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Do You Know Legal Demands of Punishment For Rape As A Criminal Offence?


Under the Criminal Codes of southern and northern Nigeria, rape is a criminal offence punishable by “imprisonment for life, with or without caning. Also, attempted rape is punishable by 14 years of imprisonment.” The Centre for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP) corroborates this information and adds that in southern Nigeria, “assaults committed against girls between the ages of 13 and 16, including statutory rape, are punishable by imprisonment for up to two years.” Statutory rape here refers to non-forcible sexual activity in which one of the individuals is below the age of consent (the age required to legally consent to the behaviour).

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Rape: A Societal Gangrene And A Social Menace

The issue of rape is a common problem affecting girls and women between the ages of 9 and 18. Rape cases go unreported because of “social prejudices against women, and unequal power relations between male and female, and the ignorance acceptance by women of a position of subservience.” The issue bothers within a limit of ‘unmarried’ alone. What this means is, marital rape is unrecognized by law in Nigeria, on the basis that consent to marriage is tantamount to the foreclosure of consent to each particular sexual intercourse; a man who inflicts extensive bodily harm on his wife while forcibly having sex with her is not punished for a sexual offence, but rather for an ordinary assault; cultural inhibitions and taboos about sexual activities constrain most victims from acknowledging and reporting incidents even informally; victims trapped in situations of sexual harassment–arising from threats of physical harm, withdrawal of financial support, or ostracism from the community; in law, rape is punishable maximally by life imprisonment but victims are not granted anonymity during prosecution and media attention and social stigma dissuade most victims from reporting.

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Commission On Human Rights And The Other Issues

The Commission on Human Rights report further states that it received “allegations of rape taking place at roadblocks as well as in prisons; and, when rape has been committed during armed robbery attacks in urban areas, the perpetrators are often charged solely for the property offence of armed robbery.”

Another issue is the handling of cases of Incest. Though socio-culturally, it is regarded as a taboo for anyone to assault a daughter or step-daughter, especially where they are living in the same premises. It has however been noted that, this crime has had little or no legal attention given to it. Though there are exitent laws on the subject matter, these laws are rarely or seldom enforced. I have never heard of anyone being charged with sexual assault of a minor in Nigeria.


Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRPL). “Women of the World-Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives-Anglophone Africa” (NEXIS)

Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI). Bene E. Madunagu. “Presentation to the President’s Council of International Women’s Health Coalition.”

Commission on Human Rights. n.d. “Commission on Human Rights: Report of the Special Rapporteur.”

Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series [Oxford]. 1997-1998. Vols. 34-35. Nos. 1-

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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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