The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday in Abuja considered a critical bill seeking to protect victims of rape against any form of stigmatisation in the country.
The bill, which scaled second reading on the floor during plenary, also provides for prosecution and punishment of any person or group of persons, who stigmatise such victims with a view to upholding and protect their Fundamental Right to Dignity and Freedom of Association as provided by the 1999 constitution (as amended).
Leading debate on the bill during plenary, Senator Sani Musa said if passed into law, the bill would among other things encourage victims of rape to testify in court.
The bill, which contains 11 clauses, according to the lawmaker, would also ensure the re-integration of victims of insurgency into the community of their choice.
The lawmaker, who bemoaned the trauma which most victims of rape suffer and are exposed to in the country, blamed the development on what he described as the “ineptitude” of the Nigerian justice system.
He said, “The justice system in Nigeria is incredibly inept and for rape cases, this is even more traumatic.
“A rape victims goes to the police to report and the policeman or woman tells the victim to go and sort it out at home as it is a domestic case. And the consequences of such act is that the victim is left at the mercy of the society without any protection.
“This sort of stigma has prevented many survivors from reporting abuse and seeking justice. Victims of insurgency and other violent acts needs this kind of laws that will not only promote gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls as fundamental to all efforts to prevent and address sexual violence, but also progressively uplift such victims,
“We are all living witnesses to the upsurge of the criminality of rape and the destruction of lives been perpetrated by those coward criminals in our communities, coupled with the fact that our country has an extremely low conviction rate for rape and sexual abuses despite the increase in violence against women in recent years.”
The bill, which received the support of lawmakers was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative work.
The Committee, which is chaired by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, (Ekiti Central) is expected to submit its report back to the Senate in four weeks.