The “ASK WARIF” Column is a monthly interactive section that will educate, motivate and encourage as we discuss all issues surrounding gender based violence and share some of our experiences working at the WARIF Rape Crisis Centre. All questions submitted will be answered by our team of experts and qualified personnel which include physicians, counsellors, lawyers, law enforcement and everyday women who have had personal encounters with rape and sexual violence and are willing to share their stories in the hope that it helps prevent the next woman from experiencing the same.
Q – Is Rape a Crime?
A – Yes. Rape is a serious crime and in Nigeria the seriousness of the crime is acknowledged as it carries a life sentence.
There are four major laws which govern rape in Nigeria; they include:
- The Criminal Code – which is applicable in all the Southern States
- The Penal Code – which is applicable in all the Northern States
- The Criminal Laws of Lagos – which is applicable only in Lagos State
- The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act – which is a federal law that has only been domesticated in Anambra, Ebonyi and Oyo State.
Under the Criminal Code of Nigeria (Section 357 & 358), Rape is defined as “having 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 act, or, in case of a married woman, be personating her husband.” This offence is punishable by imprisonment for life, with or without caning.
Under the Penal Code of Nigeria (Section 282), “A man is said to commit rape who has sexual intercourse with a woman in any of the following circumstance: against her will; without her consent; with her consent, when the consent is obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt.”
Under the Criminal Laws of Lagos State (Section 258) “Any man who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl without her consent, is guilty of the offence of rape”
Under the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (Section 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/her body or anything else without consent, or the consent is obtained by force”
Rape and sexual assault are serious crimes against the dignity and sexual autonomy of the next person. Every individual has the right and choice to make informed decisions about their sexual conduct and also to respect the rights and dignity of others. We can see from the legislations above that consent is a predominant factor when it comes to offences of rape and sexual assault.
We can also note that the VAPP Act is quite progressive as it makes provisions for both male and female sexual offenders. It also takes into consideration in another section the rape of a person by a group of people which is the first of its kind in Nigerian laws.
With regards to the prosecution and conviction of sexual offenders, it is unbelievable that despite the prevalence of rape and sexual violence in our society, there have been only 18 reported convictions in Nigeria till date.
It goes to show that a lot of people are ignorant of the law, it shows that rape has become normalized to the point that survivors do not feel the need to report. It also shows that there is little or no belief in the justice system.
In order for us to have an increase in the rate of prosecution and convictions of sexual offenders there needs to be an increase in advocacy. Survivors need to be aware of their rights as citizens, they need to know that justice can be achieved and that the perpetrator can be punished for this crime.
It is important to note that rape can happen to anyone but it is never the fault of the survivor. It does not matter what she was wearing, where she was or what she was doing – it is always the fault of the perpetrator/rapist as rape is a conscious decision.
If you have been raped or you know someone who has, please visit us at The WARIF Centre – 6, Turton Street, off Thorburn Avenue, Sabo, Yaba or call our 24 hour confidential helpline on 08092100009
By Dr. Kemi DaSilva-Ibru