The normalisation of violence across Nigeria is something we can’t ignore. Sexual, domestic and physical violence remain extremely prevalent and we are doing far from enough to address this. In 2015, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) was signed in to law, but several states are yet to enact it. The VAPP is the most expansive piece of legislation that we have addressing violence in the country today and I see no reason why it hasn’t been adopted by every state nationwide.
Firstly, the VAPP is the only piece of legislation in the country that addresses rape inclusively – both the Criminal and Penal Code Acts fail to do so. The criminal code act defines rape as “any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats 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, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.” – This definition is limited and the VAPP expands on it and also alters it to ensure the definition of rape covers non-consensual penetration, not just the vagina, but also the anus, mouth or any other part of a persons body, with another part of someones body or something else. Also, the definition of rape in the VAPP is inclusive of all citizens, so men and boys are not left out as they are in the criminal code definition.
(via EiE Nigeria)
Secondly, did you know that there are more cases of female genital mutilation in Nigeria than in any other country in the world? We account for a quarter of women worldwide who have had to go through this horrible practice and the VAPP seeks to address that. Under the VAPP, anyone who practices FGM of engages another to do so is liable to four years imprisonment or to a fine not exceeding N200,000 ($440) or both. Also, anyone who attempts to carry out FGM is liable to two years imprisonment or a fine not exceeding N100,000 ($220). Well, if you ask me, these are far from strict enough punishments for such a prevalent and heinous crime championed by oppressive cultures. I do think we need to look at enacting tougher punishments, but this is still a step in the right direction.
(via EiE Nigeria)
Thirdly, the VAPP seeks to protect children, spouses and dependants that are abandoned without means of sustenance. This law is necessary for pretty obvious reasons – the prevalence of fathers abandoning their children stands out to me. I have memories as a child, putting old clothes together to take to the “motherless babies home”. It wasn’t until I got older that the name started to bother me, “why are we calling orphanages motherless babies homes?” – I constantly asked. One day, I was told that it was because many children in orphanages still had fathers. Dreadful. According to the VAPP, anyone who abandons their child or spouse without means of sustenance is liable to no less than a years imprisonment or a minimum fine of N100,000. And if you’re an accessory to this abandonment, you’re looking at a year in prison or a fine of N100,000.
Several other common practices have been criminalised in the VAPP including forceful ejection of spouses from homes and harmful widow practices. Fourteen states are yet to sign this act in to law, so I’m urging you to put pressure on your legislators and governors to do so. You can read up more on the act here.