22 May 7 ways the VAPP has changed the offence of rape in Nigeria
7 Ways the VAPP has revolutionised the offence of Rape in Nigeria
In 2015, the Nigerian National Assembly passed the Violence Against Person (Prohibition) Act aka the VAPP.
This law is a very important piece of legislation for a number of reasons, and we will discuss a few of them below. However, before we go into the discussion there is one very important piece of information you need to know. The VAPP is only applicable in the FCT, Abuja. This is because even though it was made by the National Assembly, it was only made applicable in the FCT, and only the High Courts of the FCT have the jurisdiction over crimes created in the VAPP. Below are a few ways it has revolutionised the approach to the offence of rape in Nigeria:
The Violence Against Person (Prohibition) Act is the first piece of legislation that has accepted that men can legally be raped, in the definition of rape in other criminal statutes, reference is made to penetration of the vagina, and because only women have vaginas, only women can be raped. The VAPP acknowledging that men can be raped is therefore very revolutionary.
The VAPP states that unlawful anal or oral sex can be rape, also the first piece of legislation to classify both acts as rape and not sexual assault. Most other Nigerian legislations on rape have only focused on vaginal penetration, anal sex and oral sex have not been viewed as ‘sex’ with respect to rape. This law has changed that.
The VAPP states that the instrument of rape does not have to be a penis, it can be another part of the body e.g. hand, or an object e.g. dildo or even objects like pens and pencils. Therefore, we can see that the Violence Against Person (Prohibition) Act is focusing on the violation of the person’s body when viewing the act of rape, and not a strict view of the fact that for it to be rape there must be ‘sex’.
In other legislations, rape when committed by multiple people on one person at the same time also known as gang rape, was not recognised as a class of crime. The VAPP recognises the crime of gang rape and makes a minimum of 20 years’ imprisonment for it.
The VAPP introduces minimum sentences for rape. In other legislations like the Criminal Code, the law provides for a maximum penalty, which means that the judge had the discretion to sentence an offender to less than the maximum penalty. The VAPP takes away this discretion to some extent, it states that once the crime of rape is proven, the offender must be sentenced to a minimum penalty of 12 years for rape. However, the judge still has the discretion to sentence the offender to more than 12 years.
The VAPP recognises that rape is a crime and so the punishment must be a criminal one. However, it also recognises the rights of the victim to financial compensation. Financial compensation for victims is a welcome trend in Victim rights which looks to help the victim in rebuilding their life after an act of rape. For example, the victim might need to go for therapy etc after being raped, and this would normally have been paid by the victim, now with victim compensation, the offender could be made to pay financial compensation to the victim which would cover these sorts of expenses.
Finally, the Violence Against Person (Prohibition) Act provides for the establishment of sex offenders’ registers. A sex offender register is a system designed to allow government authorities to keep track of the residence and activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their criminal sentences. The VAPP does not go into detail about the modalities of how the sex offenders registry would be created and would function, however it is a laudable step in the right direction.
HAVE YOU BEEN RAPED OR DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS?
If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, then you should not suffer in silence. Rape is a crime in Nigeria, and if you are a victim you should report the matter to ensure that the person is punished, and ensure that the person does not get an opportunity to do it to someone else again in the future.
Reporting rape can be a very emotional and difficult thing to do, so you should consider getting support from organisations like Mirabel Centre – http://mirabelcentre.org/ , where rape and sexual assault victims can get access to forensic medical assistance, and more importantly professional counselling services. They are located at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja, Lagos, and are open from 9am – 5pm – Monday – Friday, and 10am – 4pm on weekends & Public Holidays. They can also be reached on these numbers: 07013491769, 01-2957816, 08176275732, 08176275695; and on Twitter: @MirabelCentreNG and Facebook: www.facebook.com/MirabelNigeria
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