Action against rape: The punishment

That rape is one of the most heinous crimes to be committed against an individual or society is well known to all. It is not just a crime to the living, it also violates the rights of the unborn children of the victims, who may be exposed to the ridicule and humiliation their parents once suffered.

In many countries of the world, rape is not treated with kid gloves and there is no reason to assume that we are a permissive society. In India, which also has a bad reputation for sexual assault, the punishment for rape, based on the Anti-Rape Bill of 2013, is life imprisonment, which may not be more than 14 years in the real sense.

The punishment for rape in France is more severe. Rapists are condemned to 15 years of imprisonment and this sentence can be extended to 30 years or even life in prison, depending on the brutality, savagery and damage meted to the victim.

No one dares to rape in China and Saudi Arabia without facing the dire consequences. In China, a rapist is either castrated or condemned to a life in jail. The justice delivery system is fast, though mistakes occur when innocent people are punished. In Saudi Arabia, rapists are publicly beheaded within days after sedatives have been administered on them.

While convicted rapists are shot in the head within four days or hanged depending on the court decision in Afghanistan, North Korea does not waste time in condemning rapists to execution by a firing squad. In Egypt, a rapist is also hanged to death, as it is done also in Iran – the consequence is deadly.

In Israel, anyone convicted of raping a woman is liable to spend 16 years in prison. Whereas, in Norway, any kind of sexual behaviour without the consent of the other party will land the perpetrator in jail for between 4 and 15 years, depending on the gravity of such sexual misbehaviour.

While Russia awards 3-6 years of prison term for sexual harassment, including rape, with the possibility of the rapist spending 10 or even more than 20 years in jail, the United States awards punishment on the basis of trial under state of federal law. Under the federal law, the punishment may range from a few years till a lifetime in prison.

In most of the countries, criminals who engage in rape do not go scot-free as they do in our country. Victims are not subjected to further emotional abuse as perpetrators are named and shamed, regardless of their positions. Unlike what happens in Nigeria where victims are even blamed for their ordeal, stigmatised by the society and subjected to double humiliation, a situation that makes many victims shy away from reporting violations, serious countries protect and defend every woman against the evils of ‘this animal called man’ among us.

Like many things Nigerian, the problem is not with the absence of laws but with their implementation. The Criminal Code, applicable in all the Southern States, and the Penal Code, applicable in all the Northern States of the Federation, are unequivocal in stating the gravity and punishment of rape.

The Criminal Code (Section 358) stipulates imprisonment for life, with or without caning. An attempt to commit rape is itself an act of felony and it is punishable with 14 years of imprisonment, with or without caning. The Penal Code awards 14 years imprisonment for rape and the judgement can be life punishment or severe fine, according its Section 283.

Despite the legislation, including the well applauded Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, which spells out categories of sexual violence and due punishments, the problem is lack of implementation. This lacuna incentivises rape and other forms of sexual violence in which the Nigerian government is guilty, especially the justice administration system.

The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) on its website reports that there were just 65 rape convictions in Nigeria between 1973 and 2019. This is unfortunate especially when the Katsina Police Command alone arrested 40 suspected rapists between April and June, 2020, suggesting that rape cases in Nigeria are in hundreds monthly.

Rape is a pandemic in Nigeria. If we must stamp it out or stem its tide, the Chinese approach is recommended: castrate the bastards or consign them a life in prison. No more, no less.