The world we live in is ugly, before you disagree, I ask that you think outside of yourself. From the denial of freedom to the bullets coated in snow, making poker dots on men coated in charcoal, toddlers and teenagers wearing bullet-proof jackets as their school uniforms. From the moment the nurturers and backbone of human race refused to kiss the boots of the nurtured; a sword in each hand, a refusal to be silenced by the wolves that hunt their packs; to the drowning in blood of the statue painted with wealth and peace . Our silence is not valuable as we watch this inhumane catastrophic invasion of souls. Yet, when we close our eyes at night, and the mosquitoes buzzing in our ears send us into a cycle of self-torture, a reminder of the pain you try so hard to ignore and a protest by the mosquitoes trying to transmit the reminder to your synapses.
Rape is an atrocity committed against an entire being; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It’s almost like taking a person forcefully, cutting their fingers off one after the other and asking them to count the layers of the skin after each cut, followed by each limb, pushing the person outside and screaming ‘Walk, Walk’, Drowning in blood, the person cries and bleeds, begs and prays. This person becomes a time traveller, a prophet, a psychic, a warrior all at once, searching for a way out. The bleeding stops and they are locked in a dark cage with memories to haunt them and the face of the one who hurt them. The perpetrator(s) bring in food daily, making it harder to forget. They see their face in everyone that tries to get close to them. A miracle doesn’t happen, nothing is undone, rather they are stuck in the brutal place, fear has their heart as they search for the light at the end of the tunnel, drowning between the world of the living and that of the unknown— that doesn’t even describe up to 10% of the real feeling.
Truth is you can never know what it feels like except you’ve experienced it but we have to know that it’s an unimaginable kind of pain. When victims tell their truth, there isn’t 3 sides to that story; the only version available is the truth, putting into consideration how this society reacts to ‘Rape’ victims, it takes immerse strength and bravery to speak the truth and it is paramount that confidants don’t ask questions like ‘Why are just speaking up?’, ‘What were you wearing?’ and other engage in any other inconsequential line of questioning that insinuates victim blaming, all that is required of you is your support.
Consent and Rape can’t sit side by side without a rigid dichotomy. Therefore, It’s important to understand the foundation of sexual consent as well as the constitutional definitions of consent and Rape in Nigeria, the laws and the penalty.
WHAT IS SEXUAL CONSENT?
Sexual consent is defined as an agreement to participate in a sexual activity. It is paramount to know if the person you desire to engage in a sexual activity with is interested or not.
Here are the ABC’s of sexual consent:
A. IT MUST BE EXPLICIT:
One must ask for permission before touching, kissing or engaging in any other sexual activity. It is basic courtesy and seeking approval is the right thing to do. Assumption is no good.
Saying no and expecting that to encourage whoever you are with to try harder is preposterous. At this stage of civilisation, there is no reason why there should be any ground for miscommunication.
People should not have to shy away from what they want, rather be able to confidently state it without beating around the bush.
Although, some would say ‘When ladies say no they mean yes’, that statement is false.
Say it the exact way you mean it. If we can’t communicate effectively and coherently with one another, what exactly are we doing?
B. CHANGING YOUR MIND:
It is important to understand that you or your partner can change their mind irregardless of the stage you are in. This applies after consent has been given initially, for consent can be withdrawn at any time.
Also, consent to one act is not consent to all acts.
C. IT’S OKAY TO STOP OR SLOW DOWN:
No one should have to feel obliged to fulfil anyone’s desire. When one partner is no longer interested, the other shouldn’t have to convince, coerce or lure but rather quit!
Hesitation or doubt does not equal consent.
D. NON-VERBAL CONSENT:
Here is a loophole, when there is no verbal consent, attention should be payed to gestures and body language.
In case you are getting confused, use your words, enquire to know if the other party wants to engage or not.
You have to remember that you can’t rely on your partner to notice your body language, so it’s best to speak up.
E. DRINKS AND DRUGS:
In the case of a person being drunk or under the influence of drugs, that person can’t give consent. Also, if you get sexual in anyway with someone who is drunk or high or has passed out or mentally incapable to give informed consent, it is equivalent to sexual assault or Rape depending on the circumstance.
The other side to this coin, is when both partners are drunk or under the influence of drugs and are enthusiastic about having sex but it’s still a grey area.
There are laws about who can consent and who can’t. There are also laws to protect minors. There is an age where sexual consent can be given and considered that a person of that age is legally capable to consent to sex, the age differs depending on the country.
In Nigeria, the age is 18 and here are 5 specific laws that deal with consent and Rape in Nigeria:
- The Criminal Code (CC)
- The Penal Code(PC)
- The Criminal Laws of Lagos(CLL)
- Violence Against Persons Prohibition Acts(VAPPA)
- Child Rights Act (CRA)
1. THE CRIMINAL CODE:
This law is applicable in all Southern States except Lagos State. Under the Criminal Code, Rape is when any person has sexual intercourse with a woman or girl, without her consent, or incorrectly obtained consent. Consent can be incorrectly obtained where it is obtained:
- By force/threat/intimidation
- By means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act,
- By a person impersonating a married woman’s husband in order to have sex with her.
Under the Criminal Code, sexual intercourse with under aged girls or people with unsound mind is an offence of defilement, and so technically a person could be charged for Rape and defilement.
2. THE PENAL CODE:
This law is applicable in all Northern States. Under the Penal Code, “Consent” means free and voluntary agreement. It further states that a person does not consent to an act when:
- The person submits because of force, fear of force, or fear of harm of any type, to himself or herself or another person;
- The person submits because he or she is unlawfully detained;
- The person is asleep, unconscious or so affected by alcohol or another drug as to be incapable of freely agreeing;
- The person is incapable of understanding the nature of the act;
- The person is mistaken about the nature of the act or the identity of the other person;
- The person mistakenly believes that the act is for medical or hygienic purposes;
- The person mistakenly believes that the act will be beneficial to his or her physical, psychological, social or spiritual well being; or the person submits out of respect or fear due to another person’s position of authority, trust or responsibility;
- The person submits because of threats to shame, degrade or humiliate the person or another person;
- The person submits because of a false representation as to the nature or purpose of the act;
- The person withdraws consent during the act after initially consenting to it.
Also, it clarifies that a person who does not offer actual physical resistance to an act is not, by reason only of that fact, to be regarded as consenting to the act.
In the Penal Code, a person commits an offence of ‘Rape’ if the person has sexual intercourse with another person: (a) without the other person’s consent; and (b) knowing about or being reckless as to the lack of consent. To avoid doubt, the Penal Code clarifies that this definition applies even if the persons are married or in a marriage-like relationship.
The maximum penalty according to The Penal Code is: Life imprisonment. In addition, if a person attempts to commit the offence of ‘Rape’, the maximum penalty is 25 years imprisonment while the minimum penalty is 15years imprisonment; depending on the age of the offender and the victim.
3. CRIMINAL LAWS OF LAGOS (CLL):
This is only applicable in Lagos state. Under the Criminal Law of Lagos, A person consents;
(1) If he agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make and communicate that choice.
(2) In determining whether a person charged had reasonable grounds for believing that another person consented, the court shall have regard to all the circumstances, including any steps taken by the defendant to ascertain whether the woman or girl consented.
- According to Criminal Acts Law of Lagos, ’Rape’ is when any man has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl, without her consent, is guilty of the offence of Rape and liable to imprisonment for life.
- A woman or girl does not give consent to sexual intercourse if she submits to the act by reason of force, impersonation, threat or intimidation of any kind, fear of harm or false or fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act.
- Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are married is not unlawful. (Therefore, a man cannot Rape his wife.)
- Sexual intercourse is complete on the slightest penetration of the vagina.
It is important to note here that in all 3 laws; Rape can only occur when the vagina of the woman is penetrated. However, this does not mean that anal unlawful sexual intercourse is allowed. This is a crime, and is covered under different descriptions in each legislation. The penalty for Rape across all the laws is life imprisonment (however this is not a mandatory sentence in all of them).
4. VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS (PROHIBITION) ACT, 2015:
This is applicable in only the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The Violence Against Persons Prohibitions Act states that a person commits the offence of ‘Rape’ if:
(a) he or she intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his or her body or anything else;
(b)the other person does not consent to the penetration;
(c) or the consent is obtained by force or means of threat or intimidation of any kind or by fear of harm or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or the use of any substance or additive capable of taking away the will of such person or in the case of a married person by impersonating his or her spouse.
>A person convicted of ‘Rape’ liable to imprisonment for life except where:
>the offender is less than 14 years of age, the offender is liable to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment.
>in all other cases, to a minimum of 12 years imprisonment without an option of fine or;
>in the case of Rape by a group of persons, the offenders are liable jointly 10 a minimum of 20 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
Also, the Court shall also award appropriate compensation to the victim as it may deem fit in the circumstance.
In addition, a register for convicted sexual offenders shall be maintained and accessible to the public.
The Violence Against Persons Prohibitions Act seems like the most progressive piece of legislation in Nigeria. Unfortunately, as stated above, the law is only applicable in the FCT, Abuja. It does not apply in of the other States of the Federation.
5. CHILD RIGHTS ACT (CRA):
This is only applicable in the States which have domesticated it.
The Child Rights Act provides that sex with a child is ‘Rape’, and anyone who has sexual intercourse with a child is liable to imprisonment for life upon conviction.
In a case when the person charged with ‘Rape’, it is immaterial that‐
(a) the offender believed the person to be of or above the age of eighteen years; or
(b) the sexual intercourse was with the consent of the child.
In addition, A person who sexually abuses or sexually exploits a child in any manner not already mentioned under this Part of this Act is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of fourteen years.
If we have all these laws that protect us, why don’t we have justice? In a system where corruption is embedded in every drop of water and apology or denial is the new shred of justice. We can’t allow apologies or denial act as the hands of justice. Rapists deserve nothing less than life imprisonment and that’s what they should get irrespective of their status in the society or how they are related to us.
Although it is necessary to commend those at the forefront of the battle for justice, making it possible for the voices of victims to be heard. There’s an old saying that states ‘United we stand, divided we fall’, this is why you and I have to serve as the pillars of the community and it is our duty as humans to make sure we don’t sit by and allow injustice to rule the day.
THINGS TO REMEMBER!
– Consent is never implied by things like one’s past behaviour, what one wears, type of job or where one goes.
– No means No, If someone says no, redraw and leave them alone.
– You have the final say in regards to what happens with your body.
– Silence is not consent!
-If you or someone you know has been Raped, apart from the police, there are various help centres available in Nigeria;
Here are the links to some of them:
- Sexual abuse report centres in Nigeria;
>IG; @nomore234ng, @mirabelcentreng, @warif_ng
> Women At Risk Int. Foundation: 24-hour confidential helpline- 08092100009
-Rape is never the fault of the victim!
THANK YOU FOR READING!
DO NOT FORGET TO SUBSCRIBE, SHARE AND LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS.
WRITTEN BY; MARIAM ALAYANDE
SPECIAL THANKS TO; FADIPE AFYSA