Legal Definition of Rape
Rape generally described is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent.
Rape cases in the society seem to be on the increase. Why is this so?
In recent times, there has been an upsurge in rape cases in the society and one can’t help but wonder why. Critically looking into this, I am of the opinion that several factors collectively or solely contribute to or fuel the increase in rape crime. Some of these factors include: 1. Pornography: The internet is packed with a lot of pornographic and sexually provoking contents and a lot of young people are exposed to these daily. It has become so much that you need not even consciously search for them, merely surfing the internet, you will come across these contents unsolicited. Some of this sexual content usually portray forced sex and violent sexual intercourse, when these young persons with little or no sexual experience are exposed to these the end result can be catastrophic as they may want to practice what they have watched and seen on the internet and this may result in rape. 2. Misconception of Consent: Several people do not really understand what consent is. They think that once a person has agreed to be in a relationship with them, then he or she has consented to sex and has no right to refuse them sex. Most persons force their partners to have sex with them even when the partner is not interested or refuses, most of these persons do not consider such act as rape. Sadly, many people think this way, that is why when a lady comes out to say she was raped by her partner, people dismiss it as false because to them being in a relationship means you have consented to sex. 3. Indecent Dressing: this is common among the female folks. Ladies these days wear revealing dresses and sometimes expose sensitive parts of their body. There are some men who have little or no control of their sexual urge, when such men come across such ladies, they are easily sexually provoked and this can lead to rape or sexual assault. 4. Influence of western culture Today Nigerians are lost in the culture market square as we are fast embracing western culture to the detriment of own culture. Nigerians are now embracing everything western and it is now telling on how we behave, how we talk, how we relate, how we train our children among others. Internet and cable tv has made the world a global village and we are fast losing grip of our sense of identity. 5. Lax in Prosecution of Sexual Offenders: while our laws provide adequate punishment for rape and other sexual offences, there is laxity in prosecution of offenders, several rape cases are reported but only few are prosecuted and even the few that are prosecuted are not prosecuted diligently. Several rapist and sexual offenders are allowed to roam freely due to the above. The law has not really effectively served as a deterrent to rape due to lack of prosecution or diligent prosecution.
LEGAL DEFINITION OF RAPE:
Section 260 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State defines rape: (1) Any man who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl without her consent, commits the offence of rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life. (2) A woman or girl does not consent to sexual intercourse if she submits to the act by reason of force, impersonation, threat or intimidation of any kind, fear of harm or false or fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act. (3) Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are married is not unlawful. (4) Sexual intercourse is complete on the slightest penetration of the vagina. Section 266 defines consent as follows: (1) For the purposes of this chapter, a person consents if he agrees by choice and has freedom and capacity to make and communicate that choice. (2) In determining whether a person charged had reasonable grounds for believing that another person consented, the court shall have regard to all the circumstances including any steps by the Defendant to ascertain whether the woman or girl consented. We must also note that subsection (4) of section 260 above clearly makes clear that for rape to occur, the vagina must be penetrated. You may want to ask, what of penetration of other parts of the body like the anus of a boy, is this one rape as the boy did not give consent? Section 261 provides: “Any person who penetrates sexually, the anus, virgina, mouth or any other opening in the body of another person with a part of his body or anything else, without the consent of the person commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.”
Do we have adequate legal framework to try rape offenders?
In my own opinion, we have adequate legal framework to prosecute rape offenders, the law provides adequate punishment for rape offenders. We have the followings laws: i. The Criminal Code Act – this is applicable in all the Southern States ii. The Penal Code Act – this is applicable in all the Northern States iii. The Criminal Laws of Lagos – this is applicable only in Lagos State iv. The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act – this is applicable in only the FCT Abuja. v. The Child Rights Act – this is only applicable in the States which have domesticated it Section 358 of the Criminal Code Act prescribes life imprisonment for the offence of rape and several state laws including the Criminal Law of Lagos State prescribes life imprisonment for the offence of rape. The criminal law of some states in the north prescribes the death penalty for rape. The law has made adequate provisions for the prosecution of rape in Nigeria.
What part does the mental frame of mind of a culprit play during trial?
The mental frame of mind of the culprit plays a vital role in trial for rape, this is because in criminal trial, it must be established that the person carried out the offence intentionally and consciously i.e he knew what he was doing when he was committing the offence, was in the right frame of mind and the act was done intentionally. Where a culprit is found to be of unsound mind, he may not be held liable for rape.
Do you think our existing laws and infrastructure are robust enough to address rape?
Our existing laws are adequate. However, our infrastructures are inadequate, the police force and other agencies responsible for prosecuting rape are not adequately trained and funded, there is need to organize special training for our law enforcement agencies on how to handle rape cases and special funding made available for prosecution of rape cases.
In what ways do you think government can help to protect the rights of vulnerable Nigerians?
The government should make adequate provision for the protection of vulnerable persons in the society this can be done by imposing stricter punishment and enforcement of such punishment on rape offences. The government needs to pay more attention to rape crimes and ensure that they are prosecuted diligently. Also, activities or circumstances that fester the crime of rape should be discouraged and nipped in the bud. The kind of musical videos that our children are exposed to, the kind of musical dance that our children are exposed to, our dress sense and a whole lot of others gives room for the incidence of rape.
Some claim that men sometimes can fall victims to rape. Legally speaking is that true?
There are claims that men are also victims of rape, this proposition is true in the western world. However, in Nigeria it is not true legally speaking as the definition of rape under the Criminal Code Act or Criminal Laws of Lagos State does not recognize men as victims of rape. It is defined as having unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl without her consent. However, the nearest to that is contained in section 261 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State which is described as a sexual assault by penetration as defined earlier.
Incest is also on the increase what are the legal provisions against offenders?
Incest is not considered as a crime in most part of Nigeria, it is –morally wrong and as such there are no legal provisions against it. The Criminal Code as well as Criminal Laws of Lagos State has not criminalized incest. However, some states in Nigeria have already taken that step and criminalized incest. In Cross Rivers State for instance, there has been enacted a law titled ‘Cross-Rivers Punishment of Incest Law’ making incest an offence in the state. Under Section 1 of the law, ‘The provisions of this Law shall apply whether the relationship between the person charged with an offence under this Law and the person with whom the offence is alleged to have been committed is or is not traced through lawful wedlock. By section 2, it is provides on incest by males thus ‘(1) Any male person who has carnal knowledge of a female person who is to his knowledge his grand-daughter, daughter, sister or mother is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for seven years. (2) If the female person is under the age of eleven years, he is guilty of a felony and liable to imprisonment for fourteen years. (3) It is immaterial that the carnal knowledge was had with the consent of the female person. (4) If any male person attempts to commit any such offence as aforesaid he is guilty of a misdemeanor and liable to imprisonment for two years. (5) On the conviction of any male person of an offence under this section or of an attempt to commit the same, the Court may divest the offender of all authority over the female person against whom the offence is committed, and, if the offender is the guardian of such female person, may remove the offender from such guardianship and in any such person during her minority or any less period: Provided that the Court may at any time vary or rescind the order by the appointment of any other person as such guardian or in any other respect. Also, by section 3 of this Law, it is also possible for a female to commit the offence of incest. Section 3 provides: ‘Any female person of or above the age of sixteen years who with consent permits her grandfather, father, brother or son to have carnal knowledge of her (knowing him to be her grandfather father, brother or son, as the case may be) is guilty of misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for seven years’. It is hoped therefore, that more states will enact laws that criminalize incest while equally making the law broader than Cross Rivers State has made. Sometimes we hear of big profile rape being swept under the carpet.
What can be done to redress this anomaly?
In my own view there is need to educate the society at large on how to handle rape cases, particularly when it involves people of high profile, such cases should be made public to ensure that it’s prosecuted. Once the matter has gathered public interest it becomes difficult for it to be swept under the carpet. Also, our media have a role to play here, most often you don’t get to see these stories in news media and when you do it will be ‘names withheld’ thereby protecting the identity of the culprit. We need to continue to report these cases and shame anyone involved whether high and mighty or not instead of celebrating these same people when we should in fact be shaming them.
In your personal view, is there a lasting cure to rape?
In my own opinion, Rape just like other criminal offences cannot be completely eradicated. However, rape can be reduced to the barest minimum and this can be achieved by encouraging judges to impose the maximum sentence on rape cases i.e life imprisonment, the government should pay special attention to rape cases and ensure the diligent prosecution of same. Our law enforcement agencies should always follow through on these cases instead of sweeping them under the carpet either because they have been compromised or it involve very important figures. If one very high profile conviction is made and jail term served, it will go a long way in driving home the point that is what is needed because people go into these things because they know they can get away with it and they do get away with it. If these are done, it will go a long way in discouraging would be rapist. Parents should also be encouraged to pay attention to their children particularly the male children, over the years emphasis and attention has been given to the upbringing of female children as they are usually the victims of sexual abuse and rape. However, less attention is given to raising male children as they appear not vulnerable, we seem to neglect the fact thatmost perpetrators of sexual abuse and rape are males.In this light, I am of the opinion that parents should educate their male children on sex and issues of sexual offences.