that must be taken towards curbing sexual violence in Nigeria.
Additionally, some of the laws need to be updated as they are archaic. For example, the age limits should be reviewed in Criminal Code (i.e section 30) as this modern world has shown that a boy under the age of 12 years can possess the knowledge of carnal knowledge with lewd and sexual materials available everywhere.
Lawmakers should enact laws mandating sex education in Nigerian educational curriculum in order to enlighten young people about sexual violence. Civil societies should continue to ensure that victims of sexual assault get justice.
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