Gov. Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has said that drastic action was needed to tackle rape, including vigorous law enforcement to prosecute rapists in the country.
El-Rufai made this known at a virtual meeting organised by the Movement Against Rape and Sexual Violence (MARS-V).
The governor said that the state had provided a law that provided life imprisonment for anyone convicted of the rape of a minor and 21 years for rape of an adult.
El-Rufai said it was important for parents to teach their male children, the importance of respecting women from childhood.
The governor noted that the fear of stigmatisation, breakdown of the judicial system and lack of detailed investigation were some of the factors hindering the prosecution of cases of rape and gender based violence.
He called for the training of victims and law enforcement officers on the preservation of evidence for successful prosecution of rape cases.
According to him, there was also a seeming conspiracy of silence by traditional and religious leaders, “where society as a whole insists on covering up cases of rape.”
‘’One of the primary challenges faced in the fight against gender based violence is the breakdown in the judicial process, which results in delay in justice being served and it could also be as a result of corruption, personal beliefs and laxity of some judges,’’ he added.
“Most of those charged with the investigation of Gender-Based-Violence (GBV) are not well trained, and can be easily compromised through corruption,’’ but incompetence was however, the primary problem.’’
The governor advised that ‘’victims should also be sensitised on the importance of keeping evidence, to ensure that perpetrators of such heinous acts are brought to justice.’’
According to him, though rape is a criminal offence that needs to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, there is often “no preservation of evidence after rape, either by the victims or by officials put in charge of investigating such cases.’’
El-Rufai said that Kaduna State has put measures in place to fight against rape and GBV, having domesticated the Child Rights Act in February 2018.
‘’Under the state’s Child Welfare and Protection Law, girls are not allowed to get married until they complete their secondary school education, which in essence means marriages can’t happen until the age of 18,‘’ he disclosed.
El-Rufai said that the state had also passed the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which will help to speed up the trial of criminal matters, adding that it also established four sexual assault referral centres for medical and psychological counselling.
The wife of the governor, Hajiya Ummi El-Rufai, who was one of the panellists, called for ‘’ harsher and more extreme laws against rape.”
Ummi argued that the present laws are not even being implemented and that there was a need for more stringent ones to serve as deterrent to would-be rapists.
While noting that rapists are becoming more violent and brazen by the day, she asked “why don’t we have laws that are addressing these gender based violence issues?”
The wife of the governor emphasised the need for parents to always speak up when their children are raped and not cover up the problem.
She called for a joint effort between government agencies and Non Governmental Organisations to speak out with one strong voice in condemning rape and other GBV.
In her remarks, Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, explained that the rape epidemic has existed for a long time in Nigeria, adding that women and girls have always been disproportionally affected by GBV.
The minister who said that for every one rape case that is reported, about 10 other cases go unreported, underscored the need to eliminate vices that violated the fundamental rights of women and girls.
Tallen also stressed the importance of credible and verifiable database to aid the more efficient ways of carrying out decisions on GBV.
She also called for collaboration between governmental agencies such as NAPTIP and NGOs in tacking rape cases and other GBV.
The minister who campaigned for girl-child education, also advocated for the provision of one million sanitary pads for them, including more shelters for gender based violence victims.