The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday expressed concern over Nigeria’s laws with regards to violence against women and children saying they were indirectly encouraging rape of children in the country.
The Chairman of NHRC, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, stated this in Abuja during a one-day policy dialogue with the theme: “Gender based Violence affecting Young People in Nigeria”, organized by a civil rights organization, Women Arise for Change Initiative, led by Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin.
While the law specified life imprisonment for rape of women, the law, he noted, only specified 14 or seven years imprisonment for rape of a child.
Odinkalu stated that rape is rape irrespective of age of the victim, but faulted the rape of children, which is termed as ‘defilement’.
He said, “It is important that we address the law reforms. It is important to recognise the parity of the crime of rape. Why is it that the rape of children is easier than the rape of adults? It is because our laws create incentives to rape children. If you rape a child, it is not rape, it is defilement.
“Our laws are outdated on the question of violence. From the clip, you saw people forcing objects into a woman’s genital and our law does not recognise that as rape. Something is wrong because we defined rape as penetration of a woman’s genital with the male genital.”
According to him, it is only Lagos state government for now which recognises rape for what it is, adding, “the penetration of somebody’s genital with any instrument irrespective of whether it is male genital or not.”
“A lot of these happen in the family, the violence against young people, sexual violence and violence against women is the violence of people who we are supposed to love, care for and give everything. And in most cases, we tolerate it because we say it is in the family and we should allow it to go for the sake of peace. That is the peace of the graveyard and it is a peace we must resist,” Odinkalu said.
He suggested that steps should also be taken to address the criminal justice system in the country.
The NHRC boss pushed for special training of people to handle violence against women, which he said should not only be seen as criminal justice issue, but also as a social issue, medical issue and adaptation issue.
He said, “Since Mariam Babangida, I think we have been irresponsible with the way we managed the office or situation of the First Ladies. It is important to recognise that First Ladies have responsibilities and it is good to see First Ladies discharge those responsibilities.”
Speaking at the occasion, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, noted that social violence is not only about Nigeria but a global phenomenon..
“No society is free of certain injustices, but we need to work on our society to deal with these issues. Government alone cannot do everything,” he said.
The Force PRO, Frank Mba, who represented the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, noted that domestic violence has gone beyond the normal definition of crime.
He said that the Police Force has drawn a line between what is called a family affair in violence against women and domestic crime.
To this end, he said that officers have been directed not to treat domestic crime as family affairs.
“Our challenges in the past included lack of forensic evidence. But we have how developed new investigative models and created new units to handle these gender issues.” He said
While stating that gender based violence is on the rise in the country, Odumakin, said the aim of the dialogue was to identify the existing gaps and help to build consensus towards eradication of violence against women and children in the country.