Saturday, October 15, 2011


Rape has been defined as "the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse." One of the most appalling crimes done by man, rape has been used as a weapon to humiliate and degrade would be victims. Victims of rape can either be male or female. However, I will be looking at rape where women are victims of male attackers.

In Africa, rape has become more prevalent than ever. In Congo where there is endless conflict between militias, about 1,100 women are being raped daily (American journal of public health) with more than 400,000 women aged 15-49 raped during a 12 month period between 2006 - 2007 (AFP). While rape tends to be a norm during wars like the Congo situation, it is also a reality in peaceful societies. While western countries have stringent laws to checkmate this crime, African societies have had a hard time finding any tangible solution to this menace and operates absurd laws as a panacea for the issue. In Nigeria, the criminal code provides a life sentence for a rapist once a rape has been established that it took place, however the conditions on which such a claim is to be established puts a burden of proof on the victim and in the end frustrates justice. Many of such conditions such as the requirement of one or two witnesses for corroborative evidence, proof of penetration, proof that penetration is linked to the attacker or accused, and proof that penetration was without consent of the girl (section 357: criminal code) are just many of the roadblocks successfully erected by the Nigerian legal system with the help of a culture that appears more sympathetic to the perpetrator of the crime than the victim. The 2001 case of Sunday Jegede v. the state where the judgement held that the injury on the victim's vagina was not conclusive evidence as the requirement for corroborative evidence was not met, and the recent Abia state University gang rape case that had a sitting governor, Vice Chancellor and commissioner of police denying the rape took place without proper investigation.

Now the question is, is rape an outcome of depravity or a mere reflection of a chauvinistic culture? If the judges in Sunday Jegede v. the state were women, would the victim have found justice? If the Abia state governor, the Vice Chancellor of Abia state university and the commissioner of police were all women would they have swung to action and immediately brought the rapists to book? The answer is obvious. It is clear that a culture of male chauvinism affects laws relating to women and countries like Nigeria where lawmakers slap their female colleagues will never provide the necessary legal framework to provide true justice for female victims of rape and other crimes. The complicity of security agencies make it difficult to get a clear picture of the exact number of rape cases as a result of under reporting because police themselves have been implicated in the rape of female detainees. The culture of male dominance which has been accepted as normal makes it possible for rape to continue. Aside this problems, the society which is more patriarchal in its outlook will blame the victim who will have to live with the stigma of being raped.

Nigeria must do away with cultural practices that hold no value. As a signatory to the U.N charter on human rights, Nigeria must go back to the drawing board and enact laws that provide adequate punishment for male attackers as well as adequate compensation for their female victims. It is indeed disturbing that rape as a trend continues unabated. The recent rape of a 16 year old virgin in Lagos by three men and the now common gang rape of old women by youths aged between 17-25 Enugu show the danger of bad laws and a dysfunctional culture. Article 1(3) of the U.N charter on human rights calls for the respect of human rights for all without distinction on account of sex. Nigeria however is still undecided on the superiority of its male driven culture over laws that provide for gender equality.

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