Statistically, one in every four girls in Nigeria have experienced some form of sexual assault by the time they are 18 years of age. Nigerian Society has been so desensitized to hearing stories of rape, that for the most part no one is in shock anymore. Victims have a hard time speaking up for fear of retaliation and shame yet the Nigerian Justice system clearly defines rape as a criminal offence. Enforcers of the law in the form of the police force, maintain a roster of misogynistic officers who not only demand ‘motivation’ to get involved in cases, but they end up compounding cases and doing nothing to alleviate the issue
The victims keep increasing, every woman knows a woman that has been sexually assaulted or raped, yet rapists seem to always evade the law. We live in a society where we expect the law to ensure that everyone is safe yet women are victims to these predators. We wanted to explain why.
There are several laws that name rape as a criminal offence to varying degrees, in different parts of the country. We have the criminal code, the penal code, the Criminal Laws of Lagos, the Violence against Person’s Prohibition Act and the Child Rights Act, among others. All of these laws in defining what amounts to rape share a common denominator and that is CONSENT.
Consent is a non-negotiable factor when it comes to sexual intercourse. According to pre-existing laws, any sexual activity without consent amounts to rape. These laws also state that is consent incorrectly obtained is no consent.
You would think that such clear definitions would leave no room for ambiguity but sadly this is not the case. In 2017, 2,279 cases of rape and indecent assault were reported. An extra 1,164 cases of ‘unnatural offences’ (i.e Anal Sex) were reported.
Of these cases, there were zero, convictions reported by the police. What does that say about say about the Nigerian justice system?
It says our justice system is part of the problem. Victims are shamed, blamed and laughed at by the enforcers of the law. Police officers make a mockery of victims while searching for all the ways said victim might have asked for it. If by some act of fate the predator is arrested, they are eventually released after a few hours or the victim is pressured into ‘forgiving them.’
Our justice system has spent years bending over backwards to protect rapists instead of doing its job to have them punished. Implied consent should never be a defence for sexual assault; taking a clue from Canada in the popular Supreme Court Case of R v Ewanchuk, where the court unanimously ruled that consent has to be explicit, instead of merely “implied”. Dating, living with, past flirting record, previous consent to sex, dressing, location or any of these other factors do not mean implied consent. Verbal consent is the best for both parties as it allows you to indicate what you want, seek clarification and avoid any sort of ambiguity.
Also, with regards to Consent, there is an important element which is the age of consent. Anyone below the age of consent is legally incompetent to give consent and any sexual activity with such a person with or without their consent is considered as rape. The age of consent suffered from Jurisdiction to Jurisdiction and from laws to laws. According to Section 31 (3) (a) of the Child Rights Act [Which is not applicable in states yet to domesticate it], the age of consent is 18. Under the Penal Code [applicable in the North], any sexual activity with a girl under the age of 14 is rape regardless of whether there is consent. Let’s also not forget that a government official who is fully aware of this law, married a 13-yr-old child.
The Nigerian Justice system continues to fail women daily because it is an institution that has been set up and upheld by misogynistic officials. This is the only reason why we have clear laws that define rape as a crime yet, rapists are free. This is why rapists can intimidate their victims, knowing that they will not be held accountable for their atrocities. The Nigerian Police spend their time looking to make money, which is why for the most part they are used as glorified thugs. This is why Rapists with the means, enlist the Nigerian Police to intimidate their victims and force them to recant statements. It’s almost impossible to imagine a world were the Nigerian Police is reformed because not only do they do nothing to help victims, but they have also been perpetrators themselves
We need more than clearly defined laws. We need feminist individuals in the justice system, we need the Nigerian police to unlearn its misogyny as this is reason why rapists are free. We need the Nigerian police to actually serve and protect women. The Nigerian law does nothing to protect women, the law does not ensure justice for victims, people do. These people have failed women.