Senate Mulls Bill to Protect Rape Victims Against Stigma

Senate Mulls Bill to Protect Rape Victims Against Stigma

…It Will Encourage them to Open Up, Testify in Court, Seek Justice The Senate on Wednesday considered a critical bill seeking to protect victims of rape against any form of stigmatisation in the country. This is coming against the rising scourge with another reported case of the rape of a pregnant woman in Benin City,

…It Will Encourage them to Open Up, Testify in Court, Seek Justice

The Senate on Wednesday considered a critical bill seeking to protect victims of rape against any form of stigmatisation in the country. This is coming against the rising scourge with another reported case of the rape of a pregnant woman in Benin City, Edo State who later died, stoking calls by activists that rapists should be castrated.

The bill, which scaled second reading on the floor during plenary, also provides for prosecution and punishment of any person or group of persons who stigmatise such victims with a view to uphold and protect their Fundamental Right to Dignity and Freedom of Association as provided by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Titled: Rape and Insurgency Victims Stigmatisation (Prohibition) Bill 2019, itwas sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger East).

Leading debate on the bill during plenary, Senator Musa said if passed into law, the bill would among other things, encourage victims of rape to testify in court.

The bill which contains 11 (Eleven) Clauses, according to the lawmaker, would also ensure the re-integration of victims of insurgency into the community of their choice.

“Mr. President, you are all aware of the scourge of the instabilities in most of our communities in Nigeria, ranging from insurgence, banditry and violence against women, children and even men,” Musa said.

“Presently, rape is now a common phenomenon and occurs worldwide. In fact, available data suggests that in some countries one in five women report sexual violence or being raped by an intimate partner and up to a third of girls report forced sexual initiation. This also cuts across diverse age range of victims ranging from young toddlers and children to even older victims aged 70 years old, with over seventy percent of the victims under 19.

“The bill is to provide for the legal and institutional framework for the protocol for re-integration of victims of rape and insurgency in Nigeria. If this bill is passed into law, it would certainly provide a new lease of life for victims of rape and insurgency in the country.”

The lawmaker, who bemoaned the trauma which most victims of rape suffer and are exposed to in the country, blamed the development on what he described as the “ineptitude” of the Nigerian justice system.

“The justice system in Nigeria is incredibly inept and for rape cases, this is even more traumatic. A rape victim goes to the police to report and the policeman or woman tells the victim to go and sort it out at home as it is a domestic case. And the consequences of such act is that the victim is left at the mercy of the society without any protection,” he stated.

“This sort of stigma has prevented many survivors from reporting abuse and seeking justice. Victims of insurgency and other violent acts needs this kind of laws that will not only promote gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls as fundamental to all efforts to prevent and address sexual violence, but also progressively uplift such victims.

“We are all living witnesses to the upsurge of the criminality of rape and the destruction of lives been perpetrated by those coward criminals in our communities, coupled with the fact that our country has an extremely low conviction rate for rape and sexual abuses despite the increase in violence against women in recent years.”

The lawmaker, who recalled the interventions by the Senate on violence against women, noted that, “it is high time we (National Assembly) legislate and take actions that will address some of the shortcomings in Nigeria’s legal system on issues of stigmatisation for victims of rape and violence, where the burden to prove rape or abuse often lies in evidence of it also being a violent attack.”

According to Musa, “Nigeria which is home to an estimated 205 million people, has no legislation that will protect or facilitate care and support for survivors.”

The bill which received the support of lawmakers was referred by the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative work.

The Committee which is chaired by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC – Ekiti Central) is expected to submit its report back to the Senate in four weeks.

Rape of Pregnant Woman

The reported case of a pregnant woman, Mrs Queen Igbineovba who was raped to death at her uptown residence in Uselu, Benin City in the Edo State capital has further heightened the scourge.

According to a report by the Tribune, the expectant mother who lived apart from her husband, was said to have been raped few days ago by unknown assailants who broke through the ceiling of her apartment in the middle of the night.

The assailants were also said to have disappeared through the ceiling where they came from after violating the pregnant woman.

Igbineovba was found naked in the morning with semen and blood all over her body.

A neighbour who would not want his name in print explained that concerned neighbours had called the husband when they noticed that her door was bolted in the morning.

He added that upon the husband’s arrival, he broke the door after knocking severally without response.

He said: “That morning when we didn’t see Queen, I went to check if she was fine because she lives alone. Her door was locked. We called the husband who came, broke the door and saw her dead body naked with blood and foam coming out of her mouth. There was semen all over her body.”

The development sparked outrage in the city as protesters stormed the streets to protest Igbineovba’s death.

Mr Ajala Ayoola, the Edo State deputy commissioner of police who received protesters at the police headquarters assured that the police will do everything to unravel the circumstances surrounding the rape and gruesome murder.

A police source said who pleaded anonymity confirmed that the case was reported to the Ohkoro Police Divisional Headquarters, noting that doctors will carry out an autopsy and the results will be made public.

A100-level Microbiology student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa was gang-raped and beaten to death with a fire extinguisher in Ikpoba Hill also in Benin City on May 27, 2020.

Call for Castration of Rapists

Over five hundred women professionals, including lawyers, activists, entrepreneurs and house wives, stormed the streets of Calabar on Tuesday morning advocating for laws that would help castrate rapists.

They said stiffer penalties against rapists will serve as a deterrent to perpetrators.

The women were clad in black attire and carried placards with different inscriptions appealing for an end to rape.

Some of the participants were female politicians such as Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Ethiopia, Civil Society Organisations and some men groups.

Others include non-governmental agencies such as Girls Power Initiatives (GPI), Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA), the female members of ASUU, the Cross River Women Emancipation Initiative (CROWEI), and youth groups amongst others.

One of the speakers, project coordinator of Gender and Action Development, Ms Francisca Effiom, said the rally was to draw attention to the growing concern on rape and urged the government to implement existing laws.

Effiom, who also represents the Project Coordinator for Women Voices Leadership Project under ActionAid Global Affairs, Canada, said: “We organised this rally to say ‘Stop Rape’.

“Rape has become an issue too many to address and it has taken a very serious and dangerous dimension in society.

“We are urging the government to look at the laws and policies existing and review such regulations to put an end to this menace.

“The policies need to be strengthened, laws reviewed so that rape will stop in our society,” she said.   

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